San Francisco DA Faces Recall Effort
The New Year’s Eve deaths of two San Francisco women, allegedly at the hands of a parolee behind the wheel of a stolen car, could cost the job of the city’s soft-on-crime district attorney with family ties to terrorists.
Rising crime, increased homelessness, and a general deterioration in quality of life had already rousted critics of Chesa Boudin, the controversial left-wing prosecutor who has followed through on his pledge to overhaul the city’s criminal justice system dramatically since his election in January of last year. But the deaths of Elizabeth Platt and Hanako Abe, killed when Troy McAlister allegedly struck them in a stolen car after driving through a red light on the last day of 2020, have driven thousands to sign a recall petition against public defender-turned prosecutor Boudin.
“He has been in office since almost a year ago today, and we have seen, and almost from the start, the systematic dismantling of our city’s criminal justice system all using this very controversial restorative justice, which is something he campaigned on,” said Richie Greenberg, a San Francisco resident and community activist. “I think from a marketing perspective it was brilliant. It duped people into thinking the system was great. But instead, our city has undergone a systematic dismantling and removing any semblance of criminal justice and instead putting in criminal defense, which is where he comes from.”
Boudin, who served as a public defender in San Francisco and a translator for former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, is simply fulfilling the campaign promises that got him elected in the famously liberal city. The son of two former members of left-wing terrorist group the Weather Underground who took part in a 1981 Brinks truck robbery that led to the deaths of one armored car guard and two police officers, Boudin wasted no time implementing his reforms.
Among the initiatives overseen by Boudin was the ending of cash bail for numerous offenses and decriminalization of a large swath of nonviolent offenses. His campaign was supported by a number of high-profile left-wing politicians, including socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who called Boudin’s victory crucial to “fundamentally transforming our racist and broken criminal justice system.”
Greenberg, a local businessman who lost a 2018 mayoral run, is leading the charge to recall Boudin. Among the other grievances by those who signed the petition are year-over-year increases in homicides by over 10%, car thefts by 34%, burglaries by 47%, and arson by 39%.
But it could be a case, not a statistic, that mobilizes residents of the City by the Bay to oust the local prosecutor. McAlister, 45, who had been arrested numerous times since being released in 2020 on parole after a robbery conviction, was detained by police on possession of burglary tools and on suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle just over a week before the deadly accident. After allegedly running over the two women in the city’s South of Market neighborhood, McAlister tried to flee on foot but was quickly nabbed. He has pleaded not guilty.
Abe, 27, a data analyst from Japan, had graduated from the University of Central Arkansas before coming to San Francisco in 2018. Sari Nakaya, a friend of Abe’s who organized an online fundraising drive to send her body back to Japan and cover funeral costs, told the San Francisco Chronicle her pal’s death was a loss for all who knew her.
“Hanako embodied resilience, bravery, and hope,” Nakaya said. “Throughout the past year, in the midst of COVID-19, Hanako never stopped smiling and was the most resilient and optimistic person we knew.’’
Boudin has denied any wrongdoing and placed blame on a lack of communication between law enforcement and the city government. He claims police never informed his office of McAlister’s parole violations, and if they had, the suspect would have been behind bars, and Platt, who was 60, and Abe would be alive.
“We need to work with the police and with all other law enforcement agencies that we partner with to do a better job at keeping the city safe,” Boudin told ABC7 News. “I can’t do it without the police, they can’t do it without me, and parole certainly can’t do it if nobody even tells them somebody they supervise has been arrested. And that is exactly what happened here on Dec. 20, and again with a different agency on Dec. 29.”
The San Francisco Police Department released a statement taking responsibility for McAlister’s release on Jan. 1, saying the “senseless tragedy shouldn’t have happened.”
“We must all be held equally accountable for the decisions we make, because they can have serious implications for the safety of those we serve,” the statement read. “San Franciscans deserve nothing less, and that’s what they’re demanding from all of us in the criminal justice system.”
Boudin’s peers in neighboring districts have blasted him for the incident, including Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who noted Boudin’s and McAlister’s paths had crossed in the past. In 2018, Boudin, then a deputy public defender, served as McAlister’s defense attorney.
“When we put a public defender, a criminal defense lawyer, in office to be the chief law enforcement officer of the county, the interest will lie with those charged with crimes, those convicted of crimes, rather than with potential victims,” Schubert said.
The San Francisco police union called for an independent investigation into the relationship between Boudin and McAlister on Tuesday.
Greenberg acknowledged his recall effort is a long shot. What he hopes to accomplish more than anything, Greenberg told the Washington Examiner, is to create a pressure campaign on other city leaders to speak out against Boudin’s policies.
“We’ve seen this over and over now. Right from the beginning, he dismisses some of our prosecutor attorneys from the DA’s office,” he said, citing Boudin’s firing of seven prosecutors from his office at the beginning of the year. “When we reach 10,000 signatures, I’m presenting them to the mayor and telling him, ‘It’s time to do something.'”