After the plea, Hayashi declined comment, but her attorney, Doug Rappaport, said she had a brain tumor that affected her judgment the day of the shoplifting.
Hayashi was sentenced to three years of probation and less than $200 in fines. She was told to stay more than 50 feet away from Neiman Marcus, where she was arrested in October, during her probation.
Her plea followed the San Francisco district attorney's signal earlier today that he would be open to the court reducing the felony grand theft charge filed in the shoplifting case against Hayashi to a misdemeanor.
"This is a case that clearly contains the elements, in our opinion, of the crime as a felony, but we also recognize that the defendant in this case is a first-time offender, and I think that also plays a part in the discussion," San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said after a news conference on an unrelated case.
"If the court decides to go in a different direction, we'll support it," Gascon added.
Rappaport said the tumor affected Hayashi's judgement, but added she is on the mend.
"Unfortunately, she has been diagnosed with a brain tumor," said Rappaport, who said she was diagnosed prior to the incident. "However, fortunately for her, it's benign and it can be taken care of and addressed with medication, which is exactly what happened...Fortunately, it is something curable and is treatable. It is being treated and so it no longer is affecting her."
Hayashi's plea came during a proceeding for what was scheduled to be the setting of a preliminary hearing date. The proceeding, originally on the court's calendar for 9 a.m., was delayed until this afternoon. Hayashi herself had no comment this afternoon as she arrived.
Hayashi was arrested in October on after leaving a San Francisco Neiman Marcus store without paying for a blouse, a skirt and a pair of leather pants worth a total of nearly $2,500. She has pleaded not guilty to the felony charge, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Her spokesman has said that she intended to purchase the items, but became distracted by her cell phone and walked out of the store without paying.
Prosecutors have disputed that account, saying that the store's security cameras captured the incident and shows Hayashi passing cash registers on the way out of the store.
Dropping the charge to a misdemeanor rules out the possibility that Hayashi is effectively forced out of her job in the state Legislature, regardless of the outcome of the case. Under Assembly rules, a member convicted of a felony cannot receive compensation or expenses.
A judge previously waived Hayashi's requirement to attend today's court proceeding. Her attorney declined to comment on the district attorney's remarks.
PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi walks on the floor during the 2012 legislation session in Sacramento, Calif., January 04, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.