At a hearing in San Francisco Superior Court this morning, Dana McCallum, a Twitter engineer and prominent women's rights and LGBT activist, accepted a guilty plea for two misdemeanors related to the alleged rape of her wife. McCallum, who is a transgender woman, was initially charged with five felonies for the alleged incident, which occurred in January.
The misdemeanors were for one count of domestic violence with corporal injury to the spouse (California penal code 273.5) and one count of false imprisonment (code 236). McCallum, whose legal name is Dana Contreras will serve three years probation, 4 days in county jail (with credit for the 4 days already served), 25 hours of community service, counseling for substance abuse, 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling, as well as some minor fees.
In court today, McCallum first said "no contest" to the plea, but the District Attorney's office insisted on a guilty plea.
McCallum initially pled not guilty to the felony charges, which included three counts of spousal rape, one count of false imprisonment and one count of domestic violence.
McCallum and her wife are in the process of getting divorced. The victim told Valleywag that McCallum served her with divorce papers two days before the incident. However, the victim also noted that the incident occurred when McCallum arrived uninvited and unexpected at the victim's house in Noe Valley. The victim's three children and her daughter's friend were present that night. McCallum's former attorney John Runfola, who has been replaced with Nanci L. Clarence, said that McCallum served her wife with divorce papers one day before the incident. The divorce has not been finalized.
McCallum's wife read a a moving victim's impact statement before the judge today where she said McCallum was given two opportunities to apologize, but did not apologize or ask about her welfare. She described the incident as an "alcohol fueled sexual violent crime, but said she wanted "forgiveness" to prevail and for this to be "an inspiration for other addicts," rather than "an ugly headline for the vultures to pick over." She said that she still loved McCallum and was disappointed by the community's response:
I must say that it deeply saddens me that as a victim, my only public support has been from hate groups. I expected more from the LGBT and feminist community. It's a shame that they can't do the emotional work it requires to process that someone they love is capable of such an awful crime. That is their burden to carry, though.
McCallum has been working as an engineer at Twitter since 2010*. She was arrested in January and released on $350,000 bail. According to an earlier report from the San Francisco Examiner, court documents stipulated that McCallum had to attend AA meetings as a condition of her release. The Examiner also obtained a copy of a criminal protective order, which stated that McCallum must not contact or come within 150 feet of her wife.
The case has been deeply troubling for equal rights advocates in the technology industry both because of the nature of the charges and because McCallum, who is best know by the handle @DanaDanger, has long been an activist for feminist and LGBT causes. Last January, she wrote a piece about women and transgender people for Model View Culture. The article has since been deleted, along with McCallum's bio, which used to say:
Dana McCallum has been working in software engineering and engineering leadership since 2000. As an advocate for women in technology and the LGBT community, Dana helped create advocacy teams at Twitter and other companies, served as a delegate on women's issues in India, and speaks regularly at events focused on women and LGBT people in tech.
In April, McCallum's old lawyer, John Runfola, aggressively denied the allegations, telling the Examiner that the victim was after a monetary gain. Twitter went public in November, 2013. The lockup period, after which Twitter employees could sell their stock, ended in May. However, unless otherwise agreed upon California divorce law states that assets like stock options are community property and divided equally. The couple has been married since 2007, before McCallum's tenure at Twitter. What's more, if McCallum had been convicted of felonies, it could affect her job at Twitter and therefore spousal support.
"I'm just disgusted that, you know, this is going on," Runfola said. "Dana is an employee [at Twitter] and is about to come into a large amount of money. ... This whole thing is about money."
The couple had been separated, he said, but were still having sexual relations. McCallum served her wife with divorce papers the day before the incident, Runfola said.
The incident in question, according to Runfola, happened in a small condo in the Mission when four teenagers were in the house.
"No one heard 'rape' or fighting or anything," he said.
After Runfola said it was about money, Erin Caton, a friend of McCallum's wife adamantly disputed the claim. She provided the Chronicle with a description of the alleged incident that undermined Runfola's defense:
She went over to her wife's two-bedroom home in San Francisco the morning of Jan. 26 while she was highly intoxicated, according to Erin Caton, a friend of the wife's. Her three children and one of their friends had let McCallum in without realizing she was drunk, Caton said, so the wife steered her into another room, where McCallum allegedly attacked her.
"(The wife) called me that morning and told me that she had been raped and asked me what to do," Caton said. "She was crying nonstop."
Caton said she told her to call the police, and she rushed over to provide support. She said the wife had deep scratches on her back, and they went to a hospital so doctors could perform a rape test.
*Update 10/8: McCallum declined to comment on the sentencing, but she just told Valleywag: "I haven't worked at Twitter since September 10th." Twitter still has not responded to repeated questions about McCallum's job status.
This post has been updated throughout with clarification from the victim. To contact the author with information related to the case, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.