Mountain View Voice

News - September 24, 2010

Cuesta phone calls lead to arrest

by Daniel DeBolt

After making a series of allegedly threatening phone calls to her opponents, a woman who seeks to preserve the Cuesta Annnex and its trees was arrested and booked into county jail by Mountain View police last week.

Targets of what police termed "annoying phone calls" included Mayor Ronit Bryant, a Santa Clara Valley Water District board member and a resident who supports plans to build a flood basin in the Cuesta Annex.

A phone company trace led to Mountain View resident Alexandria Gerontinos, 48, a vocal opponent of a plan to build a 4.5-acre flood basin in the front of the Cuesta Annex, a 12.5-acre lot and former orchard next to Cuesta Park. Gerontinos is especially passionate about the loss of the trees in the front of the Annex, including one she calls "the goddess tree."

"It wasn't right the way I handled it," Gerontinos said Monday. "But it was for the defense of the Annex. I feel very passionate about the place. I grew up here."

A resident who supports the flood basin received a voice mail on Sept. 12 from Gerontinos that "made vague reference to the safety of his family," said police spokesperson Liz Wylie.

"Our interpretation was that a physical threat was a part of the message being communicated," said the resident, who wished to remain anonymous. He described the two calls he received as "disturbing."

Mayor Bryant also received a call from Gerontinos on Sept. 7.

"I received a phone call that I felt was definitely threatening," said Bryant, adding that she felt threatened with violence. "I didn't recognize the voice but I felt it was very unacceptable."

Gerontinos was apologetic about the calls.

"I feel bad about how it was handled," she said. "I didn't in any way mean physical threat or bodily injury to anybody."

Gerontinos said the calls were a passionate response to seeing signs torn down from in front of the Annex that a group of preservationists had put up to inform the public of an upcoming Water District meeting. She said the act appeared political because the official signs for the meeting placed by the Water District remained.

"I took it out of line a little bit, I misplaced some blame, I guess," Gerontinos said.

Gerontinos described the Annex as "like a child to a lot of us, so beautiful and innocent. I was responding like a mother to a child being hurt."

She added that, "if you walk out there with a headache your headache will go away."

The alleged threats were not specific enough to legally qualify as threats of violence, but police charged Gerontinos with two counts of making annoying phone calls to the resident, Wylie said. At $3,000 bail for each count, it was just enough to book Gerontinos in jail (the bail minimum for jail is $5,000.)

Wylie said additional counts could not apply to the calls made to public officials because the law is different for them.

"Unless there is a criminal threat you have the right to call your council members and voice your concerns," Wylie said.

Vice Mayor Jac Siegel, who had received messages in his mail box about the Cuesta Annex from Gerontinos, is up for re-election in November along with Mayor Bryant.

"Every election cycle something goes on," Siegel said. "Whether this has to do with that or not, who knows? When you become a little more seasoned you don't worry too much about it."

The Cuesta Annex flood basin was recently approved by the Water District and is on its way to the City Council for final approval. The basin will be 21.5-feet deep in some areas and is designed to protect homes in the area from a 100-years flood from nearby Permanents Creek.

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