Two men speak on a boat
Judge Gregory Elvine-Kreis (left) speaks with attorney Rory Kalin on a boat on Lake Shasta during Memorial Day weekend 2019.

ADL ‘disappointed’ by response to alleged anti-Semitic assault on lake

The San Francisco-based office of the Anti-Defamation League said it is “disappointed by the lack of progress” in an investigation of an alleged anti-Semitic assault on Lake Shasta and has asked the county sheriff to pursue the incident as a possible hate crime.

A Jewish lawyer, Rory Kalin, alleges that during a Memorial Day weekend camping trip last year, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Gregory Elvine-Kreis targeted him with anti-Semitic insults — calling him “Jew-boy” — and then shoved him fully clothed off a boat and into the lake. Kalin, who works in the county’s public defender’s office, says the incident exacerbated a previous injury and humiliated him in front of colleagues who were taking part in the weekend festivities.

In January, he reported the incident to police, claiming assault. In March, he filed a civil lawsuit for monetary damages, alleging assault, battery and violation of his civil rights.

Jewish lawmakers in Sacramento are looking into the matter, according to Jesse Gabriel, a Democratic Assembly member from the San Fernando Valley and vice chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus. Gabriel said he was “extremely disturbed” by the allegations and said the caucus has been deliberating internally about possible steps it might take to ensure a fair and thorough investigation.

The local office of the ADL also called the allegations disturbing and has been pressing law enforcement in Shasta County, where the incident took place, to investigate them fully.

“Mr. Kalin has made serious and detailed claims regarding his painful experience, and they deserve the fullest inquiry,” wrote Nancy Appel, the ADL’s senior associate regional director for the Central Pacific region, in an email to J. earlier this month. “ADL calls on local law enforcement authorities, including [Shasta County Sheriff Eric Magrini], to thoroughly investigate Mr. Kalin’s report of the antisemitic assault as a potential hate crime.”

Magrini did not respond to multiple requests for comment. According to a police incident report dated April 6 and obtained by J., the sheriff’s office decided not to refer the matter to the district attorney for prosecution. After seven interviews, spaced months apart, an officer wrote in the report: “I do not believe the act was intentional or malicious.” 

In a series of emails to J. this week, the judge’s lawyer, Patrik Griego, responded to Kalin’s claims. He said Elvine-Kreis acknowledges pushing the lawyer into the water but said Kalin “was not singled out” and that many people were pushed in, including the judge.

Elvine-Kreis also flatly denies knowing that Kalin was Jewish. “Mr. Elvine-Kreis never called Mr. Kalin a Jew-boy,” Griego told J. “Mr. Kalin’s recollection of events is drastically at odds with dozens of other people who were present on the same boat.”

The incident occurred on May 25, 2019, during a camping trip at the Antlers RV Park on the shores of Lake Shasta. The gathering brought together about two dozen people, including members of the public defender’s office and their families, for a weekend of camping, barbecuing and water sports.

Kalin told J. in a recent phone interview that he and his wife, Stefanie, arrived a day later than most and were “newcomers” to the group.

Kalin, 33, had no personal relationship to speak of with Elvine-Kreis prior to the trip, he says, other than appearing in the judge’s courtroom. Elvine-Kreis was appointed to the bench in 2017 by Gov. Jerry Brown after spending years as a public defender himself.

“I can’t say how he knew” I was Jewish, Kalin said. “But from all his actions, he obviously knew.”

Kalin said the judge was drunk and “out of control — not just with me, but generally speaking.” For example, he said, a photo taken that day shows the judge wearing what Kalin called a bright yellow “makeshift bra,” standing on a moving speedboat.

“This is a judge who makes serious decisions, out in public, making a fool of himself,” Kalin said. “He’s not providing evidence that he is capable of making these very important decisions.”

Griego did not deny the judge was drinking, but disputed Kalin’s claim that he was belligerent, or made inappropriate remarks. 

Eventually, Kalin said, the judge turned his attention on him, mocking him and saying he “dressed like an old man.” The judge allegedly asked Kalin’s wife, “Why would you marry this Jew-boy?” Kalin told J. in the phone interview, which was supervised by his lawyer. Elvine-Kreis denies making the comment.

Man standing on boat
Elvine-Kreis (standing) rides a motorboat during the Memorial Day weekend 2019 camping trip.

“He was targeting me,” Kalin said. “It became a sport to him.”

According to the civil complaint, about 30 minutes into the boat ride Elvine-Kreis “began calling Plaintiff a ‘Jew Boy’ and making fun of his Jewish heritage loudly, in a demeaning and unwelcome manner. He laughed loudly while making these statements,” the complaint reads. “Defendant then took his attack on Plaintiff a step further by shoving him into Lake Shasta off the stern side of the boat.” 

Kalin said his car keys and wallet were lost and his smartphone was ruined. He says he now has panic attacks and seizures, and that the incident aggravated a traumatic brain injury he suffered after being hit in the head by a golf ball weeks prior. He said his colleagues “distanced themselves from him” following the incident and he has not returned to work.

