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Boudin’s exit marked by spite, hypocrisy, and misogyny
Recalled Chesa Boudin approved extended paid leave for staff effective on new district attorney’s first full day
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“I had to make difficult staffing decisions [Friday] in order to put in place a management team that will help me accomplish the work I committed to do for San Francisco.”
— Chesa Boudin, after firing seven top prosecutors in his first week as San Francisco’s district attorney, January 2020
When Mayor London Breed appointed prosecutor Brooke Jenkins as interim district attorney, Jenkins wasted no time making changes. The office, led by her one-time boss Chesa Boudin until his recall on June 7, was staffed with Boudin hires, mostly public defenders like Boudin himself. On her first full day in office, Jenkins fired 15 people, but it was hard to do it in person because, prior to leaving his post, Boudin signed off on extended leaves of absence.
Some staffers given leave weeks prior to Boudin’s exit used their taxpayer-funded time off to support their boss’s campaign, but in what can only be described as a vindictive final act, Boudin and his chief of staff Kate Chatfield signed off on extended leaves for management, set to take effect on July 11 — Jenkins’s first full day in the office. In fact, the only person on Boudin’s management team who was present for Jenkins’s inaugural senior staff meeting was Marshall Khine, a longtime prosecutor who has worked in nearly every trial unit since starting with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office in 2013. One source said the office was “deserted,” with Boudin hires sitting on one side and Jenkins supporters on the other during the meeting. In a moment exemplifying that clear divide, one of those Boudin hires illegally recorded the meeting and distributed it to the press.
For a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece titled “Brooke Jenkins just fired me and 14 others. I have no idea how the D.A.’s office will run without us,” Ryan Khojasteh, a former public defender brought over by Boudin, wrote, “I was on vacation and on my way to a wedding the day Jenkins and two representatives from human resources called me on my personal cell phone to fire me.”
Well, that’s what happens when you’re out of the office on “extended leave.”
With a certain glee, Khojasteh also discusses the recording, saying multiple media outlets quoted staffers who described that first meeting with Jenkins as “uncomfortable” and “icy.” He’s particularly angry that the new D.A. fired “15 staffers who were effective members of the team.” “Effective” is a strong word considering the majority, including 99 percent of the management team, took Boudin up on his offer of extended leave, skipping out on 5,500 outstanding cases which Khojasteh admits were “on average, nearly two years old” — in other words, during Boudin’s tenure. “Perhaps Jenkins may be able to hire some new attorneys in the coming months, but even the most talented attorneys will not be able to be brought up to speed to help lighten the load anytime soon.” Khojasteh says this unironically, despite the fact that under Boudin 59 attorneys left, including 37 who quit and 11 who were fired.
As for his own work? Khojasteh says he took it seriously and was good at his job, though photographs posted on social media show his cubicle floor scattered with files and his mail slot overflowing with unopened envelopes, some likely containing time sensitive information about his cases. After all, it would be tough to open mail while “sitting in the back of your mom’s car on the highway.”
As he complains about the “unfair firings,” Khojasteh never acknowledges that positions in the district attorney’s office are “at will,” meaning you can be cut loose at any time for any reason. He also neglects to mention that just two days after Boudin was sworn in, he fired seven attorneys. One prosecutor told me the original number was 14, but more bad press made Boudin nervous. Just weeks later when that prosecutor quit, he says Boudin looked right at him and asked, “Who will try homicide cases?” to which he replied, “You fired them all.”
At the time, Boudin told the press the dismissals were necessary to carry out his agenda, stating, “I had to make difficult staffing decisions today in order to put in place a management team that will help me accomplish the work I committed to do for San Francisco.”
So, both Boudin and Jenkins fired people. The only difference is Boudin fired qualified prosecutors and replaced them with unqualified public defenders, while Jenkins fired unqualified public defenders and replaced them with qualified prosecutors.
As for Boudin himself? After tweeting that he would be there to help Jenkins make a smooth transition, he went to the Warriors playoff game and then boarded a plane to Chile to introduce his new baby to his in-laws. He had someone else clean out his office. Since returning to the City, he’s spent time retweeting the barrage of nasty attacks on the new D.A. by his embittered former staff.
