Kevin Gonzalves, a Merced Irrigation District board director up for re-election, was convicted of a misdemeanor nearly a decade ago for defecating on public property, according to documents obtained by the Sun-Star.
Gonzalves pleaded no contest and was convicted in 2009 of a single misdemeanor count of being a public nuisance. A Stanislaus County Superior Court judge issued an 18-month order instructing him not to “urinate, defecate or vomit in any public place” as part of his probation. He was not an elected official at the time.
Court records also show the 2009 conviction is just one piece of Gonzalves’ criminal history prior to his election in 2012.
The 46-year-old Winton-area almond farmer defecated on the lawn of the Stanislaus County Agriculture Commissioner’s Office in Modesto on Sept. 15, 2008. Gonzalves harbored a grudge after he was fired from his job by then-Agriculture Commissioner Dennis Gudgel, according to the prosecutor with the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.
The case was prosecuted by John Goulart, a former deputy district attorney now working in the Modesto City Attorney’s Office. Goulart said Gonzalves, who’d been fired two years earlier, still was angry.
“I think this was his way of getting back at Dennis,” Goulart said in a Sept. 7 phone interview.
Gonzalves worked as a deputy agriculture commissioner and sealer for Stanislaus County from June 2000 to September 2006, according to county records.
He committed the misdemeanor offense in September 2008, court records show, and was sentenced in May 2009.
Gudgel declined to comment on the case for this story. The current Stanislaus County agriculture commissioner, Milton O’Haire, acknowledged the incident but also declined to comment. Gonzalves’ defense attorney on the case, John Garcia, remembered representing Gonzalves but didn’t recall the specifics of the case and declined to comment.
But Goulart recalled the case vividly.
“That doesn’t happen every day,” he said. “It was the only case in my whole career as a deputy district attorney that I had like that.”
The Sun-Star also obtained surveillance footage that appears to show Gonzalves defecating on the lawn at the ag commissioner’s office at 3800 Cornucopia Way in Modesto.
In the video, Gonzalves pulls up in his truck along with a woman. The woman, identified in court documents as Jennifer Bohl, Gonzalves’ girlfriend, gets out of the truck and walks out of the frame. A short time later, Gonzalves gets out of the truck and appears to squat next to a light pole. Bohl reappears in the frame, bends over, and the two both get back into the truck.
Goulart said Bohl vomited and he believed she purposefully made herself sick to further soil the entrance to the building.
Bohls was charged as a codefendant in the Stanislaus County court case, but the charges were dropped as part of Gonzalves’ plea deal, Goulart said.
The judge also ordered Gonzalves to serve 30 days in jail, 18 months of probation, pay $1,000 restitution, complete anger-management counseling and stay 100 yards away from his former coworkers and boss at the Stanislaus County Agriculture Commissioner’s Office.
Gonzalves did not answer questions from the Sun-Star but emailed a brief statement that read: “There are two ways to live, you choose. Happy are those who don’t listen to the wicked, who don’t go where sinners go, who don’t do what evil people do. They love the Lord’s teachings, and they think about those teachings day and night. This is my statement, Glory be to God.”
Opponent: Criminal conviction ‘relevant’ today
Gonzalves was elected to the irrigation district’s board of directors in 2012, unseating incumbent Suzy Hultgren.
The irrigation district official is no stranger to controversy.
Just last month, MID officials publicly accused Gonzalves of stealing water to irrigate his orchard from the same irrigation district he’s elected to represent. Gonzalves responded by saying he had a right to the water.
In 2013, an independent report by a Sacramento law firm said a proposal for MID to finance a pipeline on Gonzalves’ private property was a conflict of interest and gift of public funds, ultimately putting a stop to the project. The proposed irrigation pipeline on Gonzalves’ farm in Winton would have settled competing lawsuits between Gonsalves and his neighbor, Gary Nunes.
Hultgren, a dairy farmer, is running against Gonzalves this fall. Another farmer and businessman, Sam Sahota, also is challenging Gonzalves, election records show. Sahota could not be reached for comment.
In a telephone interview Thursday, Hultgren said voters should know about Gonzalves’ misdemeanor conviction and said the nearly decade-old incident is “absolutely relevant” to the upcoming election. She said constituents should know who they’re electing to represent them on important issues.
“Kevin’s behavior is representative of his character and his priorities,” she said. “The people in District 4 deserve better.”
If elected, Hultgren said she hopes to “restore integrity” to the board seat.
“I want someone on the board who will actually be looking out for the interests of District 4,” she said. “It’s a big deal. I feel like we’ve been underrepresented for five years.”
Officials with Merced Irrigation District declined to comment.
Another run-in with law enforcement
According to Merced County Superior Court records, Gonzalves also was convicted of misdemeanor vandalism in 2009 after damaging his former father-in-law’s truck during a bitter divorce process in which Gonzalves was described in documents as “an angry and violent person.”
According to police reports, deputies removed Gonzalves from a divorce mediation meeting at the courthouse on May 19, 2008, for his “temper and attitude.”
Gonzalves’ ex-wife, Sandy Sorensen, asked her father to stay at her home that night to “make sure nothing happened to them, due to Kevin being an angry and violent person,” reports say.
Later that night, Gonzalves went to his ex-wife’s home, where his children were living, and was “banging on the front door and windows.” Gonzalves then kicked the side of his former father-in-law’s pickup truck, leaving a large dent, according to court records.
Gonzalves was arrested and booked into Merced County Jail after midnight on suspicion of felony vandalism. He bailed out within an hour, according to Sheriff’s Office records.
Gonzalves pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor vandalism charge and was sentenced to two years’ probation, fined $200 and ordered to serve 90 days in jail, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office said. However, Gonzalves didn’t serve his time in Merced County Jail, the sheriff’s office said.
In divorce files, Sorensen said Kevin Gonzalves also broke into a jewelry store she owns, stole legal documents and changed the locks multiple times.
“This paranoid and erratic behavior has us all afraid of what he might do next,” she said in court records. “Because of his breaking into the jewelry store, I am afraid he may do the same at this home.”
A Merced judge issued a restraining order against Gonzalves in the case.
Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477