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We finally got a call back from John Hartley.

In his first contact with a reporter since his March 27 indecent exposure arrest in Kensington, Hartley told me he will stay in the race for the District 3 City Council seat and resume canvassing neighborhoods within the next couple weeks.

He continued his refusal to go into detail about the incident — which led to his plea of no contest yesterday to committing a lewd act in public — saying “I made a mistake and I want to take full responsibility.”

Hartley did, however, say that his campaign will soon be sending out some sort of communication to voters that will further explain his behavior that afternoon, which caused the residents of a Vista Street home to call police and report that he was both masturbating and urinating into a cup in his parked truck.

“We had a misunderstanding,” he said of the two women who reported him. “I’m sure they were just looking out for their neighborhood.”

Hartley acknowledged that it would be a “miracle” if he won, but said he owed it to his supporters to stay in the race.

“I need to give the voters a chance to speak out,” said Hartley, who was the District 3 councilman from 1989 to 1993. “If the voters can understand that I made a mistake, and support me as a human being who has done the right thing for 25 years, then I would be willing to serve.”

Hartley said he waited until now to speak publically because he needed to first sort out his legal issues. His plea agreement, made yesterday in San Diego Superior Court with the San Diego City Attorney’s office, calls for him to serve three years on probation and pay a $500 fine. The city dropped a urinating in public charge as part of the deal.

He called the aftermath of the incident “a near death experience,” and said he spent most of the last two weeks in San Luis Obispo.

“I’ve never gone through something like this — it is a stunning kind of experience,” he said. “You never know what life is going to give you.”

DAVID WASHBURN

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