During a recall candidate debate at the Sacramento Guild Theater on Tuesday, 2018 GOP Gubernatorial candidate John Cox was served with a subpoena while onstage.
Cox had just been asked to go into his opening remarks of the debate when a man, later identified as private investigator Aman Choudhry, approached the stage. Choudry proceeded to yell, “John Cox, you’ve been served by the San Diego County Superior Court, ordered by the Judge,” and threw the subpoena on the stage.
WATCH: CA Republican gubernatorial candidate in recall served subpoena during debate pic.twitter.com/jUue7ozmTh
— Melody Gutierrez (@MelodyGutierrez) August 18, 2021
Rather than spark an argument, Cox went seamlessly into his remarks while Choudhry was escorted away and asked to leave. Cox, who was joined at the Sacramento Press Club sponsored debate by former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), did not address the incident during the debate and only briefly addressed the incident to the press at the end of the night.
“It’s one creditor who didn’t get paid from the 2018 campaign because he didn’t deserve to be,” Cox said after the debate.
The incident in question came from Cox refusing to pay political advertising firm Sandler Innocenzi around $100,000 for an ad created and aired during his 2018 run for Governor against now-Governor and subject of the 2021 recall election Gavin Newsom. An arbitrator and judge had earlier ruled that Cox had to pay the $100,000 owed in February 2020. But Cox’s insistence for not paying the amount dragged things out, leading to the subpoena ordering him to pay the amount owed being issued by the San Diego County Superior Court.
Subpoena serving criticized, questioned by many
Political and legal experts noted on Wednesday that while there was nothing wrong with serving a subpoena itself, the way it had been done in dramatic fashion during the debate on Tuesday has been roundly condemned.
“It was clearly done on purpose to embarrass Cox,” explained former Washington-based political consultant and lawyer Henry Gallagher to the Globe. “Subpoenas do get served in public sometimes, but more often than not it’s done at the person’s home when they are known to be there. It’s never really done at an event when there are thousands of eyes on you. And the way he did it, by tossing it up there like that. This wasn’t a routine subpoena. It was done intentionally.”
“Was it done to make another candidate look better or to help bring down the recall or another similar reason? We don’t know. But subpoenas just aren’t usually handled this way. He wanted the attention on it. And, honestly, he got it.”
Former lobbyist Harry Schultz concurred in a Globe interview on Wednesday.
“Who does that during a debate not on purpose?” said Schultz. “This was 100% intentional.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Cox has not spoken more about the incident.
The debate continued and ended without further interruptions on Tuesday. Although three candidates debated, a total of seven had been invited. Governor Newsom, talk show host Larry Elder, and former Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner had either declined or not responded to the debate invite, Former Congressman Doug Ose had originally accepted the invite, but had dropped out of the debate, as well as the race, earlier this week due to suffering a heart attack.
More information about the subpoena and the reasoning for the dramatic delivery is expected later this week. The recall election is due to be held on September 14th. According to the most recent polls, Governor Newsom only leads in stopping the recall by a few points, with Larry Elder leading among the recall candidates by a double digit percentage of 23%. John Cox is currently polling at around 3%.
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