A strange potential scandal for San Jose City Councilmember Arjun Batra, who’s accused of driving into an unhoused person with his Lexus, and then paying the individual $40 to keep it hush-hush.
The City of San Jose is still trying to extinguish the embers of a scandal last October of a barely dressed exotic dancer exiting the vehicle of on-duty San Jose firefighters in front of an establishment called the Pink Poodle. And that scandal was particularly damning, because there was video of the incident.
Now another new possible scandal stems from some smartphone video, as the San Jose Spotlight reported last week that San Jose City Councilmember Arjun Batra had allegedly ran his car into an unsheltered person in downtown San Jose, and then gave that individual $40 to be quiet about it.
@sanjosespotlight San Jose Councilmember Arjun Batra is accused of hitting a homeless bicyclist with his car — then trying to pay him off with $40. Story at sanjosespotlight.com. #news #politics #sanjose #journalism #siliconvalley #fyp #fyp ♬ original sound - San José Spotlight
The TikTok video taken on Wednesday, September 13 and posted by the San Jose Spotlight is not conclusive, and starts after any alleged collision has already happened (Batra has denied the collision occurred, but confirmed he gave the person $40). Yet one eyewitness says they saw the accident, and two security guards tell the Spotlight they heard a collision.
Meanwhile, Batra said he was just giving the person money out of sympathy, not as hush money, in a statement to NBC Bay Area.
“Councilmember Batra has firmly denied the claims made in a recent article,” the statement says. “Last Wednesday, while proceeding through an intersection on a greenlight, Councilmember Batra made a sudden stop to fortunately avoid making contact with a pedestrian that was dragging his bike against the red light. Batra waited for the man to walk his bike to the other side of the crosswalk before continuing with his turn.”
“The man left his bike at the corner on the other side of the street before walking up to Batra by his car to reassure the councilmember and stated that he was fine,” the statement continues. “During the 5-minute heartfelt conversation, the man shared his background story as the councilmember listened to how he is currently homeless, and asked Batra if he could spare $40, which the councilmember gave before they both parted.”
But the San Jose Spotlight spoke to an anonymous witness, who is a also city employee, whom that publication “said she witnessed the accident and later caught the money handed on video when she recognized Batra”
Additionally, two security guards said they did not see any collision, but they heard one. Security guard Ann Leyva said she heard “a loud metal on metal sound," and that “The man didn’t seem injured.” Another nearby security guard said “It was (a) little bang but not a big bang,” adding, “Then when the guy went over there and talk to the driver, the driver got out and examined the bike and (their talk) lasted about maybe five minutes and then the guy left.”
So we have potentially conflicting accounts of what happened here. And now that the video has surfaced, you can imagine there are many dogged San Jose reporters trying to track down this unsheltered person and get his version of events.
There is no evidence of any wrongdoing by Councilmember Batra, and his story does not contradict anything seen in the video. But if he did pay the person $40 to stay quiet, and some reporter tracks that bicyclist down, we will learn quickly whether that $40 was an adequate hush-money payment.
Image: @batrasj via Twitter