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DA Chesa Boudin: Five Takeaways From a Fiery Live Interview
Monday, May 16, 2022

DA Chesa Boudin: Five Takeaways From a Fiery Live Interview

In a live interview Thursday with The Standard, District Attorney Chesa Boudin aggressively pushed back when asked to address concerns about the Tenderloin, his management of the office and the perception that his tenure has emboldened criminals. Below are five takeaways from Editor in Chief Jonathan Weber’s interview with the progressive prosecutor, who is facing a recall election in June.

Who is behind the recall?
Boudin spent much of his time in the interview criticizing questions as talking points fueled by a Republican-bankrolled agenda rather than based in fact. Boudin said he has substantial support in the Chinese American community and took special offense to recent political attack ads that portrayed him as a communist. He noted that much of the recall election’s funding came from Bay Area hedge fund manager William Oberndorf.

“The folks behind this recall are racist,” Boudin said. “They’re anti-immigrant, they’re anti-Chinese. And it is high time that people like William Oberndorf, who are bankrolling the recall, come out and put their mouth where their money is. I’ve challenged him to a debate. I want San Franciscans to hear what his vision for public safety is.”

On diversion versus jail
One of the biggest differences between Boudin and his predecessors has been his use of pre-trial diversion as an alternative to seeking a conviction. Boudin acknowledged that diversion has “expanded significantly” during his tenure but explained that the difference is in part attributable to new changes in state law that make more misdemeanors eligible for diversion. Boudin said the traditional approach of seeking a conviction and sentence wasn’t working.

“We know that about two-thirds of people sent to state prison and released will be reincarcerated within a couple of years,” Boudin said. “In other words, the traditional approach doesn’t do a great job at preventing future crime.”

On turnover in his office
Boudin got defensive when asked whether his office was being mismanaged. Late last year, a San Francisco Superior Court judge blasted the District Attorney’s Office in open court for being disorganized and suffering from “constant turnover.” But Boudin said this same judge praised his office in court weeks later, adding that turnover in his office wasn’t abnormal compared to other agencies—or even a bad thing.

“I was elected on a mandate for change,” Boudin said. “How were we going to do that if we only had people who spent their entire career in the same office?”

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More cops in the Tenderloin?
The state of the Tenderloin has in many ways shaped the narrative around the Boudin recall. Police say they need more officers to keep up with the demand for an increased presence in the area. When asked if he believes the department needs more cops, Boudin said his office depends on the department to make arrests but wouldn’t commit to calling for more police. He added that he had never weighed in on the movement to defund the police.

“I don’t know what the solution is,” Boudin said. “I want to hold people accountable when they commit crimes. That’s my job. I want to do it in a way that prevents future crime, that supports crime victims, gives them healing and empowerment. And we cannot hold people accountable until and unless police make an arrest.”

Lessons DA Boudin has learned 
Near the end of the 50-minute conversation, Boudin reflected on some of the key lessons he has learned since taking office and how the pandemic forced him to confront issues in the criminal justice system:

  • “I have learned that we have been far too patient in waiting for our courts to reopen and that victims can no longer tolerate the delays in their cases, and that people accused of crimes also have a right to speedy trial, and that the Court of Appeals are going to start dismissing cases if our courts don’t move more quickly to trial cases.”
  • “I’ve learned that we have a massive challenge when it comes to explaining and communicating the challenges and the way that the criminal justice system works.”
  • “I’ve learned that there are thousands of policies and practices that pre-date my administration that need to be reviewed and interrogated and questioned about whether or not they’re good or whether or not they can be improved upon. And that’s not something that can happen overnight.”
  • “I’ve learned that morale in an era when you can’t do happy hours or office luncheons is a real challenge to try and manage over Zoom. And that being a frontline prosecutor, when you’ve got to wear a mask to court every day is really difficult work. I have tremendous respect for the staff in our office, the hard work that they do, the challenges that they face.”
  • “And I’ve learned that we’ve got to do a better job making sure San Franciscans feel safe in our communities.”
Josh Koehn can be reached at [email protected].
Michael Barba can be reached at [email protected].
  • If I learned anything, I learned Chesa is more delusional than I thought. He claims he has a “voter mandate” but he barely won through RCV. He received the third most first choice votes. He literally looked like he was going to cry trying to defend his office and their issues with turnover. Then Chesa makes a huge scene about a claim he is being cut off (not sure he was), and the later proceeds to cut off the interview six times…. The guy has to go

  • “I don’t know what the solution is.” Wow. Why run for political office if you don’t have solutions? Isn’t that the point?

