The motive is a bit confusing. Democratic Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi's lawyer says her medical condition might have played a role, but her spokesman says she is not using it as an excuse.
Hayashi walked into the courtroom with her lawyer at about 1:30 Friday afternoon, declining to talk about her case. In October, she was arrested outside the Neiman Marcus store in Union Square and charged with shoplifting leather pants and other clothing.
Prosecutors say Hayashi took the items into a dressing room and stuffed them into an empty shopping bag before leaving the store. Investigators say store security was tracking her after a saleswoman told guards she thought Hayashi had stolen a dress the week before.
After her arrest, she hired a spokesman just to deal with the crisis. He said Hayashi was going to pay for the items, but that she was distracted by cell phone calls. "She stepped outside the door, realized something was wrong, but before she had the opportunity to go back and correct her mistake, security was there," Sam Singer said.
In the courtroom Friday, things changed rapidly. The prosecution reduced the charge from felony grand theft to a misdemeanor. Hayashi then changed her plea from not guilty to no contest. The judge gave her three years probation, a fine of $180 and ordered her to keep a distance of 50 feet from Neiman Marcus.
Outside the courtroom, Hayashi still declined to talk, but her lawyer Doug Rappaport threw a bombshell. He said she suffers from a medical condition which experts say may have affected her judgment when she was caught.
"Unfortunately, she's been diagnosed with a brain tumor however, fortunately for her, it's benign and it can be taken care of and addressed with medication which is exactly what's happening," he explained.
Adding to the confusion, in an email sent Friday, Singer acknowledged Hayashi's brain tumor but said, "It did not play a role in her forgetfulness and distraction in accidentally walking out."
Regardless of the conflicting statements, the prosecution at the district attorney's office says the brain tumor had nothing to do with their decision to change the felony to a misdemeanor. They say she is a first-time offender with no priors and that she admitted her guilt early on.