Discover more from Gotham by Susan Dyer Reynolds
Yes, sir, it’s time for you to go
Why I support Yes on H and the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin
If this case happened anywhere else in the State of California, or the Bay Area for that matter, you likely would be midterm on a prison sentence. Today, you are given a gift. You are being given the gift of freedom and of life of which you have taken from Kate Slattery on June 22, 2016, and from her family. They will never truly be free from the catastrophic loss you've caused.
— Giles Feinberg, victim advocate, to Farrukh Mushtaq, June 17, 2021
In May of 2015, I penned a column titled “Yes, Suhr, it’s time for you to go” about then-San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, detailing a department in crisis under his leadership, from racist, homophobic text messages recovered from the phones of his officers to the tragic killing of 20-year-old Guatemalan immigrant Amilcar Pérez-López, who was killed by police in the Mission District in February 2015. An independent autopsy determined that all six bullets entered Pérez-López from behind, including one to the back of the head, while his arms were at his side. At a Town Hall meeting days after the incident, Suhr told the community that Pérez-López was charging the officers with a knife held over his head, corroborating the report by his two plainclothes officers who said they shot a lunging, knife-wielding Pérez-López “in fear for their lives.”
Exactly one year later, in May 2016, I wrote another piece entitled, “You can’t be shot in the back if you’re charging forward.” I once again pointed to a department in crisis under Suhr’s leadership. The title was a reference to the police shooting deaths of Pérez-López and other people of color, including 27-year-old Alejandro Nieto, 45-year-old Luis Gongora, and 26-year-old Mario Woods. In each case, Suhr said the shootings were justified, despite facts to the contrary. Just weeks after that column, a Black woman was shot by officers in the Bayview District and Suhr resigned.
In December 2016, I was invited to appear as a guest on KPOO, a radio station highly regarded for its coverage of local and national issues in the Black community. News director Harrison Chastang introduced me as the only journalist calling for Suhr to step down nearly a year prior to the shooting of Woods. “What do you think the answer is?” he asked. I told him there wasn’t just one answer. “I do know that Suhr can’t continue defending officers who kill people holding kitchen knives in a hail of gunfire,” I said. “While getting rid of Suhr won’t immediately solve SFPD’s many problems, there is a culture within the department, starting at the top, that needs a good, hard look and some big change.”
There must be something about May, because in this column I am endorsing Yes on H, the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin, for precisely the same reasons I called for Suhr to step down — a department in crisis, a city in turmoil, and a nontransparent bully at the top who makes excuses for his failures while blaming everyone but himself.
DRUG DEALERS ARE THE REAL VICTIMS
If you’re a regular reader of Reynolds Rap, you know I’ve been a vocal critic of Boudin’s since before he took office. On the campaign trail in 2019, he bragged that he was “the only person on the stage who had never prosecuted a case.” When you’re vying to become San Francisco’s “top cop,” that’s nothing to brag about. But even more disturbing was Boudin’s defense of those pedaling deadly opioids like fentanyl to the city’s most vulnerable communities, which he considers a "quality of life" issue rather than a crime.
At a virtual town hall on July 25, 2020, Boudin told a stunned audience that prosecuting drug cases came at too steep a price — for dealers. “A significant percentage of people selling drugs in San Francisco, perhaps as many as half, are from Honduras, and many of them have been trafficked here … we need to be mindful of the impact our interventions have. Some of them have family members in Honduras who have been or will be harmed if they don’t continue to pay off the traffickers who brought them here.” I’ve interviewed veteran undercover narcotics officers and former district attorneys who were involved in numerous narcotics sales cases, all of whom said Boudin’s story was untrue. “If they’re trafficked here, why isn’t Boudin prosecuting the traffickers?” one attorney asked. In fact, Boudin hasn’t sent a single drug dealer or trafficker to prison.
Regarding users, Boudin has little empathy. In an April 2021 Wall Street Journal interview he said, “As long as we have people who are addicted to drugs, who are willing to destroy their own bodies and their own lives, no amount of investment on the law enforcement is going to solve this problem.”
Boudin also has little concern for the residents who must deal with the violence and misery every day at San Francisco’s infamous open-air drug market, where over 1,300 people have died of overdoses in the past two years (the youngest victim was just 14 years old). In fact, Boudin spoke for an entire neighborhood, telling the Washington Post in February of 2022 that Tenderloin residents “aren’t particularly upset that there are drug sales happening there…”
The case that truly defined where Boudin’s loyalty lies came in January of 2020, when he refused to charge two known drug dealers and MS13 gang members, 18-year-old Kevin Lopez-Figueroa and a 17-year-old juvenile, with the murder of a young Black mother named Emma Hunt in the Tenderloin. Boudin insisted to her parents that it was self-defense, despite the fact local surveillance footage shows Lopez-Figueroa and his accomplice leaving the scene to retrieve a gun. “Emma swung a milk crate and he shot her,” David DeYoe, Emma’s adoptive father told me. “When she turned to run, he shot her in the neck and again in the back. He was in a full stance like he was at a firing range.” DeYoe watched the horrific video of his daughter’s murder three times with Boudin trying to convince him to prosecute his daughter’s killers. “Chesa just stared at me, like I was wasting his time,” DeYoe said. “At this point I was thinking, I can’t just jump across the table and choke him to death, because I’ll never get out of here.”
