VALLEJO – Days after a scathing report was released detailing a history of alleged domestic abuse, Vallejo Councilman Hakeem Brown issued a statement on Thursday addressing his past transgressions and to confirm he wouldn’t be dropping out as a mayoral candidate.
The independent newsroom Open Vallejo reported Tuesday that Brown had been arrested nine different times for domestic violence or related crimes between 1994 and 2012. Five of those arrests resulting in criminal charges with Brown being convicted in three of the cases, the outlet reported.
According to Open Vallejo, the violence included striking pregnant partners on two separate occasions with one of the women losing the child – an allegation Brown strongly denies.
“I did not and would not strike a pregnant woman,” Brown wrote in his message on Thursday.
Open Vallejo reported that Joanna Cullom, who was married to Brown in June 2000, lost the couple’s baby after being struck several times in the stomach and abdomen.
“Ms. Cullom was not pregnant during the time we were in a relationship,” Brown wrote despite Cullom testifying to the contrary.
“I have zero tolerance for these crimes and understand that denouncing this behavior is not only the responsibility of women and other victims, but the responsibility of perpetrators and men,” Brown added in his statement. “At the invitation and with the support of Black Women and other victims, I will continue to speak out about my own experiences to draw greater attention to these critical issues.”
The article also alleged that Brown was married to two women at the same time.
Brown wrote that he was not proud of previous behavior.
“Sitting in prison helped me to understand as a young man I was clearly on the wrong path. It is my responsibility to own up to my past mistakes. The events of that incident are something that I will regret for the rest of my life,” Brown said. “I am not perfect and taking responsibility for my past is important. While you may read or hear several accusations, not everything that is being written about me is true. Allegations do not always represent facts.”
Reaction to Open Vallejo’s article was strong as many in the local community questioned Brown’s ability to serve on the city council.
At least two online petitions were immediately started calling for Brown to halt his mayoral campaign and resign as a councilman.
As of Thursday afternoon, more than 750 had signed that petition.
A separate petition, started by Vessels of Vallejo, also demanded Brown stop his mayoral campaign, resign from the council, and participate in a transformative justice program.
“Vessels of Vallejo does not believe the carceral system is an ethical means to rehabilitate individuals who do wrong or cause harm,” the petition states. “We believe that all humans are capable of growth. However, the first step toward that growth is taking accountability for one’s actions and for the harm that has been caused. Brown has not done this.”
The petition, which had nearly two hundred signatures as of Thursday afternoon, further criticized Brown for sending “a pre-emptive statement” days before release of the article. The group argued Brown threatening Open Vallejo with a libel lawsuit was meant to discredit the independent newsroom.
“This weekend it came to my attention that a political group supporting one of my campaign opponents was preparing to undertake a smear campaign against me based on lies, distortions and mistruths,” Brown wrote in an Oct. 11 statement – released two days before the Open Vallejo article. “My attorney and I have taken decisive action to warn Open Vallejo that untruthful attacks on my character will result in legal action based on slander and libel.”
Brown briefly addressed his criminal past in the same letter, stating that “as a young man 20 years ago, I was arrested not once, but several times — for drugs, possession of a firearm, and a scuffle with a domestic partner.”
On Wednesday, the Solano County Democratic Central Committee issued a statement in response to the article, stating that it “does not condone any form of violence or abuse being perpetrated on one person by another.”
““The revelation of this has taken us all aback and we are now working with the state party on what the next steps might be,” said Marjorie Olson, SCDCC chair in the same release.
Brown said he would continue to spend the rest of his life “working to make amends for the harm [he] caused others and will strive every day to be the leader –and equally important, the man – that the citizens of Vallejo deserve and can be proud of.”
Brown said he would still be running for mayor.
“I am fully prepared to accept the ultimate will and judgement of you– the people and the voters that I serve,” he wrote.