DIVERSE, ALL-FEMALE SENIOR MANAGEMENT TEAM
Not a single one of the Boudin hires dismissed by Jenkins had prosecutorial experience, but the diverse, all-female senior management team selected by Jenkins — Ana Gonzalez, Nancy Tung, Tiffany Sutton, and Kulvidar “Rani” Singh Mann — have decades of it.
A trial prosecutor and former Deputy California Attorney General with nearly two decades of experience, Nancy Tung will lead and oversee special prosecutions and community partnerships. She ran against Boudin in 2019, saying at the time she wanted to prioritize early intervention with a vision she calls “Community-Centered Justice.” Tung is currently a prosecutor for Alameda County but previously worked in the San Francisco D.A’.s Office.
When Boudin dismantled the gang unit, Ana Gonzales, who led the unit, was fired. Now she will serve as chief assistant and lead managing attorney, bringing with her 20 years of experience in the D.A’.s Office in her native San Francisco. After she was fired, Gonzales (and several other fired prosecutors) served as a deputy attorney general for the California Attorney General's Office. When Boudin barred his staff from charging gang and gun enhancements, Gonzales likely saw the writing on the wall. Now she is second in command under Jenkins.
Kulvidar “Rani” Singh Mann also has decades of experience in the SFDA’s Office, where she served as a neighborhood prosecutor and in the juvenile and adult divisions. Currently an attorney for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, she will act as Senior Transition Advisor for Jenkins.
Vice President Kamala Harris hired Tiffany Sutton when she was the San Francisco District Attorney. After 12 years in the office, Sutton most recently worked as Director of the Crime Strategies Division for the San Francisco Police Department, where she was responsible for the leadership and management of the crime analytics team and analyzing SFPD's crime and community strategies. While at the University of San Francisco Law School, Sutton received the prestigious Thurgood Marshall Achievement Award. Under Jenkins, she will lead and oversee alternative programs and initiatives and the juvenile division.
You would think news of this strong, diverse, all-female management team would delight former Boudin staffers who claim to “punch up” for Black and Brown women while presenting themselves as allies. Instead, fired chief of staff Chatfield hopped on Twitter to punch down at the powerhouse team — and new Black and Latina D.A. Jenkins — calling them “Girl Bosses for mass incarceration.”
Chatfield, who is white, once compared Boudin’s critics to The Birth of a Nation, the controversial 1915 film that depicts Ku Klux Klan members as heroes. In between dissing the women taking leadership roles under Jenkins, she managed to punch up for Boudin’s fired communications director Rachel Marshall, who is also white, tweeting, “Unsure which is stronger: her heart or work ethic.” It’s definitely not her work ethic. As I reported previously (“Six podcasts, four trials, and a blog,” August 2021), Marshall created a seven-page Word document titled “Dion Lim Misrepresentations,” a detailed manifesto of the cases the ABC7 reporter and anchor has covered, with talking points and “evidence” of her bias against Boudin.
In text messages obtained through a public records request, Marshall goes back and forth with Tennessee blogger Radley Balko, offering information on an open criminal case and sending him the Lim manifesto to help with a hit piece that eventually ran in The Washington Post.
Also complicit was Kasie Lee — I was surprised Jenkins didn’t fire her, though she was demoted from her interim Chief of Victim Services position. Lee’s equally blind devotion to Boudin led her to divulge a victim’s contact information to Balko. On Twitter, @NikiSolisSF lamented that Lee was actually “a juvenile justice reform expert, appointed by @chesaboudin to “overhaul the system.” If that’s true, she should have thought better of instructing Balko on how to file a 827 petition, even providing him with a PDF of form JV-570, to request disclosure of a juvenile suspect’s case file. Balko replies, “I was told that’s a pretty involved process . . . I can maybe write something based on my interview with the witness . . . But the victim would obviously be preferable. Just maybe check to see she got my email.” Lee then says she will reach out to the victim again.
(You can read the text messages between Balko, Marshall, and Lee, as well as view the “Dion Lim manifesto,” by clicking here.)
‘INTERIM, UNELECTED D.A.’
