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Politics & Policy

Prison or probation? Protesters clash over sentencing of man who stabbed Asian woman

A group of people protesting with signs, some reading "SAFE HUMAN", "BROOKE TELL THE TRUTH", and "MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT NOT JAIL".
Rebecca Young, center, argues with other protesters outside Hall of Justice over sentencing of a high-profile crime case in San Francisco. | Source: Han Li/The Standard

The sentencing of a man who stabbed a 94-year-old Asian woman in San Francisco has stirred not only a political uproar but also angry clashes between street protesters.

Dozens of Asian American activists, elected officials and political candidates held a rally outside the Hall of Justice Friday morning to protest a judge’s sentencing of Daniel Cauich, who stabbed Anh "Peng" Taylor in 2021 and received five years' probation and mandatory intensive treatment programs.

The ruling outraged District Attorney Brooke Jenkins and many in the Asian American community, who argued that the sentence was too lenient.

“There is no one more vulnerable than a 94-year-old woman,” Jenkins said in the rally. “If there is no accountability for the people who attack them, if we don't have adequate consequences for that behavior, it will continue.”

Protesters rally outside of the Hall of Justice as District Attorney Brooke Jenkins speaks about the sentencing of an offender who attacked a 94-year-old Asian woman. He was sentenced to probation programs. | Source: Han Li/The Standard

Jenkins’ prosecutor had asked the court to sentence Cauich to 12 years in prison, but the judge sided with Cauich’s defense attorney.

Amy Lee, an Asian American activist, attended the rally and issued a joint statement with other young activists after the event to urge elected leaders to act and protect Asian seniors.

“There remains no clear deterrent to anti-Asian violence in our criminal justice system,” the statement said. “Despite any crisis a person or persons may be facing, there is simply no excuse to attack an Asian elder.”

A tight portrait of an older woman smiling.
Anh "'Peng" Taylor was stabbed in San Francisco in 2021. District Attorney Brooke Jenkins asked for 12 years of prison time for the attacker, but the judge ordered probation. | Source: Courtesy Taylor family

A handful of criminal defense attorneys showed up to counterprotest, holding signs reading “Brooke Stop Lying” and chanting “Tell the truth” during Jenkins’ speech, leading to a shouting match between protesters.

The chaotic scene prompted multiple sheriff deputies to come out to the rally to separate the angry crowds.

“She is rousing up this bloodlust because she's sucking up every Asian vote that she needs,” said private attorney Rebecca Young, who organized the counterprotest. “Every decision that Brooke Jenkins makes about any high profile case is a political decision.”

Young, who worked in both the District Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office before she was fired by Jenkins, accused Jenkins of politicizing criminal justice issues as she is running for reelection. At one point during the protests, Young asked a sheriff to arrest someone who she felt was threatening her. 

Young said putting Cauich in prison for a couple of years and then releasing him on the street won’t make the city safer, and that a treatment program is the right solution.

Lee and her fellow activists disagreed, emphasizing that it’s important to send a strong message that violence against Asian elders should never be tolerated.

Taylor survived the attack and is now 97 and living in assisted senior housing, according to her family.

A group of people holding protest signs, one reads "SAFETY IS A HUMAN RIGHT".
Mayoral candidates Mark Farrell, center, and Daniel Lurie, upper right, attend the rally. | Source: Han Li/The Standard

Former interim mayor Mark Farrell and philanthropist Daniel Lurie, both of whom are running to replace Mayor London Breed and are courting support in the Asian American community, were present.

Multiple candidates for supervisor, such as Bilal Mahmood, Danny Sauter, Moe Jamil and JConr B Ortega participated in the rally along with Supervisor Matt Dorsey. 

Both Cauich’s defense attorney and Judge Kay Tsenin appeared on Zoom on Friday and decided to postpone the hearing to April to further discuss Cauich’s sentencing.