REPEAT OFFENDERS ARE THE REAL VICTIMS
In this column, as well as in my “Gotham by the Bay” newsletter, I have detailed the stories of people injured or killed by repeat offenders released by Boudin’s office. Five of the most egregious cases are Troy McAlister, Zion Young, Jerry Lyons, Tyjone Flournoy, and Teaunte Bailey.
The McAlister case garnered national attention when it was discovered he killed two women, Hanako Abe and Elizabeth Platt, on New Year’s Eve, 2020, after Boudin gave him a plea deal. Abe’s mother, Hiroko Abe, says when she asked Boudin why he released McAlister, he said, “Because he worked hard in jail and got his GED.” McAlister, it turns out, had a 25-year record of violent felonies and had been sitting in county jail for five years awaiting trial for armed robbery. He had 73 felonies and 34 misdemeanors in San Francisco alone when Boudin brokered a plea deal to set him free. Over the next nine months McAlister was arrested five more times, but Boudin didn’t file any new charges. McAlister’s last arrest was just 11 days before he ran a red light in a stolen car while fleeing yet another crime, killing Abe and Platt in the crosswalk. Hiroko Abe told me that her daughter would be alive today had Boudin not released McAlister.
Zion Young was charged with 11 firearms felonies, which Boudin reduced to one misdemeanor and released him on an ankle monitor. Less than three months later, Young shot and killed 19-year-old Kelvin Chew, a student out for a walk in his Portola District neighborhood, in a botched robbery attempt. His devastated family also blames Boudin for the death of Kelvin.
In October 2020 Jerry Lyons was arrested on stolen car and drug charges, which the district attorney referred to parole. In December 2020, Lyons was arrested again on stolen car and drug charges, but Boudin sent it back to police for "further investigation while awaiting toxicology results."
On Feb. 4, 2021, police responded to an eight-car collision on Lake Merced Boulevard. There they found 26-year-old Sheria Musyoka, who had been out for an early morning run, deceased. A husband, father, and recent Dartmouth College graduate, Musyoka had moved to San Francisco just two weeks earlier. When asked by ABC7’s Dion Lim whom she blamed, Musyoka’s widow, Hannah Ege, said she blamed the district attorney.
Tyjone Flournoy was one of four suspects in the December 2019 murder of Ronisha Cook. At the time of her death, Cook was the third young Black mother killed in less than a month. Flournoy was booked in November of 2020 on suspicion of murder, attempted murder, participation in a criminal street gang, and conspiracy charges, but Boudin released him days later “pending further investigation." In January 2021, Flournoy was arrested for the murder of legendary private detective Jack Palladino after a violent attempt to steal his camera.
In March 2020, Boudin charged Teaunte Bailey with conspiracy, robbery, destroying evidence, and child endangerment, but released him on an ankle monitor because “there wasn’t enough evidence.” One year later, 75-year-old Pak Ho was taking a morning walk near his Oakland home when he was knocked to the ground by Bailey in a violent robbery caught on surveillance video. Like Palladino, Ho died from his injuries.
CRIME AND DYSFUNCTION
Besides Boudin’s allegiance to victimizers over victims, there is the simple fact that he is unqualified for the job. Over 30 prosecutors have quit or left the office in the last two years — that’s nearly half the legal staff. Two of the attorneys who quit, Brooke Jenkins and Don Du Bain, have joined the recall effort, describing Boudin’s policies as “dangerous.”
According to sources, 18 of 36 victim advocates have also left. One victim advocate, Giles Feinberg, was fired just days after I used the same quote at the top of this column in a September 2021 newsletter about Farrukh Mushtaq getting zero jail time in the death of Kate Slattery. Mushtaq was high on cocaine, fleeing a strip club where his wife had confronted him, and on his cell phone when he ran a red light at the intersection of Seventh and Howard streets, fatally striking 26-year-old bicyclist Slattery and fleeing the scene. Feinberg, who was the victim advocate for Slattery’s family, told Mushtaq if he weren’t in San Francisco, he would likely be “midterm on a prison sentence.” I pulled the quote from the June 17, 2021, transcript, but evidently Boudin was unaware of it until it appeared in my newsletter. I received a flurry of messages from former and current staff saying Boudin had fired Feinberg for “courtroom conduct.”
Gregory Mendez, a 20-year veteran assistant attorney who retired after working under the new district attorney proved too difficult, counts Boudin’s lack of management experience and leadership skills among the reasons he supports the recall. “Superior Court judges presiding over plea negotiations have been rejecting district attorney offers because they are too lenient, and if accepted, would not hold defendants legally responsible,” Mendez said, adding that the office has a backlog of cases and a staff of former public defenders who have no idea how to prosecute them — like Boudin himself. “It was bad under Gascón, but Boudin came in and made it worse,” Mendez said. “The lowest morale I’ve seen, people leaving, no one to try cases. It’s complete chaos.” Other attorneys, including the top prosecutors Boudin fired when he took office, share the same sentiments.
People often ask me if getting rid of Chesa Boudin will solve the problems, and my answer is “No, not right away.” But just as Greg Suhr wasn’t the right person to lead the San Francisco Police Department in 2016, Boudin isn’t the right person to lead the District Attorney’s Office in 2022. Yes, sir, it’s time for Chesa Boudin to go — perhaps back to the Public Defender’s Office, where his true passions lie, and his skill set matches the job description.
For more information about the Yes on H campaign, visit www.safersfwithoutboudin.com