Discover more from Gotham by Susan Dyer Reynolds
'73 felonies and 34 misdemeanors in San Francisco alone'
How the system failed a career criminal — and his victims
On June 28, 2020 at 11:04 p.m., San Francisco police officers responded to the Ingleside district regarding a residential burglary in progress. The victim stated the suspect was inside her apartment. Officers observed signs of forced entry including damage to the door. They located an adult male and arrested him for burglary, possession of burglary tools, giving a false name to a peace officer, and parole violation.
At 11:32 a.m. on Aug. 20, 2020 SFPD responded to the 1800 block of Great Highway where a victim had tracked his stolen vehicle. Officers discovered a male in the driver’s seat and ordered him to exit the vehicle, where he was arrested for vehicle theft, possession of stolen property, possession of narcotics for sale, and possession of narcotics paraphernalia.
Two months later on Oct. 15, officers responded to 19th Ave. regarding a stolen vehicle. The witness said the car was driven to that location and the suspect exited and fled on foot. Officers stopped and detained the suspect. While creating an inventory of his property, two individuals approached them to say their car was broken into and their cell phone was stolen. The victims tracked the phone to this location, and officers determined the suspect was in possession of the stolen phone. Officers also found methamphetamine during their search. The suspect was arrested for vehicle theft, possession of stolen property, possession of narcotics, and parole violation, as well as for the cell phone theft.
The following month on Nov. 6 at 2 a.m., San Francisco State University Police answered a call about a man breaking into a parked car at 800 Font St. The witness ID’ed the suspect and officers detained him. The suspect admitted to breaking into the vehicle and apologized. Officers asked why he was limping, and the suspect responded that he had been shot during an argument a few months ago at Park Merced. Officers also noted the man was wearing a GPS ankle monitor. After arresting him for felony auto burglary and possession of burglary tools, officers checked the suspect’s record and were so alarmed that they included a note in their report for the District Attorney which stated, “This suspect is dangerous. He has 73 felonies and 34 misdemeanors in S.F. alone.”
On Dec. 20, 2020 at approximately 9:36 p.m., officers conducted a computer query of a car being driven on Eddy and Jones streets. the license plate came back as a reported stolen vehicle. Officers stopped the car and instructed the male driver to exit, which he did. A search turned up drug paraphernalia and other items. They arrested the suspect for possession of a stolen vehicle, two counts of possession of stolen property, possession of suspected methamphetamine, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Eleven days later on Dec. 31 at approximately 4 p.m., officers responded to a vehicle collision that struck two pedestrians, 60-year-old Elizabeth Platt and 27-year-old Hanako Abe, at 2nd and Mission Streets. Officers arrived on scene and immediately rendered aid to the victims and summoned medics to the scene. One of the victims was pronounced deceased; the second victim was transported to the hospital but later succumbed to her injuries. The driver of the vehicle immediately fled on foot, but officers took chase and arrested Troy McAlister, a 45-year-old male from San Francisco currently on parole for robbery, who had committed a burglary just prior to the fatal hit and run. McAlister was booked for driving a stolen vehicle, possession of stolen property, running a red light, speeding, hit and run, manslaughter, burglary, resisting arrest, driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs, DUI causing injury, possession of methamphetamines, possession of methamphetamines for sale, convicted felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of a large capacity firearm magazine. And, it turns out, McAlister was the same man arrested June 28, Aug. 20, Oct. 15, Nov. 6, and Dec. 20, for which he served a combined 11 days in jail.
A FATEFUL CAMPAIGN PROMISE
A check of McAlister’s record turned up not only the five previous incidents in 2020, but also the fact he was out on a plea deal brokered by the office of new District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a former public defender who campaigned on reforming the justice system and holding police officers accountable. He also promised not to use sentencing enhancements such as gang affiliation status or prior strikes, which Boudin said “led to mass incarceration, targeted innocent black and brown drivers, and increased recidivism.”
In March of 2020, Boudin kept his campaign promise with a plea deal for McAlister, sentencing him to time served — five years in County Jail while awaiting trial on a 2015 robbery case.
