Chesa Boudin released Troy McAlister because ‘he worked hard and got his GED in jail'
Despite five subsequent arrests, SFDA filed no new charges leading up to New Year's Eve 2020 deaths of Hanako Abe and Elizabeth Platt
According to a new poll, 68 percent of San Francisco voters support the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin. The election is set for June 7, 2022. At an online recall debate held March 21, the elephant in the Zoom was the absence of the man facing the recall. Boudin sent surrogates to argue against his ouster, choosing instead to attend an event at Manny’s where he faced a decidedly friendlier crowd. It also meant he didn’t have to confront two of his former assistant district attorneys, Brooke Jenkins and Don Du Bain, on the pro-recall side. Representing Boudin were Tinisch Hollins, director of Californians for Safety and Justice, and retired San Francisco Police commander Richard Corriea. Inevitably, Troy McAlister came up. After a Boudin-brokered plea deal set McMcAlister free, he killed two women — Hanako Abe and Elizabeth Platt — while fleeing a robbery in a stolen car on Dec. 31, 2020. The tragic and ultimately infuriating case made international headlines.
“Troy McAlister faced a potential life sentence for a robbery based on a very extensive criminal history. And Chesa, within two months of taking office, released Troy McAlister back onto the street, did not even wait for sentencing having cut a deal where McAlister had simply pled to one count of robbery,” Du Bain said. “Troy McAlister was arrested four times, never charged until on the afternoon of December 31, 2020, he drove a stolen vehicle into downtown San Francisco at 65 to 70 mph while intoxicated and struck and killed two innocent women walking across the street — that was due to a reckless decision by Chesa Boudin.”
In his rebuttal, Corriea took a page from Boudin and played the blame game. “The Daly City police could have gone and arrested him at his house that night, and chose not to — probably for good reason.” Corriea was referring to the fact the car McAlister was driving had been stolen two days earlier from a woman he met on a dating app. She told police that McAlister snatched her keys while the two waited for food at Nation’s Giant Hamburgers in Daly City, flipping her the middle finger as he sped away. She provided his name and address to officers and she also mentioned he had shown her a 9mm pistol with an extended magazine.
It turns out, both Du Bain and Corriea are wrong. McAlister wasn’t arrested four times after Boudin cut the plea deal, he was arrested five times. As for the Daly City Police, in a Jan. 4, 2021, press release they stated, “Officers and investigators conducted passing checks and surveillance at associated addresses in an attempt to locate Troy McAlister or the stolen vehicle,” but they were unable to do so.
In a response to one of my tweets during the debate, Hanako’s mother, Hiroko Abe, who lives in Japan, made it clear who she blames for her daughter’s death: “Hanako should be alive if Boudin properly processed it.”
TIMELINE OF MCALISTER CASE
A 253-page document obtained by Gotham by the Bay which details McAlister’s 25-year criminal record, reveals a clear pattern of drug addiction and escalating violence. By the time he wound up in jail for robbing two women at gunpoint at a convenience store, even Boudin’s left-of-progressive predecessor, George Gascon, was recommending a lengthy prison sentence under California’s Three Strikes law, which allows prosecutors to seek a prison sentence of 25 years to life if the defendant is convicted of three serious or violent felonies.
Dec. 11, 2015: The Public Defender’s Office asks the Court to release McAlister to the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center. The District Attorney’s Office refuses, pointing 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, allegations for three prior strikes, and six prison priors. As a result of the charged offenses, the defendant's exposure in State Prison is approximately thirty-five years to life.”
March 9, 2020: Just two months after his swearing in, Boudin cuts a deal — five years time served in county jail awaiting trial — in which McAlister pleads guilty to second degree robbery.
April 10, 2020: McAlister is sentenced on the Boudin plea agreement.
“All right. Mr. McAlister, sir, I wish you the best of luck,” Judge Loretta Giorgi says after the deal is finalized.
“I’d like to get my ankle monitor off today,” McAlister replies.
“Oh, yes. I'm going to order your ankle monitor removed as well,” Judge Giorgi says.
“I did like a lot of extra time, like maybe a year extra. So what happens with that credit?” McAlister pushes. “Will they take it off my parole?”
“That you'll have to ask the parole agent about.” And with that, Judge Giorgi releases Troy McAlister.
Two months later…
June 28, 2020: San Francisco police officers respond to the Ingleside district regarding a residential burglary in progress. The victim states the suspect is actually inside of her apartment. Officers observe signs of forced entry, including damage to the door. Inside the apartment, officers locate Troy McAlister and arrest him for burglary, possession of burglary tools, giving a false name to a peace officer, and parole violation. Boudin files no new charges.
Aug. 20, 2020: SFPD responds to the 1800 block of Great Highway where a victim had tracked his stolen vehicle. Officers discover Troy McAlister in the driver’s seat and order him to exit the vehicle, where he is arrested for vehicle theft, possession of stolen property, possession of narcotics for sale, and possession of narcotics paraphernalia. Boudin files no new charges.
