Money can’t buy this kind of campaign advertising.
A loose-cannon lawyer gunning for district attorney in California’s central valley is surging in name recognition as his unhinged behavior continues to land him behind bars—and all over the local news. Displaying an uncanny knack for boozing and brawling, Gary Hickey has already grabbed headlines in San Joaquin County for allegedly plowing into a telephone pole, beating a man with a shoe and haunting bars on weekday mornings instead of helping his clients stay out of prison.
But the 64-year-old defense attorney outdid himself over the Memorial Day weekend: He got busted not once—but twice—in a 24-hour span, police say.
Cops in Lodi first arrested Hickey for public drunkenness on Friday night after they received multiple reports that he was boozed-up and cruising around town in a rented U-Haul. Cuffing him as he left his house with an alcoholic drink in hand, police hauled the political maverick off to the drunk tank to dry out for several hours, police say.
It didn’t take long for Hickey to return to the sobering cell. Cops collared him again on Saturday night, this time for allegedly beating up a woman while he was intoxicated at his home, according to Lodi Police Department Sgt. Steve Maynard. The woman, who also lives at the home, called police around 9:15 p.m. Hickey was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor assault.
Calls to the troubled attorney on Monday were not returned, but Hickey shows no signs of withdrawing from the race. Grilled recently about a DUI arrest from last month, the embattled candidate acted smug and defiant. “They have no case,” Hickey sneered before a pack of reporters at San Joaquin County Superior Court. “This was a political arrest in order to put me in a bad light. I was completely sober.”
Asked point-blank whether he might consider pulling out of the primary election on June 3, he snapped: “I’m going to run like hell. That’s a silly question. I’m a trial lawyer. I don’t quit.”
He sure doesn’t.
Hickey’s downward spiral began last summer and has accelerated at an astonishing clip in recent months. Last August, the lawyer smashed his Mercedes SL500 into a telephone pole and fled the scene, claiming that he bolted to sleep off a two-day concussion. Colleagues have since accused him of showing up to court drunk, or sometimes not showing up at all. Meanwhile, he’s been found coming out of bars at 10:30 a.m. on weekday mornings.
“It’s St. Patrick’s Day and I’m out politicking,” a slightly slurring Hickey told one reporter in March outside of Davoli’s Avenue Inn in downtown Stockton. He insisted that he had consumed only “half a beer.”
Hickey apparently had a bit more to drink in April, when police charged him with a DUI. Two weeks later, he was back in the limelight for allegedly dislocating another man’s hip during a wild brawl over money. During the melee, the alleged victim, Jim Ferroni, claimed Hickey clobbered him with a shoe, knocked him over and later charged at him with a fence post driver. Hickey has denied any wrongdoing in the alleged beatdown.
As he continues his march toward self-destruction, the election’s odds-on favorite, Tori Verber Salazar, has remained mum about her opponent’s conduct. Newspaper editorial boards, however, have been far more outspoken. Calling him a “train wreck of a candidate,” The Stockton Record, the county’s largest paper, said that Hickey is “one of the least-equipped candidates for public office seen around these parts in decades.”
Hickey’s brother, Larry, meanwhile, has come to his brother’s defense. “I don’t think he has a drinking problem,” Larry Hickey told one local reporter. “I haven’t seen him drinking.”