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Thursday, October 6, 2022

Nathan Ballard: Protecting a Politically Powerful Arrestee

        In 2020, 51-year-old Nathan Ballard resided with his 36-year-old wife Mara in Kentfield, California, a Marin County suburb just north of San Francisco. Described as one of the best places to live in the state, Kentfield was also one of the most expensive places to call home. The couple resided with their four children, two boys and two girls. The two oldest at 11 and 12, were from a former marriage. The younger children were 4 and 18 months old.

     Nathan Ballard, in 2000, worked as an assistant district attorney in San Francisco with Kamala Harris and other local prosecutors. In February 2007, after Gavin Newsom was elected mayor of San Francisco, Nathan Ballard became his communications director. In October 2009, Ballard resigned his position with the mayor's office to begin a career in public relations. He handled public relations for the political campaigns of several prominent Democrat candidates in California and elsewhere. In 2014, after Gavin Newsom was elected to his second term as Lieutenant Governor of California, his wife Jennifer Siebel introduced Nathan Ballard to Mara Reinhardt, a pilates instructor and the owner of Parallel Pilates Studio in Larkspur, a Marin County community 13 miles north of San Francisco. Nathan and Mara were married two years later. Gavin Newsom officiated at the couple's wedding. In 2018, Gavin Newsom was elected Governor of California.

     Known as the "Media Whisperer", Nathan Ballard, in 2016, formed his San Francisco based public relations firm, The Press Store. Whenever a California Democrat politician found him or herself in a public relations crisis for something they said or did, Nathan Ballard was there to either make the problem go away or mitigate the damage. This was, of course, an expensive service that only the rich and powerful could afford. When an ordinary citizen runs afoul of the law or says something that costs him or her their job or subjects them to contempt or ridicule, they are on their own. There is no "Media Whisperer" to rescue non-elites in their time of need.

     Nathan Ballard and The Press Store served dozens of rich and powerful clients that included the Democrat National Committee, the California Democrat party, the Getty family, the Golden State Warriors basketball team, and the California Labor Federation. Nathan Ballard was also on the board of the Representation Project, a non-profit organization started by Governor Newsom's wife Jennifer to advance women's rights. 

     In 2016, the San Francisco Police Officers Association hired Ballard following the controversial police-involved shooting of a black man named Mario Woods. Critics of the fatal encounter accused the police department of being a racist agency. A 2016 profile of Nathan Ballard in San Francisco Magazine described him as one of the city's "preeminent media whisperers" with "a junk yard persona."

     In February 2019, Nathan Ballard opened a second public relations office in Sacramento. That year he acquired, among other clients, the 30,000 member California Correctional Peace Officers Association and a statewide coalition of legal cannabis companies. Ballard, as a high profile Democrat strategist and pundit, was also a frequent talkshow guest on California television and radio. 

     In April 2019, in a University of California Hastings Law School alumni publication called U.C. Hastings Magazine, Mr. Ballard, in a piece entitled "Gamechanger," was quoted as follows: "In my crisis communications work, I parachute into a situation that I may know nothing about on day one. But I have to use my people skills and critical thinking skills to get up to speed quickly, face the media, and deal with questions about the toughest topics." In the puff piece, Ballard said that when growing up, his parents encouraged him to have political conversations with house guests like Cesar Chavez and Jane Fonda.

     In November 2019, Mr. Ballard was featured in another puff piece published in Better magazine entitled, "The Bay Area's Most Successful Dads." In that article he talked about enjoying fatherhood and how important his children were to him.

     On Saturday, October 17, 2020, Nathan Ballard, his wife Mara, and their two youngest children were spending the weekend at the luxurious Carneros Resort and Spa in Napa, California. The next morning, Mara Ballard called the Napa County Sheriff's Office and related the following: The previous night, after her husband had consumed a large quantity of alcohol and some marijuana, he pushed her with both hands through a glass paneled door causing her injuries to the back of her head. Following that assault, he took a pillow off his bed and placed it over the face of their 4-year-old daughter, then laid on the pillow. After rescuing the child, Mara and the children fled to another room.

     When sheriff's deputies arrived to interview Mara Ballard, her husband was no longer at the resort. The next day, Nathan Ballard turned himself in. After refusing to answer questions regarding his wife's accusations, he was booked him into the Napa County Jail on the felony charges of willful cruelty to a child with possible injury and death, and domestic violence in connection with pushing his wife through a glass door.

      On the day of his incarceration, Nathan Ballard made his $75,000 bail and was released. On November 11, 2020, a judge issued a temporary restraining order to keep him away from his family. 

     Normally, whenever an ordinary citizen is charged with a crime as serious as trying to suffocate a child and pushing a woman through a glass door, journalists will learn of the arrest through public records and immediately report what they have found. When such an arrestee is celebrity or a person of some stature, because of public interest, journalists will dig a little deeper to get a fuller story. But, in the case of an arrestee who was a powerful Democrat media professional connected to all the right people leading all the way up to the governor and his wife, local journalists were simply not interested in this news story. In fact, they ignored it, and as a result, nothing appeared in the press regarding the arrest of a powerful Democrat accused of assaulting his 4-year-old daughter and his wife. 

     On Thursday, December 3, 2020, 46 days after Nathan Ballard's arrest, journalists with the news outlet Politico broke the story of Nathan Ballard's arrest for domestic abuse. The story included the following statement issued by Ballard's attorney, Anthony Bass: "I am confident that my client, Nathan Ballard, will be fully acquitted of the charges after the district attorney's office has a chance to review the facts and learn all sides of the story. Nate is a well respected professional and member of the bar with a spotless ethical record. He has no criminal history. Nate knows that he is not perfect, but he is facing his own challenges head-on. After nearly eight years of continuous sobriety, Nate resumed drinking in April after his father died. He is now clean and sober again, and he is currently in a residential recovery program to deal with his drinking problem in a responsible, comprehensive manner. He is a good father, he has his children's best interests at heart, and he wants to resolve this matter privately, quickly, and fairly for their sake."

     Attorney Bass, regarding his client's wife Mara, said she "would testify under oath that he has never been violent toward her, their minor son, nor their minor daughter." Just hours after that comment, attorney Bass retracted the statement. 

     Politico, in their story, included the following text message they had received from Nathan Ballard: "I've spent my career in crisis communications fighting on behalf of the wrongfully accused, and now for the first time, I really know what it feels like to be in their shoes. I will be exonerated. I love my children more than anything on earth, and will be reunited."

     Following the Politico bombshell, a spokesperson for The Representation Project announced that Nathan Ballard had resigned from the board on October 19, 2020.  

     On October 23, 2020, six days after the alleged assault at the Napa resort, Mara Ballard filed for divorce in Marin County.

     In May 2021, the Napa County District Attorney reduced the charges against Nathan Ballard to misdemeanors that did not require prison time. In return, Mr. Ballard agreed to stay away from his children for six years. 

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