How pupils of US leftwing activists come to power as attorneys — Analysis

Leftist extremists raised their children in reformist beliefs. Now they decide on how to punish criminals

According to San Francisco police, Troy Ramon McAlister, a habitual criminal, sped down a city street on New Year’s Eve in a stolen car, ran a red light, struck another vehicle, and plowed into two pedestrians – killing them both.

McAlister, 45 years old, was under the influence and jumped out of McAlister’s car. He fled to a nearby building where officers located him and quickly arrested him. The vehicle contained a pistol with an extended magazine as well as suspected drugs.

That was the case, according to Bill Scott (City Police Chief), “senseless tragedy that shouldn’t have happened;”His officers knew that the suspect was known. In April 2020, he was released on parole from prison for robbery. He has since been repeatedly arrested for violating that parole including theft of cars and drug possession. 

Despite all these arrests, however, prosecutors supervised by San Francisco’s progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin chose not to file charges on any of those occasions, allowing McAlister to stay on the streets until the New Year’s Eve fatalities.

San Francisco has been suffering from an uncontrolled, ongoing plague of home invasion robberies. Residents also have one of America’s highest rates for car theft.

Some 400 miles to the south, the railway yards of Los Angeles are strewn with trash and debris as the city’s surging homeless population takes to raiding trains full of retail items and mail order packages with impunity.

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Shawn Laval Smith, 24, was arrested by police in town for murdering Brianna Kufer (24-year-old UCLA student who worked at a small furniture shop). According to records, the homeless wanderer and bail jumper were charged in multiple cases across Los Angeles County over the past two years. However, George Gascon (progressive district attorney) delayed filing charges against Smith prior to the apparent random murder.

Alvin Bragg, the incoming New York District attorney, has stated that his office will now only prosecute the most serious crimes. Restaurants and businesses in the five boroughs have also begun to hire their own security personnel to combat the skyrocketing crime rate of Big Apple.

While across in Philadelphia, DA Larry Krasner has presided over an all-time record for homicides in the city, with 561 murders in 2021 – while carjackings tripled over the last year.

The unifying feature in all of these true crime reports is the presence of a progressive, reform-minded Democrat prosecutor in the DA’s office. Many were elected to power in the wake of the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, and they took the mandate to strike down a racist criminal justice system.

An important law enforcement debate is currently raging in the face rising crime. It involves conservatives who think the only responsibility of a prosecution to prosecute and convict criminals and progressives who view an opportunity to recalibrate the system they feel too punitive towards minor suspects.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is one of many who point the finger at DAs, accusing them of being too lenient with recidivist offenders and adding to skyrocketing crimes. After the killing of the two pedestrians on New Year’s Eve, Scott chose his words carefully, saying that his police department took responsibility “whenever we fall short of expectations… That’s an approach every element of our criminal justice system needs to embrace. We must all be held equally accountable for the decisions we make, because they can have serious implications for the safety of those we serve.”

Even Troy McAlister’s family are critical of the DA for letting him back out on the streets after his 2015 armed robbery. “I don’t know why they released him. I really cannot understand that,”According to Theo Smith, his uncle.

Rebecca Goldstein is a professor of law at Berkeley’s Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program. She disputes the notion that big-city prosecutors see reform as more important than charging and convicting criminals.

“These reform prosecutors would certainly dispute the notion that they view their jobs as reformers first and criminal prosecutors second,” Goldstein says. “I think they’d argue that effective criminal prosecution doesn’t just count up convictions. The idea is to provide justice for both victims and offenders by using the prosecutor’s discretion to arrive at fair outcomes, rather than seeking the harshest possible penalties at all times.”

Michael O’Hear, a law professor at Marquette University, agrees with Goldstein that it’s an oversimplification to see a district attorney’s job as either prosecutor or reformer.

“I’m not sure everyone would agree that ‘reform’ and ‘prosecution’ are separate jobs,” O’Hear says. “Prosecutorial reforms are usually framed as efforts to make prosecution more efficient and effective in reducing crime. The disputes relate more to means than ends.”

O’Hear believes progressive DAs emphasize rehabilitative treatment, alternatives to conventional charging and sentencing, and building trust with marginalized communities. Traditionalists, on the other hand, emphasize incapacitation and deterrent threats to repeat offenders by convictions and imprisonment.

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“My sense is that many (but not all) police officers and line prosecutors have more confidence in the traditional than the progressive approach,” O’Hear adds. “Defense lawyers tend to favor the progressive approach. I suspect that judges may on the whole be more traditionalist, although the same political forces that have aided progressive prosecutors in some cities may be affecting the judiciary, too.”

Race and politics are key factors in the dispute between traditional and progressive philosophies, as they do with many aspects of society. The Floyd case has shown that race is the main reason why urban DAs refuse to prosecute lesser offenses or avoid secondary charges, such as gun possession.

San Francisco’s Boudin and LA’s Gascon are leading the charge in employing prosecutorial reform as a weapon against perceived systemic racism. Both men stated in public that they consider the racial disparities in prison population sizes to be due to inequitable prosecution.

To the progressive’s perception, reformers like Boudin and Gascon are fighting to stop the trend of racial minorities constituting a majority percentage of prison populations. These reformers, to the traditional or conservative mindset, are basically saying that criminals should be prosecuted. “Life dealt you an unfair hand. Now you get to commit some crimes without punishment.”

Among the California pair, Boudin had the strangest path to the DA’s office. David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin were convicted for the murder of Boudin’s parents in 1981 Weather Underground Brink robbery. Boudin’s mother was sentenced to 20 years to life, and his father received a sentence of 75 years to life for the felony murders of two police officers and a security guard. They have been released.

