Standing in front of the Long Beach Courthouse on Feb. 9 amongst a crowd of supporters and media, 2nd District Long Beach Councilmember Jeannine Pearce addressed the alleged June incidents of domestic violence that have been a subject of controversy for nearly a year.
After a continuing months-long battle of investigations, the narrative managed to get even more personal, as the councilmember detailed her history as a child and in the present as an adult dealing with trauma, and she addressed a recall committee that is asking for her resignation and accused them of “bullying” her.
“I would elaborate and say that it’s not just bullying, it’s victim-shaming, what they’re doing,” said Pearce in a phone interview Wednesday. “I’ve been in what is, clearly, documented as an abusive relationship for a long time. It has taken me several months to move forward and get a restraining order. Restraining orders are not handed out lightly. I have not wanted to do that to protect all parties that are involved, but I finally did that because my safety was in danger. And, it is not for a paid political consultant to tell me when my life is not in danger, and it is extremely alarming to me that a group can insert themselves into my personal safety and then call me a liar about it.”
The political consultant in question is Ian Patton, head of the Committee Supporting the Recall of Councilmember Jeannine Pearce, which formed in August and is currently based at 407 E. 3rd St. He is also the principal of his own consulting firm, Cal Heights Consultancy.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Patton said Pearce’s bullying claims are “absurd,” adding how she herself has been physically abusive with Devin Cotter, her former chief-of-staff.
“It’s her attempt to frame herself as a victim in the situation, when we know that the person who got physical was her,” Patton said. “The person who admitted to causing injuries to Devin Cotter, […] that was her. She did not get prosecuted for that, because of insufficient evidence. […] The only thing that matters in this whole debate is her conduct. […] She put herself in a compromising situation where he can blackmail her and expose the relationship. She’s got to take responsibility for all that. Nobody is bullying anyone just by holding them accountable to widely reported facts.”
On June 3, Pearce was driving with passenger Cotter when she pulled over onto a median of the 710 Freeway as a result of a dispute between them.
As reported by the Signal Tribune in November, per the L.A. County District Attorney’s (D.A.) “charge evaluation worksheet” (CEW), Pearce allegedly hit Cotter’s arm while driving because he was pulling at the wheel, causing the vehicle to swerve. Later, when the car was parked, Pearce pushed Cotter, which led to his head injuries.
Since Pearce and Cotter were in a romantic relationship, the incident was labeled as domestic violence. Furthermore, Pearce has stated that she was acting in self-defense, a claim that the D.A. had insufficient evidence to confirm or deny.
In the report, the CEW suggested that Cotter admitted to Pearce’s self-defense claims.
“She stated that she pushed victim [Cotter] to get him to stop throwing her property out of the car,” the CEW states. “Further, [the] victim’s statement that suspect Pearce’s push was a ‘get-your-hands-off kind of shove’ further fuels this interpretation of evidence.”
Pearce passed the initial field-sobriety test, according to a Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) statement.
Last year, the Signal Tribune also reported that LBPD officers allowed Pearce to call a friend to take her home while they took Cotter to his own residence. A few hours later, police were again called to intervene between Cotter and Pearce at the councilmember’s home when she saw Cotter on her property.
In January, the Long Beach city clerk approved the Committee Supporting the Recall of Councilmember Jeannine Pearce’s petition format to gather signatures for the recall. Patton said the group consists solely of 2nd-district residents, denying the councilmember’s statements that the committee consists of people outside of the 2nd council district.
“I think she’s lashing out at us because she sees our success, and she’s scared that she’s going to lose her job,” Patton said. “Frankly, if she was more concerned with all the personal issues that she discussed on Friday and fixing those issues, she should just resign and deal with those issues. I called it ‘victimhood-laden.’ I think that’s accurate. She talks about all the trauma in her life. I’m compassionate about all the trauma in her life, but I think she herself made a good case that she should be focusing on that, because she’s just not in a position where she can be an effective council person right now.”
In her phone interview, Pearce admitted that the whole process would be easier if she wasn’t an elected leader, saying that, “On that front, it is the fact that [this issue] is political that has kept me from doing what I needed to do to be safe. I want to say that.”
Pearce said the claims are a stigma of today’s time, in which people can bully and deny people’s truths about abusive incidents, also accusing the committee of “picking and choosing” what to share with residents.
However, she ensured 2nd-district residents that her office has the support it needs to operate efficiently. She added that the situation is “really much better today than [it was] eight months ago” and expressed optimism about her personal progress on her health and well being.
“The recall group’s actions and words show exactly how systematic oppression plays out in politics, at the work place and in our communities,” she said. “When hotels and paid consultants can repeatedly tell women their reality is false, it sends a signal to everyone struggling to get out of an abusive situation that no one will believe them. I want all residents and workers in Long Beach to know I believe you. I’m here for you, and Long Beach is here for you. We can rise stronger together.”