Oct. 15, 2020: Officers respond to 19th Ave. regarding a stolen vehicle. The witness says the car was driven to that location where the suspect exited and fled on foot. Officers stop and detain the suspect, Troy McAlister. While creating an inventory of his property, two individuals approach to say their car was broken into and their cell phone was stolen. The victims tracked the phone to this location, and officers determine McAlister is in possession of the stolen phone. Officers also find methamphetamine during their search. McAlister is arrested for vehicle theft, possession of stolen property, possession of narcotics, and parole violation, as well as for the cell phone theft. Boudin files no new charges.
Nov. 6, 2020: San Francisco State University Police answer a call about a man breaking into a parked car at 800 Font St. The witness ID’ed Troy McAlister, who admits breaking into the vehicle. Officers ask why he is limping, and McAlister says he was shot during an argument a few months ago near his home in Park Merced. Officers also see McAlister is wearing a GPS ankle monitor. After arresting him for felony auto burglary and possession of burglary tools, officers check McAlister’s record and are so alarmed that they include a note in their report for the DA which states, “This suspect is dangerous. He has 73 felonies and 34 misdemeanors in S.F. alone.” Boudin files no new charges.
Dec. 20, 2020: Officers conduct a computer query of a car being driven near Eddy and Jones Streets. the license plate comes back as a reported stolen vehicle. Officers stop the car and instruct the male driver to exit, which he does. It is Troy McAlister. A search turns up drug paraphernalia and stolen goods. They arrest McAlister for possession of a stolen vehicle, two counts of possession of stolen property, possession of suspected methamphetamine, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Boudin files no new charges.
McAlister spends a combined 11 days in jail for all five incidents.
Dec. 31, 2020: Officers respond to a vehicle collision where two pedestrians, 60-year-old Elizabeth Platt and 27-year-old Hanako Abe, were killed at 2nd and Mission Streets. The driver, Troy McAlister, immediately flees on foot, but officers chase and arrest him. McAlister, who is high on drugs, had just committed a burglary and was driving at a high rate of speed when he ran a red light. He is 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 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. This time, Boudin files new charges.
‘HE WORKED HARD AND GOT HIS GED IN JAIL’
Last December, I wrote an article detailing my nearly two-hour Zoom meeting with Hanako Abe’s mother, Hiroko Abe, and Tasha Yorozu, an attorney who doesn’t represent Mrs. Abe but who graciously volunteered to translate. During our interview, Mrs. Abe explained that when she asked Boudin why he made the decision to free McAlister, he said, “Because he worked hard and got his GED in jail.” Mrs. Abe told Boudin that a GED, which certifies that someone has high school level academic skills, “has nothing to do with whether this person is rehabilitated and ready to be put back into society.” Boudin blamed those who were supposed to follow up with McAlister, but Mrs. Abe asked, “Didn’t you know how the system as a whole works? And knowing how the system works, why would you release him?” At that point, Mrs. Abe said, Boudin gave a “non-response response and apologized.” Since then, Mrs. Abe said, she hadn’t heard a word from anyone at the DA’s office.
As the two-year anniversary of the fatal crash came and went, I told Mrs. Abe it is unlikely Boudin will move forward with the high-profile case before the June 7 recall election. Should he survive the recall, however, Boudin appears to be setting McAlister up for much less than the life in prison he was facing prior to his release. In Oct. of 2021, Mrs. Abe reached out to Sai Douangsawang in victim services to ask if Boudin would be charging McAlister’s previous three strikes. Douangsawang responded that, according to Assistant District Attorney Ryan Kao, who is handling the case, only one of McAlister’s previous convictions is charged as a strike, but, “the other two are available and can still be under consideration.” That makes no sense to Mrs. Abe, and it makes no sense to me. If Boudin is truly sorry for releasing McAlister, why wouldn’t he be charging all three of his prior strikes to ensure he receives the maximum sentence? Even if he’s not sorry, Boudin must realize that McAlister took an absolute gift from him and threw it away, along with two innocent lives.
BOUDIN FORBIDS SENTENCING ENHANCEMENTS
When Boudin took office, one of his first acts as DA was to get rid of sentencing enhancements, including “the use of California’s ‘Three Strikes’ law and related provisions.” Clearly, he still feels strongly about it. Just last month, he appointed Stanford Law School Lecturer Michael Romano to the District Attorney’s seat on the San Francisco Ethics Commission. Romano is the founder of the Three Strikes and Justice Advocacy Projects at Stanford Law School and the previous director of the Stanford Criminal Defense Clinic. According to the press announcement, Romano has been “instrumental in revising sentencing law in California, helping to secure reduced sentences for over 15,000 people convicted of nonviolent crimes, including over 2,000 people sentenced to life for minor offenses under the state’s ‘Three Strikes’ law.”
Boudin released Troy McAlister knowing he had a 25-year history of committing violent crimes that resulted in six prison priors and three existing strikes. For him to reverse course and go against everything he believes; to charge all three of McAlister’s prior strikes and seek a life sentence, is never going to happen. And that conflict of interest — having the job of a district attorney but making decisions like a public defender — could seal Boudin’s fate on June 7.