As if Boudin’s former staff weren’t already headed for Hypocrite Hill, their attempts to demean Jenkins by calling her the “interim, unelected D.A.” push them right up to the tippy-top. Nearly all of them came from the San Francisco Public Defenders Office where their boss, Mano Raju, also appointed by Breed, served out the late Jeff Adachi’s term in March 2019. That made him the “interim, unelected” P.D. until he ran to fill Adachi’s remaining three years that November and won.
While Boudin’s supporters constantly denounced the recall effort as “undemocratic” (it’s not), someone purchased the URL recallbrooke.com the day her appointment was announced. On Twitter, an anonymous account claiming to be “parody” uses the image and name of William Oberndorf, the largest individual donor to the Boudin recall campaign, to spew racist and sexist tropes. It’s neither parody nor is it funny. “Hey @BrookeJenkinsSF — @LondonBreed and I were chatting this morning and we agree that you should smile more. You’re prettier when you smile,” one tweet reads. Other tweets talk about “paying for London Breed’s implants,” his “wife’s tramp stamp,” and the “elephant in the room” — race. “Everyone seems to be concerned about Brooke’s race. Well you know what? They were skeptical of Clarence Thomas when we first had him installed, and just look how well that worked out…!” One of the account’s first followers? None other than Chesa Boudin. The usual suspects make up the rest — fired Boudin staff, public defenders, defense attorneys, Democratic Socialists of America “comrades” (yes, that’s what they call themselves), and anonymous Boudin admirers who use telltale terms like “cages,” instead of prisons, “mass incarceration,” which doesn’t exist in San Francisco, and “carceral state” (see above). Twitter finally suspended the account.
‘INSURRECTIONIST BROOKE JENKINS’
One of the most relentless Jenkins attackers has been John Hamasaki, a private defense attorney who stepped down from the San Francisco Police Commission last March after a majority of the Board of Supervisors said they would not reappoint him. The reason? His retaliatory tweets to Supervisors Myrna Melgar and Catherine Stefani, who responded negatively to one of his late night rants. “Taking a gun from one kid may as likely stop violence as end up in that kid getting killed,” he tweeted after New York City police displayed a stolen handgun recovered from a 17-year-old. “It may feel good to post this photo, but I’ve known too many kids who were killed for being in the wrong neighborhood (often their own) & being unable to protect themselves.”
When Stefani said Hamasaki should step down, he responded “The world is bigger and more complicated than (District Two) and the Marina,” which Stefani represents. Ironically, Hamasaki lives in District Two within easy walking distance from the Marina, and frequently tweets about taking his son to play soccer on the Marina Green.
He went personal with Melgar, who also called out the tweet, by linking her sister to a police scandal in Vallejo. After a deluge of angry responses, Hamasaki deleted the tweet and apologized on Twitter.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the San Francisco Chronicle he had called Hamasaki to discuss his potential removal from the Commission. “I let him know, in no uncertain terms, that his behavior on Twitter to his appointing authority, the Board of Supervisors, was unacceptable and conduct unbecoming and he needed to walk it back back and apologize. Short of that, I would be taking efforts pursuant to (the City Charter) to terminate his public position.”
Even prior to these events, numerous citizens wrote letters and made calls to both the Board of Supervisors and the Police Commission demanding Hamasaki’s resignation or removal for numerous past transgressions, including crass attacks on law enforcement officers. “These sick f**ks, trying to get raises off an Asian baby's death,” he said after a child was tragically killed in a freeway shooting. “Keep that baby's name out of your mouth, all that money and you didn't stop it from happening.”
His actual dedication to the Commission was also questioned. At hearings, the timing of Hamasaki’s toxic tweet storms could be matched to video of him on his cell phone, showing little interest in the discussion at hand even as Police Chief Bill Scott revealed the latest crime data.
One critic, fed up with Hamasaki’s antics, sent an email to the supervisors asking them to find a “scandal free candidate” and then tweeted the replies he got, which mostly inferred Hamasaki would be replaced.
