Progressives Butt Heads: SF Public Defender, District Attorney Disagree over Parole Grant for SF Killer


By The Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A progressive district attorney and progressive public defender, seldom at odds here, are butting heads after the State Parole Board again found Tare Beltranchuc—convicted of murdering a San Francisco mother in 2000—suitable for parole.

He’s been there before. In October of 2019, the SPB judged him parole eligible but the SF DA’s office successfully appealed to Gov. Gavin Newsom to reverse the decision, and he did a year ago May. The DA said he’d be appealing the decision this time, too.

San Francisco prosecutor James Conger said at last week’s hearing, where the late Claire Joyce Tempongko’s two now-grown children also were, “At today’s hearing, members of the Tempongko family—including Ms. Tempongko’s children—spoke of the ongoing pain and trauma they have suffered as a result of the murder of their mother in their childhood home.

“Although it is possible that with enough time and a secure enough plan in place, granting Mr. Beltranchuc parole might be appropriate in the future, that time is certainly not now and we are disappointed that the Parole Board has overlooked the wishes of the families, domestic violence advocates, and the prosecutors in our office by finding him suitable for parole at this time,” Conger added.

“We are disappointed but not defeated, and will be asking Governor Newsom to again override the Parole Board’s decision to release Mr. Beltranchuc,” said District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “This case was a horrific act of domestic violence and it is imperative that we ensure that Mr. Beltranchuc is not released to the community.”

Community and elected officials also back DA Boudin, including California State Treasurer Fiona Ma; State Assemblymember David Chiu; California State Senator Scott Wiener; State Assemblymember Philip Ting; UC Berkeley Law Professor Nancy Lemon; and Asian Women’s Shelter Executive Director Orchid Pusey.

However, the SF Office of Public Defender Manohar Raju disagreed with Boudin’s stance.

“In response to public statements made by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and others who have expressed opposition to the Board of Parole’s decision to grant parole to our client, Tare Beltran Chuc, we stand in support of the Board’s decision,” the office said in a statement.

“Let us be clear: the Board of Parole does not make decisions to release people lightly. The Board of Parole is tasked with the specific mandate to make release decisions for people serving indeterminate life sentences. In recent years, on average less than 20 percent of people appearing before the Parole Board are granted release, which should give pause to anyone who objects to the BPH’s decision to grant parole,” the PD noted.

“These grants then undergo an administrative and Gubernatorial review. Before being granted parole, a person incarcerated on a life-term must undergo mental health evaluations, multiple assessments, and an intensive hours-long hearing where two Board of Parole Hearing commissioners extensively question the individual being considered. Many, like Mr. Beltran Chuc, go through this process more than once over the years after they become eligible to be considered.

“A study from the Stanford Criminal Justice Center noted that the rate of re-offense for people who have been granted parole is exceedingly low — of the 860 people convicted of murder and subsequently granted parole over a 15-year period, only 0.5 percent went on to commit another felony, and none resulted in a subsequent life term,” argued the PD.

“It is particularly notable that the Parole Board has now granted Mr. Beltran Chuc parole on two different occasions, even in spite of strong opposition. Over the years, Mr. Beltran Chuc has participated in thousands of hours of programs while incarcerated, numerous substance abuse, victim impact, and anti-violence courses, and has been certified by Marin County Probation Department as a Batterer’s Program Facilitator.

“In addition, he picked up five vocations, completed his GED, and is working towards his Associate Degree in prison.  The Board received numerous letters in support of Mr. Beltran Chuc’s parole, including from San Quentin teachers and staff,” the PD continued.

That said, the PD made it clear it understands that “nothing can restore the life lost or ever fully repair the harm done…he has made tremendous progress over the past decade. Our office stands ready to support him in ensuring his successful reentry.

“We are sensitive to the pain and fear related to intimate partner violence, and violence more generally, as most of our clients have endured it all their lives in myriad forms.  We are committed to continuing to support efforts to undo the harms of this violence, not through single-minded punishment and retribution, but through challenging the conditions that give rise to a society in which safety is tenuous for the most marginalized, including in particular for women of color.

“Incarceration does not make us safe, and the idea that any human being is beyond repair is an inhumane one,” the PD statement closed.

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