By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – The critics of San Francisco Chesa Boudin probably thought they had him in another embarrassing situation—a 69-year-old Asian man, brutally beaten with a bat, files a lawsuit, he gets up there at a press conference, breaking down and described it as “the most brutal, terrifying and humiliating experience of my life.”
He files a lawsuit when Boudin’s office reaches a misdemeanor plea agreement with the defendant, and then argues that he was not informed or communicated to by the DA’s office.
It sounds appalling. It sounds damning to Boudin. It sounds like everything Boudin’s critics have charged. Except you could argue—none of it is true.
First of all, you can’t sue a DA for taking a plea agreement. People say, well you can sue for anything, but the reality is that the courts have granted prosecutors absolute immunity from liability for their decisions, even in cases like Thompson v. Connick where the DA was found to have withheld and even destroyed evidence that led to a wrongful conviction.
Second, the charges that Boudin’s office failed to communicate with the victim in this case appear to be demonstrably false. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on this point, but the DA’s office released very detailed information about the extent to which they went to inform Anh Lê as to what happened and, moreover, “the prosecutor shared with the court at the time of the resolution the concerns and requests Mr. Lê had previously sent about the case. Mr. Lê wanted Mr. Tanner to be sentenced to state prison and wanted his child to be prosecuted.”
The bottom line, though, for me is that Lê wanted Tanner, the father, to be sentenced to state prison and the 11-year-old child to be prosecuted.
I think any objective reading of this case is that the conduct here was not felony conduct.
According to the DA’s office and corroborated by the public defender assigned to defend Jimmy Tanner, the defendant, the facts of this case scream misdemeanor not felony, and Tanner’s involvement appears fairly limited.
First of all, Tanner himself is in a wheelchair. He and his son were walking on the sidewalk and his son was pushing a bicycle.
Lê confronted Tanner and his family about taking up the sidewalk. An altercation ensued.
The bat in question was not a wooden bat as it might sound like—it was a plastic bat.
It was during the argument, 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. Lê.”
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. Lê refused medical attention that day and had no visible injuries from the plastic baseball bat. Mr. Lê was never attacked by Mr. Tanner nor was a glass bottle used as a weapon against Mr. Lê.”
Should an 11-year-old kid strike an elderly man with a plastic baseball bat? Absolutely not. Should Tanner have been threatening Lê with a Snapple bottle? Absolutely not.
What happened was unfortunate. I’m sure it was traumatic for Lê. But this was blown up into something it was not. This was not a brutal attack. This was a kid who did something he shouldn’t have done and a father who didn’t stop it and instead appeared to inflame it. But this was not a hate incident, it was a dispute over whether the kid was blocking the sidewalk.
Tanner himself may have threatened Lê with a bottle, but he did not assault him, he was in a wheelchair himself.
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
That’s what this was—politically motivated. However, they picked the wrong case to attempt to blow up. The facts here show the DA’s office acting appropriately, and appropriately reducing the charges to a misdemeanor when the facts warranted it.