For the April issue of The Marina Times, I planned to write a column as to why Hamasaki should not be reappointed, including the nonstop bombardment of outrageous tweets even after Peskin’s dire warning. If anything, his behavior got worse, making Peskin look foolish. On Twitter, I made no secret of the fact the article was coming, which of course resulted in Hamasaki flinging conspiracy theories and lies at me and the newspaper. Not that it was the first time: Hamasaki has falsely linked me to the Proud Boys, the Jan. 6 insurrection, white supremacy, and domestic terrorists.
Ironically, I didn’t have to write that column because just weeks prior to the reappointment date, Hamasaki suddenly resigned. He went straight to the Chronicle for damage control, saying his decision was based on “the oversight body’s failures to reform the department.” He made the announcement first in a series of tweets that came after a jury found San Francisco Police Officer Terrance Stangel not guilty in a baton-beating case, which had more to do with the weak case put on by Boudin’s office than anything else. Despite his lack of a commission platform, Hamasaki has continued his irrational behavior: Twitter recently temporarily suspended his account for encouraging someone to commit suicide.
From the minute Jenkins was announced as the new D.A., Hamasaki hammered her lack of management experience, but never criticized Boudin for his. Before law school, Boudin was a translator in the Venezuelan Presidential Palace during Hugo Chavez’s administration. After law school (2011) he was a law clerk, then a Liman Fellow in the public defender’s office (2012–13), and again a clerk (2013–14). In 2015, Boudin started full time as a deputy public defender and left in 2019 to run for district attorney. Jenkins, conversely, worked as a prosecutor under Boudin’s predecessor George Gascón from 2014–19. When Boudin took over, he promoted her to the homicide division, where she worked until 2021 when she resigned and joined the recall effort. Disillusioned with Boudin’s ideological approach, Jenkins complained that Boudin worked with his former colleagues in the Public Defender’s office to obtain the weakest sentences possible for defendants, thus circumventing his own prosecutors.
In the months leading up to the recall, Boudin, who has never prosecuted a case at trial, refused to debate Jenkins, instead sending ardent supporter and USF law professor Lara Bazelon as a surrogate. Boudin was enthusiastic, however, about debating that big donor to his recall effort, William Oberndorf (needless to say, that never happened).
As a criminal defense lawyer, I suppose it makes sense that Hamasaki wanted to keep a public defender in the district attorney’s office, since they both seem to share the belief that no one should ever be locked up no matter how heinous the crime. But his unhinged assaults on Jenkins, including referring to her repeatedly as “Insurrectionist DA Jenkins,” sound like he’s been having too many adventures with Alice and the caterpillar in Wonderland. It also demonstrates a total lack of self-awareness, since Hamasaki himself tweeted the time and location of Jenkins’s official announcement event to his equally angry followers, encouraging them to show up and crash the party.
In other manic tweet sprees Hamasaki actually encouraged public defenders to “clog up the courts” by taking every narcotics sales case to trial, and he tweet-quoted himself from a Courthouse News article in which he said, “Assuming that attorneys and judges are going to get in line for somebody that isn’t particularly widely respected or loved is just a fantasy.” In that same piece, he said the City’s lawyers and judges are “tight-knit” so Jenkins won’t be successful. This is Hamasaki we’re talking about, but to suggest that lawyers and judges are in cahoots — especially against Jenkins who had been in office just 14 days at the time — is not only baseless, it’s absurd.
SURVEILLANCE AND THE GREAT REPUBLICAN RECALL
Hamasaki and Boudin’s former staff have been bolstered by lengthy tweet threads by “justice reform activists” living many states away, all of whom have large financial incentives to keep so-called progressive prosecutors in office (more on that in a future column).
With buzzwords flying and ideology hanging thick in the Twittersphere, they railed against Jenkins’s support of a proposal to expand the use of live camera surveillance by police. What they didn’t mention is that Boudin not only supported the program, his largest individual donor, crypto billionaire Chris Larsen, paid for the cameras. “One of the main reasons I support SF DA Chesa Boudin is that in addition to his essential work on criminal justice reform, he has supported tech countermeasures to break up these professional criminal operations,” Larsen wrote in a Perspective piece for the San Francisco Standard. “He’s embraced bait cars, a bold public safety tactic, to help track and break up the smash and grab supply chain. He also supports the networked camera system because he knows it helps make cases.”
