Commentary: San Francisco Media Telling a One-Sided Story about DA Boudin

Reporter Bigad Shaban

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

San Francisco, CA – It was not just SF Columnist Heather Knight who published a piece detailing a former prosecutor in the San Francisco DA’s office resigning and joining the recall effort, there was also NBC Bay Area reporter Bigard Shaban, last seen pinning the DA down in Manny’s restroom, interviewing not just Brooke Jenkins but veteran DA Don du Bain.

According to Shaban, who never returned calls to the Vanguard in early October, both attorneys “accuse Boudin of making San Francisco more dangerous by regularly handing down lenient sentences, releasing criminals early, and, in some cases, not filing charges at all, despite sufficient evidence proving those individuals committed violent crimes.”

“He basically disregards the laws that he doesn’t like, and he disregards the court decisions that he doesn’t like to impose his own version of what he believes is just—and that’s not the job of the district attorney,” du Bain said.

“The office was headed in such the wrong direction that the best thing I could do was to join the effort to recall Chesa Boudin as district attorney.

“I’ve done 136 jury trials in my career—never, never withdrawn from a case before,” he said. “I’ve seen decisions made in this office in the last year plus, since Chesa took over, that shocked my conscience—and I’ve been a prosecutor for 30 years.”

It’s weighty stuff, except like Knight, du Bain doesn’t really tell the full story here.

Once upon a time, Don du Bain was in fact the elected DA of Solano County.  He served there for more than ten years when, in 2013, he was defeated for reelection following a scandal involving a murder trial.

Reported the San Francisco Examiner in a 2015 article, “The Solano County scandal, in which du Bain’s office allegedly failed to properly disclose evidence during a trial, raises questions about his ethics.”

“The issue of prosecutors who violate their duty to provide evidence of innocence is extremely troubling,” said SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who died in 2019. “It’s a scourge on our criminal justice system. We’ve asked the courts to adopt a policy of requiring prosecutors to state on the record whether they have complied with Brady. We haven’t heard back.”

He ended up in San Francisco because du Bain was hired by the DA’s office under George Gascón.

Writes the Examiner: “When the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office hired du Bain, it knew about his record. The office also hired one of the attorneys at the center of the scandal that du Bain can’t seem to leave behind.”

Reporter Triggers Domestic Violence Survivor at Survivor’s Event, Demanding Interview of SF DA Boudin

They added, “Andrew Ganz, along with du Bain, was chastised by a judge in Solano County for alleged misconduct surrounding a murder trial, according to court documents. Yet those past misdeeds did not impact their hiring.”

The charges here are serious with Ganz, for instance, who “unsuccessfully tried to change the testimony of then-Coroner Susan Hogan in Daniels’ murder case regarding whether Brastow’s death was a homicide. “

Du Bain’s office “also failed to disclose exculpatory evidence in the case regarding the autopsy notes and audio, along with his meeting with the coroner.”

The Examiner reported, “While both former Solano County prosecutors have clear disciplinary records with the state bar, the Solano County judge severely chastised them for their actions in a controversial murder trial that was linked to a coroner scandal that in part cost du Bain his job.”

Solano County Superior Court Judge Daniel Healy reportedly “held an evidentiary hearing on the matter of disclosure and issued a blistering opinion aimed squarely at Ganz and his boss.”

Indeed, the judge’s opinion “also fell harshly on du Bain and the Solano County Sheriff.”

“Their abject failure to adequately handle and discipline these materials is troubling, and their public effort to blame each other for what was a joint obligation is nothing short of disgraceful,” wrote Healy.

In defense, the Examiner reported, “Du Bain, who said he could only comment to the San Francisco Examiner in a circumspect way about the matter since there are still open cases related to it, insisted he did nothing wrong. He refrained from commenting directly on Healy’s decision.”

While du Bain has no issue with the bar, a 2010 study from the Northern California Innocence Project found that’s not that unusual.  They identified over 700 cases where a judge determined there to be prosecutorial misconduct and found “the State Bar publicly disciplined only one percent of the prosecutors in the 600 cases in which the courts found prosecutorial misconduct and NCIP researchers identified the prosecutor.”

They found, “[A] prosecutor’s violation of the obligation to disclose favorable evidence accounts for more miscarriages of justice than any other type of malpractice, but is rarely sanctioned by courts, and almost never by disciplinary bodies.”

Overall, the reporting by Heather Knight and Bigad Shaban failed to dig deeper into the resignations and the records of the attorneys, or in the case of Jenkins, the full story about the case she chose to highlight.

Public Defender and civil rights attorney Scott Hechinger, picking up on some of the Vanguard’s reporting, noted over the weekend in a tweet thread,  “In San Francisco now. Family here asking me about recall of Chesa Boudin. Point to a recent sensational article centered on a homicide prosecutor who quit. They’ve been skeptical. But to them, this article was a gamechanger. Problem: The article was based on lies.”

He noted, “The central story in the article about prosecutor Brooke Jenkins’ exit from the office & now role in recalling Chesa Boudin is the Daniel Gudino case. Tragically killed his mother. Every expert—court appointed & otherwise—agreed he was legally insane. Jenkins wouldn’t accept it.”

Both reporters reported high turnover in the San Francisco DA’s office, but neither noted that this regularly occurs.  Upon taking office in January 2018 for example, Larry Krasner immediately dismissed 31 members of the DA’s office.  But Boudin could not do that because of civil service laws in California.

Is there some legitimate criticism here?  Probably.  Boudin has never run an office before and we are operating in highly unusual times.

But there is almost always another side of the story here.  And that’s what is really not getting told by either Knight or Shaban.

However, in our view, both reporters failed to adequately get both sides of the story here.  In the case of Heather Knight, she apparently willfully left out critical details that we learned were directly conveyed to her by both Deputy Public Defender Ilona Solomon as well as Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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