Discover more from Gotham by Susan Dyer Reynolds
Over 75% of felony firearms cases dismissed, discharged, or diverted under SFDA Chesa Boudin
Last November, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin tweeted that he was suing three ghost gun manufacturers because the guns are untraceable and a growing crisis throughout California and the nation. What Boudin didn’t mention is how he handles the cases against those caught with illegal weapons, ghost or otherwise.
The DA’s office apparently did not record the specific county jail sentences for many cases in its data dashboard. For the convictions where the DA provided specific county jail sentencing information, roughly half of the sentences agreed to were eight days or less, and some were as low as one or two days. The DA’s data, along with court records and information from DataSF, tell a chilling tale of gang members, drug dealers, and multiple violent repeat offenders sometimes serving just a short time in county jail, released on probation, or sent to diversion programs.
Boudin says his charging rates are higher than any of his predecessors, but for gun felonies he files charges just 55% of the time. Of those cases, the DA’s office discharged 45% (meaning no charges were ever filed) and they dismissed 24% after filing charges, for a total of 69%. If you count felony gun cases resolved through diversion programs, that total becomes 76%.
Around 7% of felony gun cases since Boudin took office have been resolved through diversion, but as I pointed out in my last post, diversion was most effective for first time and low level offenders, not violent repeat felons. Low level offenders, however, are already treated lightly by the current DA’s office. The newest development is that Boudin has been sending defendants with serious often violent charges (narcotics sales, attempted murder, carjacking) through diversion programs.
The conviction rate for gun felonies under Boudin is 24%. The largest percentage — 17.5% — resulted in county jail with a probation condition. In a sampling of 171 cases resolved by a conviction since 2020, many of those previously convicted have been rearrested on new charges including assault with a firearm, carjacking, robbery with a firearm, and attempted murder.
So far in 2022, there have been 19 felony firearms cases resolved, resulting in three dismissals, three dismissals where the defendant plead to another case, one conviction for county jail, and one successful diversion.
Whether suspects receive county jail with probation or diversion, many are subsequently arrested on additional felony firearms charges and other violent crimes, including homicide.
At just 25, Jamisi Calloway has a long and violent record. On March 8, 2021, Calloway was arrested for possession of an assault weapon, being a felon with a firearm, and carrying a concealed weapon. He was sent to diversion, which he “successfully” completed on June 29. Despite whatever efforts were made to rehabilitate him in diversion, less than six months later, on Nov. 19, 2021, Calloway was arrested in the viral Louis Vuitton smash-and-grab rampage. This time, he was charged him with possession of a firearm with a prior felony, carrying a loaded firearm, carrying a concealed firearm, carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle, and resisting arrest. Calloway was arrested on a warrant March 9, 2022, but according to the San Francisco Superior Court calendar, no hearings were scheduled between the end of Dec. and that March arrest, and he’s currently out of custody.
Jermaine McDonald is another repeat felon with a long and violent record. On January 21, 2021, he was arrested and booked on five separate counts of attempted murder as well as felony weapons charges. Boudin’s office only filed on the felony weapons charges, and ignored the five counts of attempted murder. McDonald entered into a plea bargain where his felony weapons charges were reduced to a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to county jail on March 12, 2021. We were not provided with the specific details of his county jail sentence, but whatever sentence it was, he was arrested again not long after his sentencing date. On the morning of Jan. 23, 2022, McDonald and Kenneth Matthews, both 26 years old at the time, engaged in a brazen gun battle at 3rd St. and Palou Ave. in the Bayview district. San Francisco Police Gang Task Force investigators identified the suspects, and on Jan. 27, McDonald was taken into custody where officers discovered a loaded, semi-automatic firearm in his pocket. McDonald is back in county jail, this time for attempted murder.
In Nov. 2018, Shane Holman and three other gang members attempted to break into the home of an Asian family. Although they didn’t get inside, they were later identified by video evidence. On Nov. 10, 2020, Boudin’s office pled the attempted first-degree burglary case out for a one-day county jail sentence with three years probation.
During a safety check of Holman’s residence in March 2021, SFPD found an illegal handgun with an extended magazine in plain sight and arrested him on multiple firearms charges. Boudin discharged Holman’s case a few days later, citing the need for DNA evidence despite the gun clearly being in Holman’s custody and control. When the test results came back positive in Aug. 2021, Holman was once again arrested and gun charges were filed. Two weeks later, however, the DA’s office dismissed the case. Six months later, on February 10, 2022, Holman ran up to a man at the Civic Center Bart Station platform and shot him to death.
SFPD pulled over a vehicle with no license plates on Aug. 18, 2019. The driver, Kenan Shackelford, had a suspended license. Officers asked Shackelford and his female passenger to step out of the car to conduct an inventory search before the car was towed and discovered a loaded semi-automatic pistol in the center console. The serial number appeared to have been deliberately removed. Both subjects were handcuffed while officers searched the trunk, where they found a dog and called Animal Care and Control. Along with the dog, officers found four loaded high-capacity magazines in a bag. After the pair was read their rights at the station, the female stated the gun was Shackelford’s and that he normally stored it in the center console or in the bag where the magazines were found. Shackelford invoked his right to remain silent. Officers obtained DNA samples from both suspects and Shackelford was booked on multiple felony gun charges.