It isn’t only activists, defense lawyers, and disgruntled former employees who climbed to the top of Hypocrite Hill. In the month leading up to the election, the San Francisco Democratic Party’s governing body, the Democratic County Central Committee, sent out mailers approved by Chair Honey Mahogany (now a candidate for District 6 supervisor) tying the recall to abortion rights. One mailer featured pictures of prominent anti-choice Republicans including Arkansas senator Tom Cotton. Financial disclosures below the images note that $100,000 came from the aforementioned Chris Larsen, who actually donated to Cotton’s campaign, along with other anti-choice Republicans, including former President Donald Trump cheerleader Rudy Giuliani (you can’t make this stuff up).
In keeping with her promise to residents weary of Boudin’s revolving door of drug dealers, Jenkins vowed to hold those dealers accountable. She said her office would stop sending sellers caught with more than 5 grams of any drug to community justice courts, which include a “drug court” meant for users — a ploy Boudin used (and abused) regularly to keep Honduran nationals safe from deportation. The new D.A. also said fentanyl dealers in “extreme cases” would stay in jail ahead of their trials and potentially harsher sentences for those found dealing drugs within 1,000 feet of schools. During her press conference, Jenkins said she revoked over 30 open plea deals made with fentanyl dealers under Boudin that her office deemed too lenient.
Fentanyl has changed the game, with over 1,500 people in San Francisco dying from drug overdoses since 2020. “We must immediately change course, so we can save lives and hold people accountable for the havoc they are wreaking in our communities," Jenkins said.
Like clockwork, Boudin’s followers jumped in. Hamasaki said it was a “repackaging of the war on drugs” and that the City should instead focus on getting people housed and putting money toward drug treatment and mental health options — as if San Francisco hasn’t already poured billions into such programs. Public defender Mano Raju said many dealers are also addicts, which is blatantly false, and joined a “progressive” chorus about the plan violating sanctuary city laws. “Immigration status must be considered,” he said, leaving out the fact sanctuary city laws were never meant to harbor criminals. Meanwhile, neighborhoods most affected by the fentanyl crisis, like the Tenderloin, are made up of hard-working, law-abiding immigrants who must traverse a dystopian obstacle course — from heavily armed dealers fighting over turf to strung out users injecting and smoking dope — just to walk their kids to school or get to work.
So what about those traumatized residents and the 1,500 overdose deaths since 2020? You won’t hear a word about them because they don’t fit into the “progressive” narrative that dealers are the real victims.
For her part, Jenkins hasn’t paid any attention to Boudin’s embittered troll patrol — she’s too busy building a team that she believes will help her make San Francisco safer for citizens and visitors alike without losing sight of necessary reforms. It remains to be seen how many of her stated goals Jenkins will be able to accomplish before the election this November. Already, repeat offenders released under Boudin are popping up with new arrests, and how Jenkins handles those cases will be crucial as both her supporters and her detractors will be watching carefully. As for the staff she has fired and hired and how she’s handled herself in the office thus far, the consensus seems to be that the new district attorney is making the right moves.
Meanwhile, Boudin’s backers throw around terms like “law and order” with disgust as they shout into an echo chamber. Only in the small world of far left “progressives” could the fundamental adversarial relationship between district attorney and public defender be seen as a negative. Let’s face it, there’s a reason so many defense lawyers and public defenders fought so hard to keep Boudin in office.
“Holding offenders accountable does not preclude us from moving forward with vital and important reforms to our criminal justice system,” Jenkins said at her swearing in. That makes sense to me and anyone else who understands the word “balance,” which Boudin and his supporters clearly do not.
On Aug. 8, Jenkins officially announced she will run to keep her seat, and just one day later she secured top endorsements from San Francisco Democrats who didn’t support the recall, including state Senator Scott Wiener, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, state Treasurer Fiona Ma and San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto.
While Boudin has ruled out running in the upcoming election to serve out the rest of his own term, don’t count him out for 2023. Despite a decisive recall led by the City’s Democrats, the former D.A. and his supporters still don’t listen to what the majority of San Franciscans want, and they never will.
Follow Susan on Twitter: @SusanDReynolds
Gotham by Susan Dyer Reynolds is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.