|Peter Thottam (in suit and tie) appears at a 2007 Los Angeles "9/11 Truth" rally|
Venice resident Peter Thottam recently made headlines when he set up a website, "Occupy The Rose Parade", and put out a call for "'40,000 'Occupy Wall Street' protesters and supporters to come together from across California, New York and rest of the USA & World" to disrupt the Pasadena Rose Parade.
Back in 2010, Thottam made headlines for a far different reason when the Daily Breeze newspaper ran an investigative report on Thottam, who at the time was a candidate for the 53d Assembly District.
As a candidate for the Democratic nomination in Tuesday's 53rd Assembly District primary, Peter Thottam has stressed his financial expertise.
But the Venice resident's financial acumen - and his judgment - has been called into question by his brother and sister in a drawn-out probate case over their late mother's will.
Allegations leveled against Thottam by his siblings in court documents related to the trust set up for them include:
That his brother and sister, Jameson and Elizabeth, were "considering removing Peter as a co-trustee because Peter lost $800,000 playing the stock market and misappropriated rents" from a property belonging to the trust "to cover margin calls on his personal stock account."
That he was "an unsuitable trustee because he was convicted of shoplifting from the UC Irvine bookstore and was previously caught shoplifting from a clothing store on the East Coast and again shoplifting from a store in Mexico where he was subsequently placed in jail."
Prominent on Thottam's website are various links to Paypal. Supporters who can't make the protest in person are strongly encouraged to make donations via an "Occupy The Rose Parade" account.
"We need funds from OWS supporters," writes Thottam, "to enable us to obtain banners, pamphlets (for on-site distribution), and for the BackBone Campaign's "human float" & other visuals during Occupy The Rose Parade outreach."
Emails sent to potential supporters via a Google listserve also push hard for donations, "This has the potential to be huge," writes Thottam, "but it requires as many occupiers as possible putting in $10, $20, in order to make it happen."
Organizers for Occupy Pasadena say they are not connected to "Occupy The Rose Parade" and no mention of Thottam or his plans appear on the group's website. Occupy Pasadena activists told the Pasadena Star News it's unlikely the Rose Parade protest will get support from their group.
“Disrupting cherished city traditions is really not an appropriate step to take.”
"It is tempting to leverage all that media, but the parade feels like it's something that is such a part of the fabric of Pasadena that we don't want to go there," said Maddie Gavel-Briggs, 46, of Pasadena, and a MoveOn.org activist.
Beyond the public relations concerns, Occupy Pasadena has other reasons to be circumspect. In addition to fiscal allegations, Thottam is prominently involved in the so-called "9/11 Truth Movement", a coalition of loosely-affiliated fringe groups who believe the attack on the World Trade Center was actually a controlled demolition orchestrated by the US government. Thottam participated in a number of 9/11 Truth "conventions" as well as protests, including this action in 2007 during a taping of the HBO show, "Real Time with Bill Maher".
Maher was talking science during a round table panel discussion when the first activist named Randy stood up, held up his smuggled-in sign reading ‘9/11 is a cover up fraud’ and shouted “Investigate 9/11, Nothing else matters” and other comments to the same effect.
Randy was swarmed by show crew members, and Bill Maher scampered into the audience, put his hands on the back of a crew member shouting, “Out, out, out”.
After making his way back on stage, Maher barely got his mic back on when a second activist, Katy Kurtzman stood up and shouted “What about Building 7? What about Building 7, Bill?” Maher stood up and said “I’ll kick your @ss out of here, too!” and producers proceeded to escort Kurtzman out of the audience.
One of the panelists, Joel Stein, LA Times columnist then jokes “I was only allowed two guests so things should be okay after this.” That’s when the third activist, Peter Thottam challenged Maher once again about Building 7 “Tell us what happened to Building 7, Bill!”
As Peter was grabbed and dragged out of the audience, Maher replied, “You are a nut case… Crazy people who still think the government brought down the Twin Towers in a controlled explosion have to stop pretending that I’m the one who’s being naive,” Maher stated. “How big a lunatic do you have to be to watch two giant airliners packed with jet fuel slam into buildings on live TV, igniting a massive inferno that burned for two hours, and then think ‘Well, if you believe that was the cause…’ Stop asking me to raise this ridiculous topic on the show and start asking your doctor if Paxil is right for you.”
Lastly, the Daily Breeze investigative report uncovered a history of firings and theft, the latter which resulted in Thottam having his law license suspended in 2008.
Thottam, an attorney who was admitted to practice law in California in 2000, was suspended by the State Bar for "moral turpitude" in June 2008 in the wake of his 2004 misdemeanor conviction for petty theft for stealing two books worth $71 from UC Irvine, according to court documents.Thottam has refused repeated requests for comment.
He was placed on probation for one year and ordered to complete 20 hours of community service and pay $130 in fines and fees by an Orange County court after pleading guilty to the charge.
The State Bar noted that Thottam admitted to a "miscarriage of judgment" because he was suffering a "great deal of stress and sleep deprivation" related to his mother's serious medical problems at the time. She died in July 2004.
Thottam never reported his criminal conviction to the State Bar - his brother reported the incident - something the State Bar Court called the "only aggravating factor" in the case
Thottam was earlier arrested in Mexico in June 2003, an incident described in an August 2003 article by The Village Voice. The alternative newspaper's story warned that getting arrested for even minor crimes in Mexico could result in a lengthy jail stay.
According to the Village Voice article, Thottam was inside a Sanborns department store when his tourist guidebook "disappeared." As he was looking for it, the article stated, he was "nabbed for almost stepping out with a pair of the store's socks in his hand."
That resulted in a four-night stay with 13 other prisoners in a cell designed for four where guards and inmates demanded cash for access to the bathroom, mess hall and other amenities.
"I couldn't get over how surreal it was," Thottam told the newspaper, "all over a pair of socks."
Eventually a friend posted $1,100 bail for him and he "hightailed" it out of the country.
In a phone conversation, Thottam threatened to sue the Daily Breeze "for every penny I can get" if an article was published, and then hung up.
Thottam's brother and sister could not be reached for comment. Their lawyers did not return calls seeking comment.
In at least two of his jobs in the financial realm, Thottam was involuntarily dismissed.
From 1999 to 2001 Thottam worked for the Silicon Valley law firm of Wilson, Sonshani, Goodrich & Rosati before he was fired for "performance-based" reasons, according to the company as reported in an April 2002 article published by the Communications Workers of America.
In the article about the stigma workers carry for being fired rather than being laid off, Thottam claimed he was actually laid off.
Thottam subsequently went to work for the prestigious law firm of O'Melveny & Myers in San Francisco from 2001 to 2002.
Again, Thottam claimed he was laid off according to a March 2002 article in the Daily Journal; the company responded in the article by saying the firm had suffered no layoffs and was, in fact, hiring.