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Assembly Candidate Accused of Domestic Violence

An ex-girlfriend of AC Transit board member Joel Young says he hit her repeatedly. But Young says she attacked him. A judge, meanwhile, expresses doubts about both their stories.

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Joel Young is a rising star in the East Bay political world. Just two years ago, he was appointed to the AC Transit board of directors, and he's currently a top tier candidate for state Assembly. But over the past several months, the 34-year-old ex-football player from Cal has been quietly battling in court to save his political career. His ex-girlfriend filed a restraining order against him in March, saying he struck her repeatedly. Young then responded with a restraining order request of his own, saying she attacked him in a jealous rage. And while an Alameda County Superior Court judge recently dismissed the restraining order requests, it was not before he cast doubt on both Young and his ex-girlfriend's versions of what happened.

At a court hearing, Judge Morris Jacobsen strongly implied that he didn't believe Young's claim that his ex-girlfriend, Jessica Juarez, had attacked him after finding him in bed with another woman and that he was merely defending himself. "The injuries she sustained go well beyond the reasonable need to self-defend," the judge said, referring to the extensive bruising on Juarez's face, according to a transcript of the proceeding. "There were significant injuries on her. Well, more than necessary for a man, and I am going to take into account that it appears to me that Ms. Juarez is approximately 5-foot, 120 pounds."

Juarez alleged that Young had repeatedly struck her in the face and temple, in addition to "cranking" her head against the bed. She also submitted to the court a medical report from UCSF Medical Center where she was treated two days after the incident, along with sworn statements from friends and colleagues, all attorneys, who had noticed her bruised and swollen face. Still, despite this evidence, Judge Jacobsen also expressed doubts about Juarez's credibility after Young's lawyer noted inconsistencies in her version of what happened.

According to court records, the judge also had repeatedly urged Young and Juarez to settle their dispute without the need for restraining orders. Both Young and Juarez are attorneys, and permanent restraining orders could damage their legal careers, not to mention Young's political aspirations. But the two sides were unable to reach agreement, so the judge dismissed the legal dispute. Juarez said she plans to file a lawsuit against Young, seeking reimbursement for her legal and medical bills.

At this point, it's unclear what the legal case's effects will be, if any, on Young's run for state Assembly. He's attempting to replace Sandré Swanson, who is being termed out next year. Young was appointed to the AC Transit board in 2009, replacing Rebecca Kaplan after she won a seat on the Oakland City Council. Young then won reelection last year to the AC Transit board after securing numerous big-name endorsements. Through the first half of this year, the Young for Assembly Committee had pulled in more than $130,000 in donations, mostly on the strength of Young's contacts in the legal profession, campaign finance records show. The early haul puts him strongly in the hunt with other contenders for the seat, including Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, former Oakland Port Commissioner Kathy Neal, and Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillen.

The following account of the Young-Juarez dispute comes from court records:

The two met about five years ago while Juarez was at UC Berkeley. She eventually graduated with a law degree focused on civil rights. He also graduated from Boalt Hall. Through the years, Young and Juarez were linked by a friend of a friend until a romance began last fall at a fundraising event for Young. As months passed, according to Juarez, the relationship quickly progressed to the point where she thought it was exclusive. According to Juarez, Young had started looking for apartments for the purpose of moving in together.

According to Juarez, who then resided in San Francisco, she often stayed at Young's place near Lake Merritt for days at a time only to return across the bay to pick up clothes and other items for the week. A sworn statement provided by a colleague, who is also a lawyer, backed the assertion that Juarez often spent days at Young's apartment. According to Juarez, Young had given her a key to his apartment and urged her to make herself at home when he wasn't there.

Young, by contrast, adamantly denied in court documents that their relationship was exclusive. According to him, the two agreed to casual sex while seeing other people. He also denied ever giving her a key to his apartment, and said she must have swiped one from him. (She said that he sometimes took the key off her key ring when she wasn't looking, which fueled suspicion that there was another woman in his life.)

Regardless, from all accounts, Juarez entered Young's apartment at approximately 5:30 a.m. on March 7 and found the AC Transit board member in bed with another woman. "You piece of shit!" she screamed, according to both accounts. "I knew it, motherfucker!" she continued while repeating the phrase "I knew it!"

All three in the room, including Juarez, agree that Juarez slapped Young in the face. Young also believes that Juarez had an object in her hand, possibly the key she used to enter the apartment, and used it to scratch his face and gouge his bare torso. (According to records reviewed for this story, Juarez denied having an object in her hand, but said she might have scratched him while he was holding her down on the bed.)

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