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Longtime adviser to Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom accused of trying to suffocate 4-year-old with pillow, shoving woman into glass doors

Nathan Ballard was arrested and jailed on two felony charges; he said he would be 'exonerated'

Image source: KGO-TV video screenshot

A longtime adviser and friend to Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom was arrested and jailed after he was accused of trying to suffocate a 4-year-old with a pillow and shoving a woman into glass doors, Politico reported.

What are the details?

Nathan Ballard, 51 — a prominent California Democratic strategist — was booked Oct. 18 on two felony charges of domestic violence and willful cruelty to a child with possible injury and death, the outlet said, citing Napa County Sheriff's Office documents.

Napa County authorities filed the charges Thursday, KGO-TV reported.

Ballard served as Newsom's spokesperson when he was San Francisco's mayor, Politico said, adding that Ballard also was a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, the California Democratic Party, the Getty family, the Golden State Warriors, the Super Bowl, and for the presidential campaigns of former Sen. John Kerry and Gen. Wesley Clark. Ballard also is a former San Francisco deputy city attorney, KGO said.

And until Oct. 19 — the day after the alleged incident — Ballard sat on the board of The Representation Project, a nonprofit founded by Newsom's wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, to advance women's rights, Politico said.

"I've spent my career in crisis communications fighting on behalf the wrongfully accused, and now for the first time I really know what it feels like to be in their shoes," Ballard told the outlet in a text message. "I will be exonerated. I love my children more than anything on earth, and we will be reunited."

More from Politico:

Sources say the events occurred at the swanky Carneros Resort and Spa where, according to victim statements, Ballard reportedly "had consumed a large amount of alcohol and some marijuana.''

The adult victim told authorities that Ballard "charged her and pushed her with both hands into the glass doors,'' causing her to fall and hit the back of her head on the door. Ballard also stumbled and fell onto the ground, bleeding, according to documents on file with the Napa County Sheriff's Department.

Then Ballard "attempted to suffocate the child victim with the pillow,'' the adult victim told the police. "Ballard grabbed the pillow from the bed, placed it onto the child victim and laid on top of the pillow, placing his weight on the child victim who was under the pillow,'' according to the report.

The adult victim said "she was able to remove the child victim from the room,'' and locked herself and another child in a separate room away from Ballard.

She reported the alleged attack to police the next morning, and when officers arrived, Ballard had gone, according to the report. The Napa County Sheriff's Office issued a warrant for Ballard's arrest and, on Oct. 20, he was arrested and transported to the county jail, authorities said.

Ballard paid his set bail of $75,000 and was released later on Oct. 20, KGO reported, citing sheriff's department documents.

Nathan BallardImage source: Napa County Sheriff's Office

What did Ballard's lawyer say?

Anthony Brass, Ballard's lawyer, said in a statement to the station that he's "confident" that his client "will be fully acquitted of these 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 a member of the bar with a spotless ethical record. He has no criminal history."

Brass told KGO that "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."

Politico reported that Brass on Thursday said Ballard's former wife "would testify under oath that he has never been violent toward her, their minor son, nor their minor daughter" — but the outlet added that hours later Brass said he had to retract that statement.

Newsom's spokespeople have not responded to questions about Ballard's arrest, the outlet reported.

Politico also said Ballard — a father of four young children — was profiled in a November 2019 story in Better magazine as one of "the Bay Area's most successful dads" and that he called his home in Kentfield "a special place for my wife Mara and me."

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