More than a month after her inauguration, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced plans to review high-profile criminal cases involving Asian American victims and potentially file hate crime charges against the suspects.
Jenkins—who vocally criticized her predecessor Chesa Boudin for the way he handled prosecutions involving Asian victims—told a group of Chinese-language media reporters that her office will look into those cases to see if the suspects are “adequately” charged.
“We can conduct further investigation to see if there's any evidence to support charging a hate crime,” Jenkins said Tuesday. “There needs to be a secondary review to see if they’ve been charged correctly.”
Nancy Tung, the newly hired chief of special prosecutions and community partnerships, will lead the review. Tung, a Chinese American prosecutor who was considered one of the final candidates on Mayor London Breed’s list of possible DA appointees, was recruited by Jenkins shortly after she was sworn in.
Jenkins and Tung, along with SFPD Chief Bill Scott and other top law enforcement officials, joined community members in a heated town hall meeting Tuesday night in Chinatown after another wave of high-profile attacks on Asian American seniors.
However, some recent cases, including two with septuagenarian Asian victims, cannot be charged as hate crimes because of the lack of evidence.
Boudin, who was recalled in June in a nationally watched election, issued a statement to The Standard slamming Jenkins’ move as politically motivated.
“Playing politics with charging decisions made by veteran prosecutors based on the law and the evidence gathered by police is a ruse,” he said.
Additionally, Jenkins has established a “Vulnerable Victims Unit,” also led by Tung, to handle the Asian elder abuse cases.
In the meeting with Chinese reporters, Jenkins also addressed questions about the controversial six-figure income she made while working for a charitable nonprofit linked to the campaign to recall Boudin. Jenkins insisted she did nothing wrong.
“I understand why people may be concerned,” she acknowledged.
However, she added, “I only did what was legal.”
Boudin, for his part, told The Standard that he thought Jenkins’ focus on reviewing the crime cases is to “distract the public from her financial impropriety.”
He also pointed out that his successor has demoted every Chinese American chief-level staff promoted by him, and accused Jenkins of disbanding the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Unit in the Victim Services Division.
Jenkins confirmed that the AAPI Unit still exists. Boudin established the unit two weeks before the recall election.
Since Jenkins took office, she fired almost every management-level top staff hired by Boudin except for three Chinese Americans—Kasie Lee, Marshall Khine and Paul Lam—who were all demoted or reassigned.
The DA’s office disputed the characterization that all of those people had been demoted, saying that Lam—who went from being the director of the AAPI Unit in the Victim Services Division under Boudin to a deputy director of the whole division under Jenkins—now plays “an elevated role” at the agency with more employees and responsibilities under his purview.
Han Li can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org