  • I live in Sacramento. My family and I used to love to visit SF and shop, eat, stay over. My wife and her 3 sisters used to shop at Union Square twice a year. Not any more. The streets are filled with vagrants defecating everywhere, over 100 auto burglaries a day. Aggressive panhandlers and garbage too. It’s not fun or safe anymore. Too bad, was once a beautiful city. Oh, in-case your wondering, Sacramento is the same way.

  • @BigFrisco That’s a lie. You have a problem with facts. Chesa received the most first choice votes. He got 68,805 first votes and Suzy Loftus got 60,007.

  • Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert. Look it up if anyone else doesn’t think this has direct implications on why Chesa is releasing career criminals on to the streets. Whatever it is, he needs to be recalled. He had his chance to make a difference and he made it worse. Too many have died with his policies. How many more needs to be murdered by the criminals he released in to the streets?

  • Chesa saved my son’s life. He is mentally ill and got arrested because our Dept of Health refused to hospitalize him. The DA got him into an alternative court and helped to get him a case manager, thus he did not rot in jail making his schizophrenia worse. Do not recall.

  • I don’t appreciate Jonathan Weber’s adversarial questioning in this interview. Of course, the SF Standard is a new media outlet so they’re going to do anything to get more readers/followers & trolling Chesa is low-hanging-fruit for the vocal minority that somehow believe solving SF crime means removing the DA even though the first point of contact for any crime is the SFPD. The DA’s office is last stop in a long bureaucratic chain for the prosecution of any criminal.

  • Hanako Abe and Elizabeth Platt are examples of two individuals murdered by a career criminal released through Chesa policies. Apparently this criminal is allowed to roam FREE because he completed his GED. Is this how Chesa is going to “make up” for the oppressive policies against a specific race? Make it right by killing others ? Even Hanako’s memorial was vandalize by criminals. She has no peace even in death.

  • The San Francisco voters have themselves to blame for this guy. There was no mystery where he was going.

  • This pathetic loser can’t do anything but deflect. June can’t come soon enough. Keep gaslighting us you moron

  • Chesa Boudin is not capable of competently managing the office of the District Attorney.

    Exhibit !: He hired David Campos as his Chief-of-Staff.

    Additionally, it is evident that he is as delusional, politically-speaking, as the recently-recalled Board of Education members Alison Collins and Gabriela Lopez.

    He needs to be recalled.

  • Completely irrelevant. Everyone in SF knows his family background and we voted for him anyway. The only thing that has changed from past DAs is more diversion. Crime in SF is high because the cops are on slow down. I’ve called them and when I ask about getting a report or follow up they give me the “Boudin won’t prosecute so nothing will be done.” Boudin can’t prosecute if SFPD doesn’t arrest. Can we recall the cops and get some who are willing to solve crimes and arrest people?

  • SF Standard has a conservative bent (it certainly isn’t a conservative paper – just leans that way) but the reporting is pretty solid. I’d put it in the middle between Westside Observer and Mission Local. We’re lucky to have good local reporting in this city.
    As a native (63 years) I’m not worried about crime – our murder rate is 1/3 of what it was in 1977. Yes, people didn’t break into cars back then, and it’s a B when it happens to you (twice to me – window smashed each time) but you learn to keep a box in your car for “stuff” and take the box in when you park your car for the night.
    Boudin wasn’t one of my 3 choices in 2019 but I’m NO RECALL. He won fair and square and, unlike the school board (yes on recall of all 3) he’s competent. I, as most San Franciscans, support judicial reform. Give diversion a chance. Unlike most of the commenters on this site, at least I (and my daughter) can vote.

  • Interesting that Boudin accused the Standard journalist of interrupting him. The reporter hasn’t been able to complete a questions!! Boudin is a pugnatious and defensive jerk.

  • He’s toast and he’s knows it.
    He has managed to destroy our beloved city and must and will be removed by the people. He’s delusional.

  • Nice position piece, supporting Boudin. Where was the rebuttal to his “hold people accountable for crime” BS?
    His record is clear, he rarely holds criminals responsible for their acts.
    His smoke and mirrors rhetoric of “Republican Steal” and tough on crime approach are just not true.

  • @Dale Did you ever consider conservatorship for your son? I am sorry to hear about his mental illness, but i also hope that no one was harmed because he didn’t receive adequate treatment before he was arrested.

  • @Howard Fallon You must have watched a different interview. Chesa was the one being adversial. I thought Mr. Weber was very patient and cordial with a guy who is complete narcissist.

  • @Howard Fallon You must have watched a different interview. Chesa was the one being adversial. I thought Mr. Weber was very patient and cordial with a guy who is complete narcissist.

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