“All right. Mr. McAllister, sir, I wish you the best of luck,” Judge Loretta Giorgi said after the plea deal was finalized.
“I’d like to get my ankle monitor off today,” McAlister replied.
“Oh, yes. I'm going to order your ankle monitor removed as well,” the judge said.
“I did like a lot of extra time, like maybe a year extra. So what happens with that credit?” McAlister pushed. “Will they take it off my parole?”
“That you'll have to ask the parole agent about,” the judge responded.
And with that, McAlister was a free man.
When the New Year’s Eve tragedy shined a light on McAlister’s plea deal and subsequent arrests while out on parole, Boudin went on the offensive, blaming Daly City Police for not “more aggressively pursuing” McAlister. On December 29, McAlister met a woman from a dating app and they headed to Nation’s restaurant in Daly City. When she went inside to get their food, McAlister drove off in her car. Daly City Police said in a statement that they alerted parole officials and also went to McAlister’s reported address, but couldn’t find him in the days before he drove the woman’s stolen car through a red light and killed Platt and Abe.
Boudin then called out the California Department of Corrections for not revoking McAlister’s parole, upon which they also put out a statement: “None of the parolee’s arrests following his 2020 release have yet to result in filings of criminal charges by the District Attorney. Our parole office followed all procedures after these incidents, including conducting investigations and making appropriate referrals for the individual.”
It’s true, Boudin didn’t file new charges in any of the five 2020 arrests leading up to December 31, but what’s even more egregious is that McAlister wouldn’t have been on the streets at all had Boudin not brokered that plea deal. Court records show McAlister was facing 35 years to life in prison under California’s three strikes law because he already had three strikes — two for robbery and one for attempted carjacking. Since Boudin promised not to charge strike enhancements, McAlister was able to take a plea deal for time served.
On January 5, 2021, Boudin took to Twitter to say he had “a nearly 90-minute heart-wrenching meeting” with Hiroko Abe, Hanako Abe’s mother. “My office and our Victim Services team are committed to supporting both families,” Boudin said.
In an August 2021 interview via Internet translation, I asked Abe (who lives in Japan) whether Boudin’s office had been in touch. She said she hadn’t heard from them since a meeting over Zoom just days after her daughter’s death. “He wrote that he had taken good care of me for over an hour. Is it possible to say that the care is sufficient by preparing a person who cannot interpret well? I had a break in the middle of Zoom. I couldn't understand what was happening,” Abe said. “Meanwhile, after receiving an explanation from Hanako's friend in San Francisco, I finally understood the situation. I learned that many mistakes led to Hanako's death. I was surprised to see Boudin’s Twitter later. Even now, I don't know why Boudin contacted me.”
While Boudin made the meeting sound like an intimate one-on-one, Abe says there were other people on the Zoom, including Chief of Staff David Campos, Director of Communications Rachel Marshall, Chief of Victim Services Gina Castro-Rodriguez, Investigative Assistant Jessica Diamond, and Deputy Chief David Lazar.
Abe is not only heartbroken but also frustrated because she doesn’t know what’s happening with the case. I told her that McAlister had a hearing coming up Sept. 29. “Hanako's father is ill and needs care,” Abe explained. “He says ‘It's a painful life. I try to find some fun. However, going to Hanako is the most fun.’ To heal my heart, San Francisco needs to change so that Hanako's death is not wasted … I don't understand why criminals are being protected in San Francisco. Inhumane but progressive? Is anyone responsible for Hanako's death?”
