Progressive District Attorneys Radically Change Rule of Law in California Cities

More than 50 prosecutors, support, and victim services staff have quit since the San Francisco District Attorney took office
December 13, 2021 Updated: December 15, 2021

LOS ANGELES—Amid a wave of “smash-and-grab” robberies and other crimes, a former prosecutor is claiming that more than 50 prosecutors, support, and victim services staff have quit their jobs over San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s progressive criminal justice reform policies.

“The office is imploding,” said the former prosecutor, who produced the list of those who’ve left their jobs since Boudin was sworn into office on Jan. 10, 2020.

“Not all of them quit, but most of them quit. Some were fired,” said the individual, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal. “The list isn’t up to date. I think more have left.”

Boudin fired seven prosecutors during his second day on the job.

Another former investigative supervisor sued Boudin for wrongful termination last month, claiming retaliation for calling out “improper and unlawful actions” by two prosecutors.

Boudin’s office hasn’t responded to inquiries by The Epoch Times.

The individual also cited a Sept. 24 court proceeding during which Superior Court Judge Bruce Chan raised concerns about actions taken in the District Attorney’s Office.

“For what it’s worth, let me say a few things, maybe with the forlorn hope that someone in the DA’s office might pay attention,” Chan said.

Court transcripts cite Chan as saying he “wholeheartedly” supports Boudin’s efforts to reform the criminal justice system, but he said: “I cannot express in any more certain terms my disapproval of the manner in which the Office of the District Attorney is being managed.

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Chesa Boudin (L), Leif Dautch (center), and Nancy Tung deliver their platforms for the office of San Francisco district attorney on Sept. 4, 2019. (Nancy Han/NTD)

“We simply cannot have the current levels of inadvertence, disorganization, and expect there to be any public confidence in what we do here collectively.”

Chan criticized the “constant turnover” in the office, saying, “I hope that people in the District Attorney’s Office will shift their focus from some of the bigger issues and concern themselves with the unglamorous yet necessary work of public prosecution.”

The former prosecutor agreed with Chan’s comments in the hearing and accused Boudin of trying to downplay increased crime statistics.

“That’s the thing that’s really frustrating is that they know it’s worse. They know it, and they’re lying.”

While progressive prosecutors contend that “the reason why there’s so many criminals is because our justice system turns them into criminals, it’s a backward argument,” the person said. “They argue that people keep getting arrested because cops keep arresting them and that’s the problem.”

Some believe that if the police would just leave people alone, they wouldn’t commit crimes, the person said.

Crimes, especially property offenses, are vastly underreported because the public has lost faith in the justice system, the former prosecutor said.

“They think that no one cares. They think that nothing is going to happen,” the person said.

When police sometimes tell victims of property crimes there’s no point in reporting these incidents because district attorneys likely won’t do anything, “unfortunately, they’re right,” the person said.

“People blame the cops for not wanting to take reports. That’s a symptom. The actual problem is that there’s no prosecution. If you start charging cases, the cops will step up and do their jobs.”

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Union Square visitors look at damage to a Louis Vuitton store in San Francisco on Nov. 21, 2021. (Danielle Echeverria/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

Crime Rates Rise

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office said recently that charges were filed against nine suspects in connection with organized retail theft at a Louis Vuitton store in Union Square.

“These brazen acts will not be tolerated in San Francisco,” Boudin said in the statement.

However, critics say the rising crime rates put Boudin at risk of being ousted in a June recall election.

Police reported that vehicle break-ins have increased 100 to 750 percent in parts of the city compared to last year, with the number of reported vehicle thefts reaching 1,891 in May 2021—more than double the 923 reported in May 2020.

San Francisco also recorded one of the largest increases in burglaries among major cities last year, with a jump of 47 percent—a trend that has continued this year. Fatal and nonfatal shootings in the first six months of this year were up more than 100 percent from the year-earlier period, increasing to 119 from 58, the city’s police chief said at a July press conference.

