Vulgar, harassing emails sent to local radio host Dave Congalton nearly four years ago sparked a criminal investigation at the SLO County District Attorney's Office that named 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill as a suspect, but prosecutors dropped the case in late 2016 without filing charges.
In July 2016, Congalton, host of Hometown Radio on KVEC, received a series of five emails sent under what appeared to be a false name and address. The emails hurled personal insults, sexually explicit comments, and vague threats toward him.
- File Photo By Jayson Mellom
- CAMPAIGN SEASON Adam Hill (left) debates his election opponent Stacy Korsgaden at a New Times candidate forum on Jan. 15. Hill was investigated in connection to harassing emails sent to a local radio host in 2016.
"You have only begun to pay, Congalton," one July 20 email concluded. All the emails were sent under the name Sal Krill, from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congalton reported the emails to the SLO County DA's Office, which decided to open a case into what it described as criminal misdemeanor harassment, according to a DA's investigative report obtained by New Times.
In an attempt to identify the perpetrator of the emails, the DA's Office served search warrants to Google and Charter Communications to locate the IP address that they were sent from. Those turned up one IP address—used to create the email account and send the emails—that allegedly belonged to Hill's wife at the time, Dee Torres, at their then-shared residence in SLO.
When interviewed by investigators at their home, Hill denied that he or Torres sent the emails, according to the DA's reports. In the following weeks, Hill's attorney, Don Ernst, retained a Cal Poly computer expert who wrote a declaration stating that the emails could have been sent by somebody else and made to look like they came from their residence's IP address.
After that, the DA's Office closed the investigation without filing charges.
"It was determined that there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt who authored the emails," the DA's Office wrote to Congalton on Nov. 7, 2019—in a memo that detailed the investigation to him for the first time.
Congalton went public with the case on his radio show on Jan. 29, and the story was soon picked up by the online news blog CalCoastNews and then The Tribune.
On Feb. 4, Mike Brown, of COLAB of SLO County, spoke about the allegations at a Board of Supervisors' meeting, and, in response, 1st District Supervisor John Peschong requested that they be agendized for a future closed session discussion.
Hill, who's up for re-election on March 3, has denied having any role in the emails. In a Feb. 15 press release posted to Facebook, Hill wrote, "I had nothing to do with this, and after a response from my attorney, it was dropped."
"It occurred during my last campaign, and my former wife had been viciously slandered by this same radio host," Hill's post went on. "It was so horrendous and immoral, and I did not bring up the 'latest claims' to her until I had to, and of course, she had nothing to do with these emails either."
With the primary election weeks away, Hill and his supporters have questioned the timing of the DA releasing the report to Congalton—and the radio host's discussing it on air. But DA Dan Dow and Congalton maintain that they're not motivated by politics.
"California law compels us to release the investigation materials to a victim of a crime when they ask for them, as long as no other exception to the release exists," Dow wrote to New Times via email.
Dow and Congalton disagree on how many times Congalton asked the DA for the case's documents since 2016. While Congalton says he asked for it at least twice between the end of 2016 and October 2019, Dow says he wasn't asked for it again until October 2019.
Congalton said he hesitated to go public with the case or discuss it on air because of a long history of feuding with Hill that he wasn't intent on exacerbating. But he said he was compelled to discuss what he called a "larger coarseness in our culture" and what he feels is hypocrisy among progressives who support Hill.
"It's like the progressives call out Trump for bad behavior but they won't call out their own guy," Congalton said. Δ