Scot Clark, the out gay assistant district attorney who heads the homicide unit in the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, has resigned.
As the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported, Clark, 51, has been at the heart of a gag order that Public Defender Jeff Adachi is seeking against participants in the case against Barry White Jr., who’s accused of killing two people at the GiftCenter and JewelryMart in July.
Clark has been the prosecutor in that case, and the motion refers to Clark’s “highly inflammatory comments to the press” in the case against Nikhom Thephakaysone, who’s charged with murdering Justin Valdez as Valdez exited a Muni train in September.
Among other comments, Clark called Thephakaysone “a cold-blooded hunter who was determined to kill that night.” (According to the Chronicle, “The statements Clark made … were said in court, in arguing for higher bail amounts, before they were repeated outside court to members of the media.)
In an interview Wednesday (January 22) with the Bay Area Reporter, Clark, who gave his notice Tuesday, January 21, said his resignation isn’t related to the gag order request.
Clark, whose current appointment in San Francisco was announced in July, said he’s resigning because of “a combination of things.”
The “biggest reason,” which “people won’t understand,” is related to his dogs, he said.
Clark said that his Irish setter, Cricket, died just before Christmas, and he and his husband recently got a Gordon setter puppy named Raven and are about to get an Irish setter puppy named Rienzi.
He said he’s returning to his previous role as a deputy district attorney for the Riverside County District Attorney’s office, and his house in Palm Springs, which he bought three years ago.
“I want the dogs to have that yard,” he said.
If he were to stay in his current home, he said, the dogs would be “cooped up” in his high-rise apartment with trips to the dog park their only exposure to the outdoors.
Asked whether anyone had asked him to leave, Clark said, “Of course not. [District Attorney George Gascón] was very surprised, and I think he was very gracious, but it has to do with my personal situation.”
He said another reason he’s leaving is “some misgivings I have about dealing with the San Francisco Police Department,” but he declined to elaborate.
“I don’t want to go out on that kind of note,” he explained.
“For me, there are challenges” in Riverside County, where he’ll prosecute murders. “I can do good work down there, and I want those dogs to have that property,” said Clark. “Those are the big motives for me. I don’t really want to get into negative stuff. I don’t think there’s any profit in that.”
As for the gag order, he indicated he’d rather not talk to reporters, anyway.
“I’m not very comfortable with the media stuff,” he said. “I’m kind of an old school guy who’d rather leave that up to the communications director.”
Clark said that if a judge prohibited him from going in front of a TV camera, “I would view that as a positive.”
However, Clark acknowledged, “I’m a pretty candid guy, and not a diplomat.”
Another reason behind his departure is his discomfort with being an administrator.
“I got a taste of the administrative side of things, and it’s not just my cup of tea,” said Clark, who referred to himself as “a trial dog.”
“Part of the frustration with an administrative role” is that you can’t carry as much of a caseload as you want, he said. “You become very involved in them. It’s tough to let them go. It’s like giving up a child.”
Asked about people suspecting there must be more to his departure than his dogs, Clark said, “People will think that if you make them think that. For me, it’s a big quality- of-life issue. For me, there’s nothing more important than my partner and our dogs.” He said there’s “something we get out of it that non-dog lovers would never get.”
Clark will remain in the San Francisco DA’s office until the end of February.
He said his experience with the DA’s office “has been positive. I love the people in this office. I’m a big admirer of George Gascón.” He added, “This is my third tour of duty” working in the office.
Clark doesn’t know who will replace him in San Francisco, but he said, “I’m sure whoever it is will be imminently well-qualified” and there will be “a seamless transition.”
Alex Bastian, Gascón’s spokesman, declined to comment on Clark’s departure, since it’s a personnel issue.
Asked whether the gag order request would be withdrawn in light of Clark’s departure, Tamara Aparton, Adachi’s spokeswoman, said, “We haven’t made a decision on that yet.”