Once elected by San Francisco Republicans to represent their party, an East Bay man is now accused of murdering a young woman whose dismembered body was found on an Alameda shoreline, The Standard has learned.
Joseph C. Roberts, a 42-year-old Navy veteran who lives in Pleasanton, was arrested this month after DNA evidence reportedly connected him to the killing of Rachel Elizabeth Imani Buckner, his 27-year-old fiancée.
Buckner’s body was found wrapped in black plastic bags and duct tape in July, according to the Mercury News, which obtained court documents detailing the investigation. Her body was missing its head, hands and feet.
The Standard has since learned that Roberts was among the delegates elected in March 2020 to serve on the San Francisco Republican Party County Central Committee.
John Dennis, chairman of the local Republican Party, was shocked when The Standard told him about the arrest.
“You’re freaking kidding,” Dennis said in a Thursday call. “Oh my God.”
An attorney who is expected to represent Roberts was not able to comment Thursday.
Roberts made a name for himself as an advocate for men who said they were falsely accused of sexual harassment in college. He hailed Trump appointee Betsy DeVos as a hero when the education secretary unveiled new Title IX rules bolstering due process rights for college students accused of sexual misconduct.
Roberts said in numerous interviews that he was wrongly accused of sexual harassment and suspended from Savannah State University in Georgia in 2013. In one interview, he said his accusers were three sorority students.
“They said things like they were afraid for their lives,” Roberts said in a YouTube interview with The Exceptional Conservative Show. “It was just total lies.”
In 2018, he was featured in a nine-minute segment on ABC’s Nightline wearing a Make America Great Again hat to tell his story. Roberts said he was unfairly punished and tried to take his own life.
In 2020, when Roberts lived in Lower Nob Hill, he campaigned for a local Republican Party committee seat with the slogan, “For God. For Country. For San Francisco.” He described himself as a “law and order candidate” who sought to support the police, unleash economic growth and diversify leadership.
Election records show Roberts received 1,980 votes. He came in fifth out of 14 candidates vying for 11 seats in his district on the east side of San Francisco. Buckner was listed as the treasurer for his campaign, which raised $2,643.
Dennis said Roberts resigned from his role some time ago, for reasons he could not recall, and “wasn’t very involved” with the party. The last time Dennis saw him was about two years ago at an event at the Olympic Club, he said.
Roberts has regularly posted photographs of himself online with celebrities and other notable figures ranging from Warriors player Steph Curry and businessman Mark Cuban to Vice President Kamala Harris.
Two images he purportedly posted—one of him standing next to San Francisco’s mayor in black-tie attire and another of an $1,800 receipt for a table for two at the French Laundry—caught the attention of a fellow Republican delegate.
The photo with Breed was captioned, “There’s so much more to this story…”
The purported receipt from the French Laundry was for a dinner on Nov. 7, 2020. That was the same day Breed attended an eight-person event at the high-class restaurant during the coronavirus pandemic, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Dec. 1, 2020. It also happened to be the day after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s infamous visit to the uber-posh eatery.
Jillian Shannon, a former vice chair of the local Republican Party chapter, said Roberts gave her the impression that he went to the French Laundry with Breed when she questioned him about why he—a Republican delegate—had posted the image of himself with the mayor, who is a Democrat.
Shannon captured the two images and shared them in a Dec. 3, 2020, text thread viewed by The Standard.
“Unbelievable,” she wrote in the thread. “He just posted this.”
However, a spokesperson for the French Laundry said the receipt appeared to be a fake when The Standard shared a copy.
"This information regarding Joseph Roberts dining in Nov 2020 is false and seems to be doctored; there is no record of him dining," the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for Breed, Jeff Cretan, said Roberts never dated the mayor or went to dinner at the French Laundry with her. Rather, Roberts briefly came up to Breed at a couple of public events, Cretan said, including one at the San Francisco Symphony, where he and Breed took the photograph posted on social media.
“His behavior after that required us to report him to her security/SFPD,” Cretan said in a text message. Cretan said the office shared the photographs with police.
Shannon said her stomach sank when she found out Thursday that Roberts was arrested in the homicide. But she was not surprised.
“Every interaction I had with him was questionable,” Shannon said.
Shannon said she first met Roberts around the end of 2019, when he showed up to a publicly advertised meeting for local Republicans. She said he was always more interested in socializing than focusing on political work.
One time when she was out of town, Shannon said Roberts borrowed her Vespa and wrecked it. He allegedly refused to pay her back $2,500 for repairs.
“He was never a conservative from the get-go,” she said. “The guy just reeked of liberal bullshit.”
Shannon said she turned down his sexual advances on multiple occasions and that their already poor relationship soured to the point that they tried to kick each other off the local Republican committee. In the end, she resigned.
Sheriff records show Roberts is being held in Santa Rita Jail without the option of posting bail. He is due to appear in court Friday morning.
Buckner was a recent graduate from Golden Gate University, where she attended law school, according to a GoFundMe page created by her mother. She had a young daughter and was known to her family as a “beautiful and radiant light.”
“She was at the beginning of her life and her journey and had so much more life to live,” her mother wrote.
Michael Barba can be reached at email@example.com