In a 253 page document I obtained, it’s clear the system failed Troy McAlister through decades of coddling, offering him multiple chances to turn his life around that he didn’t deserve. In a bail motion for the 2015 robbery, the Public Defender’s Office (under the late Jeff Adachi) paints a picture of a man-child who started doing drugs at age 15 and was never able to hold down a job. Though it would be convenient to blame his background, you can’t. McAlister’s mother Sylvia worked as a Senior Deputy Clerk for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for 35 years. While his father died when he was young, Troy grew up in a “middle class household” where he was enrolled in private school through junior high. His younger brother Derek graduated from college and worked as a freelance cameraman for outlets including MTV and BET as well as for a company in Silicon Valley. His uncle Leroy Jones, who worked in IT for the City and County of San Francisco, was also present in his life. Troy has four children and two grandchildren and he cares deeply for them, according to family testimony. He worked with his brother briefly, and did inventory at Goodwill for six months in 2004 and another six months in 2006. Currently, his attorneys said, he was dependent on General Assistance benefits, but he planned to “stay out of trouble and would like to try working in one of the oil refineries in the area.”
So why did Troy McAlister become a career criminal? According to his public defender he was “surviving and making ends meet by the various crimes he committed.” His previous employment didn’t work out because “it was minimum wage and he was using hard drugs to cope with his lifestyle.”
The documents also indicate McAlister was in trouble as a juvenile, with his adult crimes starting in 1995 with second degree robbery and possession of cocaine for sale. He was in and out of custody, but his offenses turned violent around 2004 when he was arrested for battery of a former spouse. In 2005 and 2006 there were attempted carjackings, in 2007 grand theft from a person, in 2008 transporting and selling drugs, in 2009 robbery, and in 2010 robbery in the first degree.
Monday July 27, 2015 at approximately 7:44 p.m. police responded to the Mi Tierra Market located at 2023 Mission St. regarding an armed robbery. Dispatch broadcast a description of the suspect as a black male adult, about 34 years old, last seen wearing a red shirt, blue jeans, and a black backpack. The suspect approached the counter, pulled a brown and black pistol from his backpack and pointed it at cashiers Joanna Garcia and Keylin Rosales. He forced Garcia to open the cash register before telling her to get on the floor. After stealing cash and credit/debit card receipts he fled, but officers were able to locate the suspect, Troy McAlister, about an hour later. Rosales positively identified McAlister, the backpack and the weapon, which turned out to be an Airsoft gun.
On Dec. 11, 2015, despite McAlister’s long and violent record, the Public Defender’s Office asked the Court to release him to the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center. The District Attorney’s Office (then helmed by George Gascon) pointed out that McAlister was in possession of methamphetamine and committed a robbery as well as battery on a police officer, all while on parole. “The defendant has a history of violent felony convictions dating back to 1995 and has sustained many misdemeanor convictions,” the DA said. “In the current case, the defendant is charged with an allegation of commission of offense while on parole pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.085(a), three 667(e) allegations for prior strikes, three 607(a) allegations, and six prison priors pursuant to Penal Code section 667.5(0). As a result of the charged offenses, the defendant's exposure in State Prison is approximately thirty-five years to life in prison.”
Over the next five years, McAlister sat in county jail while various attorneys came and went, hearings were held, and proceedings were delayed. In 2019, Gascon stepped down to move back to his hometown of Los Angeles, where he ran for District Attorney and won. By then, McAlister was an afterthought. Boudin ran to take Gascon’s place in a low turnout ranked choice election where three moderate candidates canceled each other out. When the votes from all three rounds were moved to the remaining two candidates, Boudin took 50.9 percent to 49.2 percent for Suzy Loftus. Only 193,196 residents voted, with Boudin receiving 86,712 to eke out a win.
As for Troy McAlister, Boudin took to Twitter saying he “charged him with everything” — two counts of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, multiple enhancements related to a prior strike conviction, felony possession of a firearm, felony driving under the influence causing great bodily injury, felony leaving the scene of a collision, felony driving a stolen vehicle, felony transportation of a controlled substance, felony burglary, felony vandalism, and misdemeanor receiving of stolen property. A recent review shows all charges against McAlister still pending, except “multiple enhancements related to a prior strike conviction.” Even if Boudin does charge the strike enhancements, they can be dismissed at a later date.
The “73 felonies and 34 misdemeanors in S.F. alone” noted by the arresting officers on Nov. 6 now total 91 felonies and 41 misdemeanors. After 25 years of chances, McAlister now faces life in prison. Sadly, he’s taking the lives of two innocent women and their devasted families with him.