More than 700 people died of drug overdoses last year in the city, a record that is likely to be surpassed this year, according to the chief medical examiner.

Zack Smith, a legal fellow in the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, has co-authored a series of reports on progressive prosecutors. He claims that the recent rise in organized thefts and other problems in San Francisco and Los Angeles are the result of extreme progressive policies.

“I think you can draw a direct line to it,” Smith told The Epoch Times. “What do you expect to happen? It’s going to lead to a breakdown in law and order. It’s going to embolden criminals to commit these brazen types of thefts that we’ve seen.”

In recent election cycles, several progressive candidates won their races against independent, traditional prosecutors, many of whom are from the same political party as these challengers.

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A man in a Bad Boys Bail Bonds jacket waits outside the Sheriff’s Department Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 30, 2015. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Progressive District Attorney Policies

Boudin isn’t alone in his views on criminal justice reform, and like other progressive district attorneys—including George Gascón in Los Angeles, Marilyn Mosby in Baltimore, Rachael Rollins in Boston, Kim Foxx in Chicago, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, and Steve Descano in Fairfax County, Virginia—he’s found himself at the center of controversy.

In line with the progressive policies of restorative justice, Boudin campaigned on a platform to end mass incarceration, eliminate cash bail, and vowed to create a panel to review sentencing and potential wrongful convictions. Following his election in November 2019, Boudin announced he would deemphasize the prosecution of drug cases, so-called quality-of-life cases, and property offenses.

Boudin has indicated he wants to shift the focus to more serious offenses and take on corporations. He has also suggested hiring public defenders as prosecutors.

He has refused to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and has threatened to prosecute ICE officers whom he accused of breaking sanctuary laws.

“The people of San Francisco have sent a powerful and clear message: It’s time for radical change to how we envision justice,” Boudin said in 2019.

Boudin and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office claim they “develop and implement data-driven policies and practices that promote justice, protect crime survivors, and that address the root causes of crime.”

“The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office also strives to create policies that promote racial justice; end the criminalization of poverty; and combat mass incarceration by relying on incarceration as a last—and not first—resort,” according to the DA’s website. “Many of these policies involve innovative approaches designed to remedy systemic problems. The Office gathers and relies upon data-backed evidence in making policy decisions.”

One of Boudin’s first actions was to scrap the cash bail system.

The DA’s office states Boudin doesn’t believe anyone should be held in jail because they’re too poor to post bail. Under his policies, if someone poses a serious public safety risk, the DA’s office will ask that the person remain in jail while their case is pending in the courts, according to the office’s website.

Everyone who doesn’t pose a serious public safety risk is released while their case is pending, although sometimes with conditions of “electronic monitoring, GPS, or drug testing.”

“DA Boudin’s policy on ending cash bail in San Francisco was widely heralded as the most progressive bail policy in the nation. It plays an important step towards ending the criminalization of poverty and stopping mass incarceration,” the website states.

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George Gascón, then-San Francisco district attorney who took office as Los Angeles County district attorney on Dec. 7, 2020, speaks during a news conference in San Francisco on Dec. 9, 2014. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Los Angeles District Attorney

Since Gascón took office as Los Angeles district attorney in December 2020, the city has seen a 49 percent increase in homicides, recording 325 in the first 10 months this year, and a 16 percent jump in aggravated assaults. Auto thefts are also up 50 percent, accompanying a recent wave in “follow-home” robberies, according to police.

Multiple veteran prosecutors have sued Gascón, alleging retaliation for voicing criticism of the district attorney’s policies.

Neither Gascón nor his office have responded to inquiries by The Epoch Times

Progressives worked hard to oust former Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey, a registered Democrat and the first female and first black American to head the District Attorney’s Office.

“It is political,” Smith said, “but this is a battle, not so much that all breaks down along Republican or Democratic lines, but between traditional understandings of law and order and hard-left ideologues.”

