Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and attorney quickly part ways

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

OAKLAND, Calif. – Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and her criminal defense attorney – hired a day after the FBI raided her home last week – quickly parted ways.

Both Thao and Tony Brass told reporters on Monday that she was no longer his client. He was retained on Friday.

But whose decision it was to end the relationship wasn’t immediately clear.

What was clear is that the two split after Thao spoke publicly at a news conference Monday, declaring that she had done nothing wrong, would not resign and was the victim of a right-wing conspiracy. 

The FBI has yet to arrest anyone or make public their investigation of the mayor, and a politically powerful family whose homes and business agents also searched last Thursday. 

Though she vowed complete transparency, Thao’s chief of staff, Leigh Hanson, told reporters there would be no questions on the advice of the mayor’s attorney. 

But that wasn’t what Brass said. 

In an interview later, he said that he only learned of the news conference when reporters called him to ask if he’d be there. 

In a statement, Thao said that she appreciated Brass “for providing me with initial legal guidance. He helped me better understand the investigation and my legal options.”

However, the mayor said that “over the weekend” she obtained new legal counsel “and thanked Mr. Brass for his counsel.”

She said she would share the name of her new lawyer once the deal was finalized.

But Brass’ timeline varies from the mayor’s. 

He said it was he who withdrew from being her counsel and that it happened on Monday, not over the weekend. 

“I asked to withdraw from being her attorney today, and she accepted,” Brass told KTVU. “She thanked me for the work I’ve done, and it appears she is going to be moving on with different counsel.”

Brass said that it “became clear” to him when he saw her speak at the news conference that they have different approaches to handling the FBI raid, which he still insisted that he had no information that Thao was the target of any investigation. 

Still, Brass said: “I think our approaches are inconsistent, and I think I am not the right advocate for her message.”

He added that he is a lawyer and thinks about the case, and she is a mayor and has many other concerns to worry about as well. 

Brass guessed that maybe Thao was getting advice from somewhere else. He never specified what the seemingly inconsistent approaches were. 

“And that’s fine,” he said. “She has very big meaningful concerns in her life and she can approach this as she sees fit. I wish her god speed, but that is a path I do not want to walk down.”

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.