California Public Defenders Association Supports the Right to Free Speech by Deputy Public Defender

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Sajid Khan (left) speaking on his podcast with Avi Singh (right)

(The following is a statement by the California Public Defenders Association)

The California Public Defenders Association wishes to express its complete support for Santa Clara Deputy Public Defender Sajid Khan and his right of free speech under the First Amendment in response to the absurd attack and complaint filed against him by Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.

This district attorney has filed a complaint against Mr. Khan because he wrote a blog and an op-ed piece encouraging an automobile parade-demonstration in support of the Black Lives Matter protests in which he stated that the criminal justice system is racist, corrupt and discriminates against people of color. Mr. Khan observed that the criminal justice system is rooted in the history of slavery in this country and that the decades of mass incarceration of people of color have been perpetuated by district attorneys’ offices across this nation. Mr. Khan speaks the truth. And CPDA shares these beliefs.

The complaint by Mr. Rosen appears to be grounded in some deep-seated fear that when Mr. Khan mapped out a protest root for the BLM protest parade that, because the route took the caravan past the jail, the DA’s office, juvenile hall, and the San Jose Police Department, it was an incitement to commit violence against the DA’s office. This is absurd. Public Defenders across the country marched in solidarity on June 8th, and almost all were in the vicinity of the county and state government buildings that house the mechanisms of the criminal justice system. Mr. Khan never called for any physical assault or attack on the District Attorney’s office. In fact, his op-ed called for voting out reactionary district attorneys who perpetuate police violence and mass incarceration of people of color, including Mr. Rosen. Mr. Rosen should remember that he began his career as a prosecutor putting people in prison for life for things like writing bad checks under the “Three Strikes” laws. Mr. Khan also wrote in his op-ed that, “Together, prosecutors and police form the machine of law enforcement that has exacted a massive toll on and dehumanized black communities in our country for centuries. Police officers terrorize and arrest black people and hand them in shackles to DA’s for the ultimate stripping of their individual and collective humanity.” What is not true about this?

He also wrote that, “DA’s offices regularly and customarily overlook, justify and promote illegal, unconstitutional police misbehavior by using illegally collected evidence in their prosecutions and by actively and stubbornly opposing 4th Amendment suppression motions brought by public defenders and defense attorneys in our courts.” CPDA again asks: what is not true about that?

He further wrote that DAs “regularly and customarily do not prosecute police officers who use unreasonable, excessive force and brutal violence against black men.” And that “prosecutors actively and affirmatively protect and shield the police from liability by prosecuting the very black victims of police violence on trumped-up crimes like resisting arrest and assault on a police officer.” CPDA again asks: what is not true about all of that.

Perhaps Mr. Khan has hit too many of Mr. Rosen’s nerves, causing Mr. Rosen to strike back because he is afraid of the truth.

As further evidence of DA’s complicity in police violence against people of color, CPDA points out that, as of this press release, the Vallejo police department, the Solano County District Attorney, and the California Attorney General have failed to release any video recordings of the June 2nd police officer shooting of Sean Monterrosa, who witnesses reported was on his knees with his hands up in front of a store when the officer shot him multiple times while seated in his police car.

CPDA believes that Mr. Khan should not be “reported” for encouraging peaceful protests and expressing anger at the DA’s office in his community. He should be commended for speaking the truth. And Mr. Rosen should accept his complicity in this corrupt and racist system of biased prosecution, rather than attempt to bully Mr. Khan and others into silence.

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