Commentary: The San Francisco Recall Was Nothing More Than a Tissue of Well Financed Lies

Chesa Boudin at a February Press Conference

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

San Francisco, CA – Tonight will wrap up the recall campaign against Chesa Boudin – a campaign that in some ways began even before he took office.  Over the course of the last two years, time and time again, we have seen that most of the charges against the DA’s office were false.

Blaming the DA’s office for increasing property crime missed the context of what has happened across the state and the nation as crime went up during the pandemic, and violent crime and murders surged across the board.  The fact that crime in San Francisco did not go up as much as it did in places like Sacramento where there is a traditional prosecutor got lost in the narrative.

It seems likely, but not a certainty that Boudin will be removed tonight.  Most polls show that the recall is passing easily, though an internal Boudin poll showed it tied.  And with low voter turnout, it’s hard to know how that will play.

You could argue that low voters turnout in San Francisco signals that this really wasn’t as deep a felt public anger and was made out to be.

Lie after misleading statement and twisted incident has occurred in this.  The Vanguard has spent its share of time trying to debunk the lies.  The mainstream media in the last few months has done better at this – but they also deserve a lot of the blame for what took place over the previous year.

What has come out in the last month or two might be too little, too late to save Boudin.  But getting the truth out there is still important.

I found the recent op-ed by Judith Garvey, a former prosecutor under six San Francisco DAs very compelling.  I only wish it had come out in say February or March rather than June 6.

She writes, “Contrary to the views of the recall targeting District Attorney Chesa Boudin, I’m one of many experienced prosecutors who has seen how his approach changes lives — and who opposes his recall.”

Garvey noted that she has seen people accused of crimes, in need of drug or mental health treatment.  They have to wait for months in jail just to get an interview.

“Many of the accused suffer from trauma which must be addressed to lower recidivism. Each trauma template is unique and must be rewritten in therapy. Yet too often they do not get the care their complicated mental health and addiction needs require,” Garvey writes.  “Instead, we rely on incarceration, which costs taxpayers more without reducing recidivism.”

She is critical of the recall campaign, which she argues, “has focused none of its massive budget of millions of dollars to advocate for solutions that will truly improve public safety. Instead, they have scapegoated Chesa Boudin to advance their political agenda.”

Perhaps most tellingly, she said, that she entered a CVS and was almost run into by a shoplifter leaving the store.

She writes, “I asked a clerk if they planned on calling the police and he said no because “the district attorney won’t prosecute.””

That’s the narrative we have heard time and time again.  It has seeped into the public consciousness.

Garvey responds, “I told him that I was an assistant district attorney and that’s simply not true. Boudin files charges for shoplifting — just like his predecessors. But this man, like many in our city, has been subjected to months of ads and recall rhetoric that is awash in falsehoods and outright lies.”

She also noted newly appointed supervisor Matt Dorsey, “followed that same pattern in announcing his endorsement of the recall. He claims that, by resolving drug sales cases with accessory after the fact charges instead of possession with intent to sell, Boudin isn’t doing enough on this issue.”

She writes, “Yet the office has obtained hundreds of convictions in drug cases while following clear state law that requires prosecutors to weigh immigration consequences in plea negotiations. Dorsey is criticizing Boudin for following state law.

“Dorsey ignores this. He also ignores that many sellers with addiction issues have successfully completed collaborative court, which is more rigorous than probation and where the person is monitored weekly by a judge on a treatment plan drawn up by the Department of Public Health. I’ve seen these courts save lives and money, yet that too goes ignored.”

She adds, “Worse, Dorsey also distorts a typical practice — plea deals that can result in lesser charges — into something nefarious. He relies on voters not understanding that Boudin follows the same practices that occurred under George Gascon and Kamala Harris (I was there for both). Boudin further is obliged to follow changes in state law that have occurred under his tenure. I’m sure Dorsey knows this reality, but it does not fit with his political intentions, so it is disregarded.”

This is powerful stuff.  But unfortunately it needed to come out much sooner.

Garvey makes a point I often have – Chesa Boudin “was dealt a difficult hand.”

He came into office just two months before the pandemic shutdowns.  In my view, a lot of blame has been put on Boudin that is simply happening everywhere and most likely as a result of the changes wrought by COVID.

Garvey offers a different perspective than most can, “Under DA Boudin, I have had discretion to do what is in the interest of justice on cases. That’s what we should ask for and expect in all DAs, yet sadly that is too often not the case. And it is to Boudin’s credit that he also recruited and hired experienced attorneys with impeccable credentials and organized outstanding continuing legal education programs with experts who are using that vast knowledge to better serve San Francisco.”

As she noted, “All of this gets lost in the heated and false rhetoric of the recall.”

But here it is, an experienced career prosecutor who has worked under six different DA’s saying it.


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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3 thoughts on “Commentary: The San Francisco Recall Was Nothing More Than a Tissue of Well Financed Lies”

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