Boudin was still an infant when his parents sent him to prison. His mother was Bernardine Dohrn (activists from the left) raised Boudin.Weather Underground.Originating from 1960s-based Students for a Democratic Society in college, the group was a group of protestors that incorporated Marxism Black Power, political anarchy and Marxism. The group began bombing government buildings and banks, shifting from activism to violent terrorist acts in the 1970s.

Although the Vietnam War ended the group’s prominence on the cultural stage, some members still committed violent crimes. The Boudin-led Brink’s robbery was one of the group’s final crimes before its eventual dissolution. Waverley brown, the first American black officer in his small-town New York Police Department, was among the victims of this attack.

The ascension of the younger Boudin to high public office shocked many – even in the extremely progressive city of San Francisco – when the public defender, who had never charged a criminal in his career, became the lead prosecutor in California’s second-largest city.

After a massive spike in Bay Area crime that shocked even San Francisco’s progressive mayor, Boudin now faces a recall election. San Franciscans will determine if voting in a long-time criminal defender to office as DA was a mistake on June 7. To the south, Gascon is being forced to resign by petitions.

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Despite those attempts to oust Boudin & Gascon, Goldstein claims that there haven’t been many electoral buyers’ remorse about reform-minded DAs.

“No one elected to a chief prosecutor position on a reform platform has yet lost reelection,” Goldstein explains. “(Philadelphia DA) Larry Krasner faced a huge increase in homicides in 2020 compared to 2019, and he still won his primary with a landslide 65% to 35% margin against a longtime homicide prosecutor whom he’d fired in the first few weeks of his term.”

Goldstein pointed out DAs Kim Foxx in Chicago and Kim Gardner in St. Louis, who won reelection despite increasing crime. “There has certainly been vocal opposition to these officials, largely from the same quarters that criticized them during their initial campaigns,”Sie says. “But I don’t think it’s fair to characterize this as widespread buyer’s remorse at all.”

Rachel Barkow is the faculty director of the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, New York University. She agrees with Goldstein about elections being the main determinant of reforms.

“I think you’re seeing people who never supported these DAs in the first place (such as police unions) continuing to campaign against them even after they won their elections,”Barkow: “They’re trying to relitigate the outcome of the election in the press. It may appear that there is more opposition to the election than actually exists, but this is because the media are open to spin it. But the real measure is what happens when these DAs come up for reelection.”

Barkow insists reform is possible everywhere if there’s political will to do it, and she sees these DAs under fire as looking for a new way to keep communities safe.

“I think every DA, including Gascon and Boudin, prioritizes public safety,”She adds. “When they pursue reforms, it is because they believe, based on data and evidence, that those reforms will yield better safety outcomes than the status quo approach.”

All cities (San Francisco and Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago etc.) were mentioned. Blue State progressive enclaves that have been around for a long time, where it is difficult for conservative candidates to gain support. Publicly supported recalls are the best way to remove such prosecutors.

Turning aside the never-ending war of progressive against conservative, O’Hear believes the struggles for criminal reform are often due to the bureaucratic nature of the district attorney’s world.

“There is a lot of inertia in such organizations that can make them resistant to change,”He said. “Since there is never a shortage of crime in these cities, opponents of reform will always be able to point to one horrific crime or another that can be blamed on a ‘soft’ DA. On the other hand, for proponents of reform, it is precisely the large volume of urban crime that necessitates new approaches.”

O’Hear breaks the ongoing struggle between incarceration and reformation down simply: “The argument is that there aren’t enough criminal justice resources available to catch, convict and incarcerate every criminal, so resources need to be used more efficiently. For example, it costs less to give treatment to an offender in the community than to incarcerate that offender, and, depending on the quality of the program, treatment may also do a better job than incarceration of reducing the offender’s risk of reoffense. That means more crime-reduction bang for the criminal-justice buck.”

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America’s attention to the pitfalls of such criminal reform efforts sharpened during the Christmas parade in Waukesha in December. After less than 45 minutes, the red Ford SUV drove at highway speeds down the entire parade route. He drove straight into children and women before fleeing the scene. Sixteen people, including one child were killed and dozens more were injured. The final victim left the area’s children’s hospital on January 15.

Waukesha police found the SUV in less than an hour after the attack and detained Darrel J. Brooks Jr. Brooks is the owner of a lengthy criminal history that has been spread over three states. Brooks faces 71 counts, including six for murder.

A public records search revealed Brooks’ history with violent crime and sex charges running as recently as early November. The parade attacker allegedly confronted and attacked a female outside of a hotel. He then ran over her with the same SUV he used to attack the woman.

Brooks was charged with vehicular assault. He paid $1,000 cash bail and fled a Milwaukee County courtroom. After his six victims died, Milwaukee’s own reform prosecutor, District Attorney John Chisholm, called the $1,000 bail “inappropriate” while facing calls for his own removal by Wisconsin conservative officials.

In the end, O’Hear considers the debate over prosecution and reform as a case of political philosophies at odds.“I think reasonable minds might differ on how the DA’s ‘primary responsibility’ should be defined and whether ‘prosecuting crime’ should be equated with obtaining convictions and filling jail and prison cells,”He said. “If the DA’s primary responsibility is understood to be making the best use of scarce criminal justice resources for crime-prevention purposes, the current crime surge should indeed be a major concern for progressive prosecutors, if only from a political standpoint.”



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