Alameda County's probation chief, who was put on paid administrative leave last month after a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit was filed against him, wrote an article in 1997 admitting that he tried to kill someone when he was 15.
When he was a student journalist, David Muhammad, 38, wrote a candid article under the byline of David Gaither for the San Francisco Examiner.
"The case never came to trial due to lack of evidence, but the truth is I was guilty," Gaither wrote.
The first-person article was about the issue of charging juveniles as adults in criminal cases and was titled "Little future in harsher treatment." In it he describes using his car to intentionally run over a man he suspected was stealing from his family.
"I hit the gas. He tried to jump out of the way. I hit him on his side, and he was thrown to the ground," the article states. "The car crashed into my uncle's house. I leaped out and chased the man. Somehow he got up and ran, but when he woke the next morning, he was paralyzed, a condition that lasted for some time."
Gaither wrote that after he hit the man he was mostly just upset at having to go to a hospital to check his own injuries and because the car was totaled.
He says in the article that the attempted murder charges were dropped, but a 1998 Q&A with the former San Leandro resident on the Media Alliance website quotes him as saying that he was put on probation for the attempted murder.
Regardless, he wrote that he knew no witnesses would cooperate and that afterward he "continued his life of crime," until a couple of years later, when he realized he had no long-term future if he continued. He got involved in his studies, sports and community groups, which opened up opportunities for him.
When the lawsuit was filed in February, most Bay Area media outlets mentioned Muhammad’s criminal past, something he has also been open about during speaking engagements, but no details of the cases were included, most likely because he was a juvenile and such records are not public.
At some point, Gaither changed his name to David Muhammad and left the Bay Area to work in Washington, D.C., for the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. He also worked for 10 months as deputy commissioner of New York City's Department of Probation, Adult Services.
Muhammad’s attorneys could not be reached for comment about the article he wrote as Gaither.
A recent article in the Washington Times says Muhammad returned to the Bay Area in December 2010 when he was by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
After the was filed, the Board of Supervisors put Muhammad on leave and appointed to the job in March. The case against Muhammad has been turned over to the California State Attorney General's Office.
Donna Zeigler, the attorney for the County Board of Supervisors, told Patch she was not involved in the hiring of Muhammad.
"I can't say what the board did or didn't know [about Muhammad's criminal history] and I don't know the extent of his criminal history," said Zeigler.
She did say most peace officers must pass a thorough background process.
Zeigler does not know if the Board of Supervisors was aware of Muhammad's other name of David Gaither.
"You can Google it, and it's out there," commented Zeigler.
Supervisor Keith Carson told the Oakland Tribune in March that Muhammad underwent a "rigorous" background check.
Supervisor Keith Carson has not returned calls for comment on this story.
According to the Alameda County website, the requirements for an entry-level Probation Officer include a “background investigation which includes an interview and a thorough check of police records, personal, military, and employment histories, and inquiry of persons who know you and evaluate whether you: respect the law and rights of others; are dependable and responsible; have demonstrated mature judgment in areas such as the use of drugs and intoxicants; are honest; and are a safe driver.”
They also require fingerprints and a psychological exam for candidates. The site says that the candidates will have the ability to “understand one's self and have self-control in relation to self and others (self-awareness) and that “ideal candidates" will have a “track record as an excellent decision maker” and have the “highest ethical standards."