By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – Can a district attorney be sued for agreeing to a “slap on the wrist” plea agreement? Most experts think not, but a Vietnamese American man, Anh Lê, 69, has filed suit claiming that prosecutors failed to inform him of a plea bargain with the man convicted of attacking him.
“The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office allowed the adult male attacker to plead to a misdemeanor with one year probation, restitution to the victim and (a) criminal protective order,” Lê said in a news conference Tuesday. “They did this without consulting me, without any input from me at all, and in violation of my rights as a victim.”
Boudin’s office has fired back arguing that their work has been “mischaracterized” and calling this a “blatantly political lawsuit.”
Lê in his suit claimed that he was out for a walk in Chinatown in November 2019, when he was attacked by defendant Jimmy Tanner and his teenage son. He claims that Tanner threatened to kill him and then attacked him with a glass bottle, while his son beat him with a baseball bat.
At the press conference, Lê called the attack “the most brutal, terrifying and humiliating experience of my life.”
Lê is objecting to the fact that Tanner was allowed to plead guilty only to a misdemeanor battery charge.
However, the facts of the case would seem to favor a misdemeanor plea.
According to a release from the DA, Lê and Tanner, who uses a wheelchair, had an argument over Tanner’s 11 year old son pushing a bicycle on the sidewalk. Lê contronted Tanner and his family about taking up the sidewalk.
It was during the agument, that Tanner’s 11 year old son, allegedly swung a plastic bat at Lê several times. Tanner intervened and made verbal threats against Lê while holding a Snapple bottle.
Boudin’s office notes, “Photographs taken by police at the scene do not depict any physical injuries to Mr. Le.”
Tanner was arrested charged with criminal threats, elder abuse and battery. There was not hate crime charges filed by the police nor was he charged with hate crimes by Interim DA Suzy Loftus’ office on November 6, 2019.
On April 12, 2021, the case resolved in court for a plea deal to a battery charge, which included probation and a stayaway order.
Boudin’s office noted, “Le was not present at that court date despite repeated contact from our office.”
Nevertheless, they say, “the prosecutor shared with the court at the time of the resolution the concerns and requests Mr. Le had previously sent about the case. Mr. Le wanted Mr. Tanner to be sentenced to state prison and wanted his child to be prosecuted.”
The DA’s office in a statement on Thursday noted, “A District Attorney’s Office victim advocate was assigned to the case promptly upon the filing of charges in 2019, and reached out to Mr. Le quickly. That victim advocate remained on the case throughout its entirety. During the course of her work, the victim advocate reached out to contact Mr. Le over two dozen times, including efforts to reach him by phone, email, and mail.”
In his lawsuit, “Mr. Le falsely asserted that our office settled the case without consulting him or receiving any input from him. This is not accurate.”
At the time of the resolution, the DA’s office noted, “despite Mr. Le’s non-presence, the assigned prosecutor read to the court from Mr. Le’s statement—which he had previously sent to the advocate—expressing his desires and feelings about the case. His input was shared with the court.”
Tanner’s public defender, Sliman Nawabi told the media that Tanner never attacked Lê and pointed out once again that the bat used by the son was plastic.
Further, Tanner is a “severely disabled man” himself.
“Out of fear for his safety, Mr. Tanner’s 11-year-old son took out his plastic baseball bat and swung it at Mr. Lê,” Nawabi told the media. “Mr. Le refused medical attention that day and had no visible injuries from the plastic baseball bat. Mr. Le was never attacked by Mr. Tanner nor was a glass bottle used as a weapon against Mr. Le.”
Meanwhile Boudin’s office defended the work of its Victims Services Division.
“We know that victims can experience trauma and pain in many forms beyond physical injury, and we are constantly working towards expanding culturally competent mental health resources and financial support to victims of crime,” said Kasie Lee, Chief of Victim Services Division.
She added, “Given the lawsuit’s significant mischaracterizations of the events in this case—which have understandably led many community members to be upset and undermines the trust between crime victims and their advocates—we believe it is important to share correct information about the underlying case and explain the work of our office and our victim advocate in this case.
“We also want to provide reassurance to victims that they will receive comprehensive services when working with our advocates. We will continue to do everything we can to support victims.”
“I am proud of the work of my office’s Victim Services Division—and am disappointed by politically-motivated efforts to mislead the public about our work and the facts of this case,” said Boudin. “My administration has been dedicated to expanding support for victims—including an unprecedented expansion of our Victim Services Division—and we have particularly focused on serving vulnerable members of the AAPI community and seniors.”
He added, “The claims in this lawsuit are false and are deliberately undermining the hard work of our Victim Services Division and the dedicated public servants in our office. We support every effort to expand victim support—and have continuously sought additional funding to do just that. We intend to continue our fight to protect all crime victims and survivors.”