At least eight prosecutors left out in the cold when San Francisco voters recalled progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin have found new jobs across the bay in Alameda County, which elected its own progressive DA, Pamela Price, in November.
At the same time, Price’s office is seeing an exodus of prosecutors—with some claiming her policies are not allowing them to do their job. Several have been hired in San Francisco by Brooke Jenkins, Boudin’s more conservative replacement.
New administrations always include a shuffling of staff, but the looking-glass nature of two Bay Area DA's offices shifting politically in opposite directions highlights the divisions within a criminal justice world much of the country would characterize as reformist and liberal. Here in the Bay Area, though, the players see a clear distinction in the details.
Price, who said in an interview in January she did not plan on needing to hire many new employees, has hired 44 new people since she took office in January. About half were attorneys. Nine of those attorneys came from San Francisco, and eight worked for Boudin (one attorney worked for the Public Defender's Office). In addition, Price hired an investigator who worked for Boudin.
One attorney who served under Boudin and is now in Price’s office, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said they changed jobs because they wanted to continue being part of the progressive district attorney movement that isn’t “perpetuating mass incarceration.”
“I think [Boudin and Price] have similar visions and morals that guide their approach to prosecution,” the attorney said.
Another new Price hire tweeted about moving to the office in Oakland.
“Very excited to start my new role as a Deputy District Attorney today under the leadership of Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price!” Ryan Khojasteh, who was fired by Jenkins, tweeted on Jan. 23.
Khojasteh is one of a large group of attorneys who were fired or resigned after Mayor London Breed appointed Jenkins last July.
Meanwhile, of the five people who have left Price’s office have taken up new positions in San Francisco, and several others have been hired by San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.
Price, a longtime civil rights attorney, replaced the retiring Nancy O’Malley. Price challenged O’Malley in the 2018 election but failed to unseat her. O’Malley then decided to retire at the end of her term.
In November, Price defeated her main rival, Chief Assistant District Attorney Terry Wiley, with about 53% of the vote.
Price campaigned for the DA job promising she would seek to remove all 41 people in local cases from death row and resentence others who were sentenced to life without parole.
Boudin characterized the exodus from Jenkins' office as a loss for San Francisco.
“I'm sure you know, though for some reason it hasn't been reported, that dozens have left the SFDA office under Jenkins, including many folks who predated my administration,” Boudin said in a statement to The Standard.
“We had assembled a team of talented staff who were committed to doing justice and promoting safer communities. This includes staff who were leading the legal battles to protect AAPI community members, prosecute violent crime, and get ghost guns off our streets. It’s a real loss for San Francisco that they can't do that work in the SFDA Office anymore.”
The Standard asked the Price administration for comment, but was told no one would speak about “personnel matters.”
Jenkins has hired 21 new attorneys since taking office and said the arrival of former Alameda County prosecutors in San Francisco has been a boon.
“We are aggressively recruiting experienced, ethical and hard-working prosecutors to join our team and join the fight to restore accountability and improve public safety in San Francisco after years of prosecutorial negligence that resulted in an exodus of experienced and talented attorneys,” Jenkins said in a statement to The Standard.
Jenkins said her office has attracted prosecutors, investigators and other staff to the office as part of its aggressive hiring program.
“Each of the new team members brings invaluable experience and expertise that benefit San Francisco residents and communities. Over the coming weeks and months, we look forward to welcoming more attorneys to the fold,” Jenkins added about the arrivals from Alameda County.
The new attorneys and others who crossed the bay from San Francisco to work for Price include:
- Kwixuan Maloof, who was a long-time San Francisco deputy public defender and now heads Price’s police misconduct unit
- Andrew Koltuniak, who worked in Boudin’s police misconduct unit and the San Francisco Public Defender's Office
- Ryan Khojasteh, who was a former assistant district attorney and public defender
- Alexandra Grayner, who worked as a prosecutor for Boudin
- Dana Drusinsky, who worked under Boudin and at the San Francisco Public Defender’s office
- Jacq Wilson, a prosecutor under Boudin
- Evanthia Pappas, who was Boudin’s managing attorney of the domestic violence unit
- Demarris Evans, a former deputy public defender and then prosecutor under Boudin and Jenkins
- Leah Abraham, a prosecutor under Boudin who quit after Jenkins took office
- Tara Anderson, Boudin’s director of policy, who departed after Jenkins took office
Attorneys who left Price’s office and came to San Francisco include:
- Stacie Pettigrew
- John Ullom
- Matt Beltramo
- Charly Weissenbach
- Melissa Demetral
- Another unnamed former prosecutor who has been offered a job but has yet to be hired
When she came into office, Price put attorneys John Brouhard, Butch Ford and Colleen McMahon on leave and fired Chief of Inspectors Craig Chew and Assistant Chief of Inspectors Andrea Moreland.
A number of other veterans left the office before Price took office and ten others left thus far this year.
Alameda County prosecutors formed a union ahead of Price's election. A number of attorneys in Alameda County who served under Price’s more traditional predecessor are surprised at the level of turnover and worry about the loss of expertise according to Wiley, Price’s electoral opponent.
Wiley said the leading legal minds have left the office—people in charge of major units—leaving it with inexperienced or unqualified leaders.
“Conversations were all the same: We knew there would be changes, but we did not see this wreckage that would be exacted on this office,” Wiley said.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at [email protected]