When he case went to trial in Sept. 2021, Shackelford's public defender, Martina Avalos, moved to have Judge Bruce Chan dismiss the case. Under Boudin, she said, the DA's office failed to share "hundreds of pages of DNA evidence" for over a year that could potentially exonerate her client. In a widely share transcript, Chan (a former public defender) blasted Boudin. “I cannot express in any more certain terms my disapproval of the manner in which the Office of the District Attorney is being managed. We simply cannot have the current levels of inadvertence, disorganization, and expect there to be any confidence in what we do here collectively. Constant turnover, constant managerial reorganization, all these things, whether it’s intentional, whether it’s reckless, whether it’s excusable neglect, that’s not in front of me today,” Chan said. He also accused Boudin of over-focusing on criminal justice matters on the “national or state stage” at the expense of “the unglamorous yet necessary work of public prosecution.” Chan did not end up dismissing the case based on the discovery issue, but allowed the DA to drop the charges against Shackelford voluntarily. Boudin said they planned to refile the case, but records from the DA’s office show it was dismissed on Sept. 28, 2021.
Since 2018, 33-year-old Robert Newt has been arrested six times in various counties on numerous charges, nearly all involving firearms. On or about April 21, 2021, Newt was questioned after police noticed his vehicle driving erratically on the wrong side of the road and suddenly pulling into a driveway. When they obtained his ID, they discovered he had a suspended license. Since the car would be towed, the police had to conduct an inventory search and discovered an AR-15 style ghost rifle hidden in a bag on the rear seat. Newt was arrested on charges including felon in possession of a firearm, felon in possession of a loaded firearm, felon in possession of a concealed firearm, person prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm, and possession of an assault weapon — an untraceable AR-15-style ghost rifle. Boudin declined to file any charges, putting the onus back on police to obtain more evidence and thus setting Newt free. Boudin spokesperson Rachel Marshall told the San Francisco Chronicle prosecutors wanted the police to obtain DNA or fingerprint evidence “necessary to prosecute the case.” Other prosecutors pointed out that DNA is not necessary, nor is it required, to try a case, and that historically, firearms cases have been routinely and successfully prosecuted without it.
Just weeks later, on May 15, two men were killed and a third was wounded in separate, back-to-back shootings near Potrero Hill. Police later identified Newt as the suspect. June 26, 2021, Newt was located by Livermore Police officers and was taken into custody. He is currently awaiting trial in San Francisco County Jail.
JOSHUA VICENTE LOPEZ
22-year-old Joshua Vicente Lopez of Oakland has an extensive record in San Francisco, mostly for dealing drugs. He was arrested in June of 2021 for possession of a controlled substance for sale, possession of cocaine base for sale, and disobeying a court order. At a pre-hearing conference, the DA’s office accepted a plea deal and Lopez received one day in County Jail and two years supervised probation. Lopez was arrested multiple times on drug dealing charges throughout 2021 with four cases pending. On May 8, 2022, Lopez was arrested by the California Highway Patrol with drugs for sale and a loaded firearm. Boudin sent the case back for “further investigation” and Lopez is currently out of custody.
In the two-and-a-half years Boudin has been DA, two defendants have been sent to state prison for gun felonies.
On the night of Nov. 18, 2020, respected high school sports coach Lamar Williams was killed when two men entered his home on Bertha Lane in the Bayview District and a shootout ensued. Williams and one of the men, Demaree Hampton, were killed while the other man fled the scene. In April of 2021, SFPD said, despite being fatally shot, Hampton was considered a suspect in the case. They also announced the arrest of 23-year-old Leaotis Martin for murder and attempted robbery in connection with the double homicide as the man who fled the scene.
Boudin declined to file the new charges against Martin, instead filing a motion to revoke his probation stemming from a prior attempted robbery case. Martin is due to be released from prison in Nov. 2022.
On May 25, 2018, Jovaughn Timms, a repeat felon with a history of domestic violence, shot his former girlfriend in the stomach and left her to die in the street. After his arrest, Timms tried to dissuade the victim from assisting with his prosecution. Assistant District Attorney Don Du Bain, a 30-year veteran with 136 jury trials under his belt, secured a guilty verdict in the case. That’s when Boudin ordered Du Bain to request a more lenient sentence for Timms. Du Bain believed that was a violation of a state statute and withdrew from the case in protest, something he had never done in his career. Du Bain quit his job and joined the effort to recall his former boss, and Boudin got his way: Timms was sentenced for the shooting, the gun charge, and dissuading a witness, but the DA didn’t push for a harsher sentence based on his two prior prison terms,or committing new offenses “at least six times” while on probation following a seven-year prison term in 2010. Timms was also on post community release supervision following a two-year prison sentence in 2017 when he shot his former girlfriend. Timms was sentenced to 23 years in prison, but he will likely serve just half of that.
Most of the other state prison sentences are served in county jail. Troy McAlister, for example, served five years in county jail awaiting trial for a 2015 robbery. When Boudin made the fateful decision to release McAlister, the two reasons he gave were “He got his GED in jail” and “He served the maximum time for the robbery.” What he left out, of course, was that his predecessor George Gascon wanted McAlister to go to trial and face 25 years to life in prison under California’s “three strikes” law. Had Boudin followed Gascon’s recommendation, Hanako Abe and Elizabeth Platt would be alive today.