By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – As reported yesterday, a bar complaint was filed by retired Superior Court Judge Martha Goldin, who filed the complaint with the State Bar of California against interim San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, alleging that Jenkins violated State Bar Rules and the Business and Professions Code through acts of dishonesty.
The allegations range from the well-documented allegations of dishonesty by Jenkins as to the nature of her compensation from a non-profit associate with the recall committee, to allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.
For her part, Jenkins has shrugged off the allegations.
“My opponents are throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if anything sticks,” a campaign email sent on Friday afternoon stated. “The press is helping them by repeating baseless attacks pushed by Chesa supporters and ‘anonymous’ complaints.”
Said Jenkins, “Earlier this year, San Franciscans made it clear that they disagreed with the previous administration’s failed policies that made our city less safe for everyone. So it’s no surprise that Chesa’s supporters are playing politics to obstruct the critical work we are doing to restore public safety and accountability in our city.”
She added, “They continue to rehash old, discredited stories and anonymous complaints in the hope of distracting voters from the work our office is doing right now to save lives, protect our vulnerable elders from violence, and ensure violent and repeat offenders are held accountable.”
Talking about distraction. The allegations against Jenkins are quite serious.
SF Public Defender Peter Calloway laid out the severity of the charges in a tweet thread on Friday.
“San Francisco’s interim DA Brooke Jenkins has been credibly accused of numerous instances of misconduct (one criminal) in a complaint filed with the State Bar. This is a big deal,” he tweeted.
Callow way explains, “The complaint, filed by a retired judge, meticulously documents numerous ethical violations over a number of years, beginning as an Assistant DA, then as a ‘volunteer’ for the campaign to recall her former boss, and now as the interim DA and a candidate for that office.”
He argues, “Some of these accusations seem ironclad. And if the ethical rules are taken seriously, she will face serious sanction. The State Bar Rules of Court make clear that for some of these violations (e.g., the misdemeanor) the presumed sanction is *actual suspension or disbarment.*”
He adds, “That doesn’t mean that’s what will happen, but it’s what the State Bar’s own rules say *should* happen. I wrote here about the vast gap between the two, and more broadly about prosecutor misconduct, if you’re interested.”
First, he tweets that “she’s accused of a serious violation that occurred when she was an ADA, commenting on the decision by a person she was prosecuting not to testify @ his trial. The violation was so clear that the person’s conviction was reversed. That is *extremely* rare.”
She’s also accused of lying about this to the press, when she said during a debate that she had never been found to have committed misconduct.
Calloway notes, “That’s unambiguously false. A judge found that she had committed misconduct and took the extreme and rare step of reversing the conviction she secured as a result of the misconduct.”
Calloway also notes her coaching a child witness, “which I personally witnessed the allegations in court and describe below.”
Finally, Calloway notes the allegations of her misrepresentation of her status as a volunteer when she campaigned against Boudin.
“Essentially, she held herself out as a volunteer for the recall campaign while collecting a hefty paycheck from a closely affiliated non-profit. The non-profit is prohibited from engaging in politics. So this seems like a campaign finance violation, among other things,” Calloway adds.
The Vanguard is well aware of her history, as long before anyone knew who Brooke Jenkins was, the Vanguard covered a court case in which she clearly committed prosecutorial misconduct.
In 2019, during a trial alleging serious charges of child molestation, Jenkins was caught on video coaching and browbeating the young complaining witness.
The most dramatic moment of the trial came when the defense called a public defender investigator to the stand.
The young girl was supposed to testify on the opening day of the trial, but twice refused. The investigator testified that he saw a conversation between five individuals—the child, Deputy DA Brooke Jenkins, an inspector, a victim’s advocate and one other individual.
The investigator testified, “I observed Jenkins say, ‘Say that – that’s what you need to say.’”
The man accused of the crime would be acquitted of the charges. Jenkins was not sanctioned by the judge for her conduct and no one filed a complaint—likely because the case ended in an acquittal.
Commentary: Chronicle Calls Her a ‘Progressive Prosecutor’ but in 2019 the Vanguard Covered Brooke Jenkins Committing Egregious Prosecutorial Misconduct
Jenkins knows she doesn’t have to take the bar complaint seriously—not because she did not do anything wrong, but because she knows that the bar will not act until long after she is safely reelected, and even then she has little to fear.
After all, a 2010 study by the Northern California Innocence Project, “Preventable Error” looked at over 700 cases in which courts had found prosecutorial misconduct in California during a period from 1997 to 2009. Of all of those cases, only six prosecutors were disciplined.
Not much has changed since that 2010 report has come out. We have seen this week a US DOJ probe of the Orange County DA and Sheriff’s Department in the informant scandal.
But here’s the thing, the custodial informant program in Orange County came out in 2014 during the DA’s prosecution of Scott Dekraai for mass murder.
The report that came out focused on activity from 2007 to 2016.
It concluded, “This pattern or practice included OCSD’s coordinated placement of custodial informants near represented defendants in homicide and gang-related prosecutions while they were housed in the Orange County Jail in order to elicit 59 incriminating statements about their charged crimes in violation of the Sixth Amendment.”
And of course the prosecutors were complicit by keeping this information from the defense in violation of Brady requirements.
What will come of this? It is hard to know. But given the breadth and length of the charges, and the fact that the state of California including multiple Democratic Attorney Generals since 2014 have failed to act, any prosecutor committing misconduct has little to fear.
Quite simply—the system is broken. There are some solutions that California could consider. New York for instance has created a Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct which will receive, initiate, investigate and hear complaints related to qualifications, conduct, fitness to perform and performance of official duties of any prosecutor in New York State.
At the Vanguard event, Jeffrey Deskovic, who was wrongly convicted in New York at the age of 17 based on prosecutorial misconduct, along with Bill Bastuk is attempting to bring a similar commission to California, through the efforts of their non-profit, It Could Happen to You.
Short of that, it is not clear how prosecutors can be held accountable. Unless of course, the voters decide they have seen enough.