But the judge is telling a different story. 

Griego wrote that claims implying that Elvine-Kreis is anti-Semitic are “ridiculous,” and possibly drummed up for attention. He said the judge has a “reputation for protecting minority rights.” He compared Kalin’s complaints to those of Jussie Smollett, a Chicago actor who made national headlines last year after allegedly fabricating a story about an anti-Black hate crime committed against him.

“Anyone can call another person a racist and cause long term damage to their reputation and career,” Griego wrote. “We ask people to please withhold judgment until after this case goes to trial and all the witnesses can testify and all the evidence can be presented.”

Kalin grew up in Southern California and attended Humboldt State University, where he met Stefanie. It’s “a beautiful place,” he said of Humboldt County.

There is a small synagogue in Eureka, but Kalin said the population in the region tends to be “ignorant about anti-Semitism.” He described a tight-knit culture centered around personal connections and shared history. “Personal friends and relationships are strong in the community here,” he said. “It’s part of the good old boys club.”

When he reported the incident to police, he was concerned that the sheriff’s deputy who received his complaint “did not take my case seriously.”

He made the complaint on Jan. 30, according to the report, about eight months after the incident. He said the reporting gap was due to the fact that he was undergoing medical treatment — he spent more than a week in the hospital due to the exacerbated traumatic brain injury — and because he was afraid of retaliation from Elvine-Kreis, either against him or the defendants he represents.

Kalin said the deputy was “rude” and “appeared to be biased” from the beginning of the conversation. For example, Kalin said the deputy suggested “it was inappropriate for me to be wearing the long-sleeve shirt, pants and shoes on the boat during Memorial Day.”

Still, Kalin relayed his version of events, and days later, police interviewed Stefanie, a family therapist in Eureka. According to the incident report, she was “shocked” when the judge pushed her husband into the water, and “no one in the group really knew what to do.”

Rory Kalin
Rory Kalin

Police contacted Elvine-Kreis on Feb. 8. The officer who conducted the interview wrote: “The Judge denied to give me a comment on the allegation or incidents which took place. He only stated the accusations were ludicrous and would seek legal counsel if formal charges were being pursued.”

The case status was marked “closed; informational only,” and no additional witness interviews were recorded until after Kalin filed the civil complaint a month later.

The allegations became public after Kalin filed a lawsuit March 6 in Humboldt County Superior Court.

The Eureka Times-Standard newspaper ran a story on March 30 under the headline: “Lawsuit alleges Humboldt County cover-up as judge accused of tossing attorney off Lake Shasta boat.” The Lost Coast Outpost, a Humboldt County news site, published a similar story, and J. published an account a week later.

Around that time, police picked up the investigation, the incident report shows. On April 4, detectives interviewed three additional witnesses who were present at the camping trip. All told a story vastly at odds with Kalin’s account.

Luke Brownfield, an assistant public defender in the same office, said Kalin was pushed into the water after he and Stefanie had gone kayaking, according to the incident report. “As Rory returned from kayaking and was getting onto the boat, via a swim-step, the Judge pushed him into the water,” it says. “Rory laughed and someone else immediately pushed the Judge in the water. Everyone was laughing and pushing each other in the water.”

Brownfield’s wife, Quincy Brownfield, “had similar statements,” the incident report says. Police said she told them “Rory seemed normal after the incident” and that she “did not hear the Judge make any comments toward Rory and believes it never occurred.”

Casey Russo, another public defender, told police that “Rory caught himself and only fell into the water up to his waist.”

“Casey said Rory was laughing afterwards and everyone was having a good time,” the officer wrote. “Casey stated at no time did the Judge ever make rude, inappropriate or lewd comments to Rory or anyone else during the camping trip.”

The officer concludes the report, writing “I do not believe the act was intentional or malicious. This report will be informational only and not forwarded to the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office.”

In an email to J., Kalin disputed the claims of the additional witnesses.

He said Russo arrived later to the boat and did not hear the judge’s insults. He said the notion that he laughed or behaved normally after being shoved is “not true,” nor was everyone “pushing each other in the water.”

“Mr. Elvine-Kreis was not shoved into the water following his attack on me and neither was anyone else,” Kalin said. “I am very troubled that Mr. Brownfield and Mr. Russo who are attorneys would provide false and misleading information to the Deputy in order to protect Mr. Elvine-Kreis.”

Kalin questioned why Elvine-Kreis, a judge handling family law matters, had decided to join the camping trip in the first place. 

“I can’t figure out, as a lawyer, why Greg Elvine-Kreis would be at a social event with lawyers who appear before him, getting intoxicated in public,” Kalin told J. “From the get-go, his decision making is questionable.”

On May 13, the ADL sent a letter to Sheriff Magrini asking him to investigate the incident as a potential hate crime, describing the accusation as an assault “because of [Kalin’s] Jewish faith and heritage.” Appel said as of July 21, the ADL had not received a response.

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.