Lacey was “relatively left-leaning, but by no means radical,” Smith said. “She understood her job was to enforce the laws to prosecute crimes and to protect the safety of her community. But her policies were not radical enough for George Soros or George Gascón, and so because of that, Gascón challenged her and unfortunately ultimately defeated her.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had backed Lacey for years, suddenly shifted their support to Gascón.

Progressive candidates are challenging other Democrats who aren’t necessarily “hard-left ideologues like these individuals,” Smith said.

Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, who held the office for three terms from 2000 to 2012, told The Epoch Times that as Gascón continues to “double down on his ill-conceived, soft-on-crime” policies, crime will not only get worse in LA, but spread to neighboring areas as well.

“What you’re seeing now is a lot of these very, very horrible crimes being committed in the suburbs in multimillion-dollar homes in Beverly Hills, Hancock Park, on the street, you know, that’s a very high-end area in Los Angeles.

“They are going to the suburbs. They’re going to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills,” he said. “This is going to spread out and everyone in Los Angeles County is going to be experiencing this crime wave.”

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Then-Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley speaks during a news conference on Sept. 21, 2010. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Gascón wants to reduce incarceration and opposes enhanced sentences that impose additional jail time for people with long criminal histories, or who inflict great bodily injuries, use a gun, or are involved in gangs, Cooley said.

“He wants to eliminate enhancements. He wants to reduce incarceration to the lowest possible point, and he’s able to do that through his charging policies,” he said. “If you don’t charge great bodily injury when someone is injured in a shooting, then they’re not going to get the extra time for great bodily injury.”

Many of the suspects in armed follow-home robberies and “these shoot-’em-ups at the restaurants and the flash-smash-bash-dash robberies” are juvenile gang members, Cooley said. “They all know that juveniles, even if they commit multiple murders, will never ever be tried in adult court, even though they’re age 16 or age 17. They know this and they take advantage of it.

“That’s why in Beverly Hills, they’ve had a spate of robberies by juveniles—at gunpoint, armed robberies—and the juveniles are put out there by adults, because they’re not going to suffer any punishment. They will not even be charged with an armed robbery under Gascón’s policies. They commit an armed robbery, they stick a gun in someone’s face, they take their purse, they will not be charged with armed robbery,” he said.

Kathleen Cady, a retired Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, said that when Gascón was sworn into office on Dec. 7 last year, he “almost simultaneously” issued nine new policies.

“There were 61 pages of policies … and they all negatively impact public safety and victims,” she said.

Some of those policies prohibit sentence enhancements and transferring minors to adult court for serious crimes such as murder and rape, as well as preventing prosecutors from the District Attorney’s Office from attending parole hearings.

“I’ve represented well over 20 murder victims’ families where the murderer was a 16- or 17-year-olds, and in each and every one of those cases, the prosecutor is not allowed to ask the judge if the minor can go up to adult court, and the minor stays in juvenile court,” Cady said.

Minors can only be held in custody until they’re 25 years old.

Cady, who represents crime victims of all political stripes, agrees the “so-called reform movement” behind Gascón’s campaign is “very political,” but said the response to his policies isn’t.

Opponents aren’t banding together based on politics, she said.

“It’s not a right-versus-left issue at all. It’s absolutely a public safety issue. It really has nothing to do with politics, it has to do with common sense and keeping the public safe,” Cady said. “I would call myself a liberal Democrat, but I am completely opposed to this particular reform movement, because reform means to make better. Nothing is better since he has come into office.”

Cady said she isn’t opposed to justice reform, but contends that Gascón’s vision of reform isn’t working.

“I’m certainly not opposed to making things better. Most of us are not opposed to making things better. The problem is that his vision of what criminal justice reform is, is wrong. It’s very mistaken,” she said. “He is using false statistics and what he claims to be data to inform his policies, which are blanket policies [that] do not allow for looking at individual cases, circumstances, [and] criminal histories.”

Brad Jones
Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.