Photo by Lola M. Chavez

On Dec. 31, 60-year-old Elizabeth Platt and 27-year-old Hanako Abe were struck and killed at Second and Mission by a speeding automobile. Those are the underlying facts, and none of the subsequent sound and fury can undo that. These women would never cross the street, nor cross into 2021. 

Second and Mission is one of San Francisco’s more diabolical intersections, with a place on the city’s “high-injury network.” The reduction of pedestrian and vehicular traffic in a pandemic year was painfully obvious to the proprietors of dying businesses in this and so many San Francisco neighborhoods. And yet, in 2020, we suffered the identical number of traffic fatalities as in 2019.

But this instance of pedestrians being struck by a speeding car on a wide SoMa street isn’t a traffic story. Or at least that’s not why it induced a political firestorm. 

Rather, the focus was on the alleged driver of the (stolen) vehicle that struck and killed Platt and Abe: Troy Ramon McAlister. The multiple felon had been paroled in April following an armed robbery hitch and was arrested on a series of alleged property crimes since that time — and yet, DA Chesa Boudin’s office did not file any subsequent charges in the intervening months, with McAlister instead being repeatedly referred to parole. 

In what appears to be a SNAFU, the San Francisco Police Department, in contravention of its own policies, failed to contact the parole office following McAlister’s most recent arrest, on Dec. 20 — despite a written reminder from the DA’s office to do so.  

Regardless, throughout McAlister’s busy 2020 — “four or five arrests,” per the DA’s office — the parole office never saw fit to revoke his parole, leaving the 45-year-old free and clear on New Year’s Eve to purportedly slam through an intersection while allegedly high on methamphetamine.

And here’s a rotten cherry on the rancid sundae: A woman on Dec. 29 reported to Daly City police that her date, McAlister, robbed her car from her while she left to pick up food, after having earlier showed off a pistol to her. McAlister’s parole status and location were known to Daly City police, but they put off corralling him until the new year. 

Too late.     

District Attorney Chesa Boudin talks to supporters after his January 2020 inauguration. Photo by Julian Mark .

The storylines that emerged in the wake of this sad tragedy, like the obituaries for aging politicians or entertainers, had a distinctly pre-written feel about them. 

The spectacle of a serial offender leaving behind a wake of destruction — and, ultimately, death — was a readymade accelerant for the seething, amorphous and anecdotally driven rancor that the leftist DA is falling down on the job and failing to charge lawbreakers. This is an easy case to make to San Franciscans weary of ransacked cars and, increasingly, ransacked homes. 

The drumbeat against the DA grew when it was reported that McAlister’s 2015 armed robbery attempt could’ve netted him a decades-long sentence under California’s three-strikes law. Instead, the DA’s office signed off on a five-year term and parole — Boudin does not, in ordinary circumstances, charge status enhancements such as a prior strike, rendering five or six years the max sentence. McAlister, once released, promptly began racking up arrests. 

And that served as the foundation of the criticisms leveled at Boudin’s office in the wake of New Year’s Eve: If only this man was incarcerated, he wouldn’t be out committing crimes, and those two innocent women would be alive. 

Well, that’s true. Reductive, but true: If McAlister had been locked up, he couldn’t have been out committing crimes and hurting people — intentionally or negligently. Same goes for everyone.

And, writ large, that notion has also served as the guiding philosophy behind the justice system in this state for generations. Present-day Californians fancy themselves a liberal bunch, but we continue to incarcerate alarming numbers of people based on strikingly punitive laws.

It may come as a surprise to readers that, less than a decade ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s prison system had grown so overcrowded that it constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.” Between 1976 and 2006, this state’s prison population skyrocketed from 21,000 to around 173,000. 

As mandated by the Supreme Court, the prison population has dipped; when, over the summer, it dropped to a mere 99,900, it was seen as a cause for fanfare. And yet our system is still at 120 percent capacity while a pandemic rips through our prisons — to date, nearly 44,000 prisoners have contracted Covid-19, and more than 150 have died. 

What’s more, the violent crime rate in 1976 dwarfs that of the present, yet our expanded prison system carries five times the inmates. 

California’s three-strikes law — the one some observers are now lamenting wasn’t wielded like a cudgel to put McAlister away until he was an octogenarian — fueled our state’s incarceration bonanza, even after violent-crime rates subsided. An estimated 90 percent of all three-strike sentences nationwide came here in the Golden State.   

Sorry, we’ve wandered a bit far from Mission and Second and two innocent women dead on the pavement. But there are, indeed, larger societal forces at play in McAlister’s story, just as there are larger societal forces at play whenever a parolee commits a heinous crime and the system is vehemently questioned based on a highly publicized tragedy. 

It’s relevant to examine how decades of California criminal justice history led us to this moment. But we must also look at this individual case — and assign accountability — for its particulars: Firstly, for this man, McAlister, who chose to do what he did. And for the local systems that, ultimately, have done little to remedy his behavior. Nor keep us safe from it. 

The granular details of how and why Troy Ramon McAlister pinballed through various vestiges of the criminal justice system between April and December are maddening, complex, and maddeningly complex. 

When a suspect is arrested, San Francisco Police Departmental General Order 6.12 states officers should contact the parole office. This appears to have happened during McAlister’s earlier 2020 arrests, as “parole holds” were placed on him during several stints in County Jail — meaning he would stay put until a parole officer authorized his release. 

Additionally, Mission Local has obtained emails written by an attorney in the DA’s office, Armando Miranda, who took it upon himself to contact parole officers. On June 29, 2020, he noted that McAlister, under an alias, was arrested on suspicion of burglary, misrepresenting himself to a peace officer, and possessing burglary tools. On Aug. 21, Miranda wrote informing them of a McAlister arrest on suspicion of auto burglary and receiving stolen property. 

On Dec. 22, Assistant DA Kimberly Williams wrote to the SFPD’s felony rebooking email address, as well as Sgt. Tina To, stating “Sgt. To — Please contact CDC regarding Defendant’s alleged misbehavior.” Attached was an investigation record showing charges of suspicion of car theft, and possessing stolen property, meth possession, burglary tools and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The purpose of these emails is ostensibly a heads-up for parole to deal with an incoming subject — either by incarcerating him or mandating lesser outcomes, such as home detention, or daily check-ins, or referring him to a network of treatment providers. 

“Why do this multiple times when everybody knows parole doesn’t do shit?”

former San Francisco prosecutor

But no “parole hold” was placed on McAlister following that December arrest. He was free to purportedly rob that car in Daly City, then kill two pedestrians with it while allegedly driving intoxicated. 

The SFPD confirmed that To was out of town at the time of Williams’ message, and did not return until after McAlister was released. Other officers monitoring the felony rebooking email did not make the call — it seems they assumed Sgt. To handled this. 

Our messages to the parole office querying what calls it received and what, if any, interventions the office took regarding McAlister only elicited the same broad statement it has released to all media outlets:  

None of the parolee’s arrests following his 2020 release have yet to result in filings of criminal charges by the District Attorney. Our parole office followed all procedures after these incidents, including conducting investigations and making appropriate referrals for the individual.

SFPD clearance rates for 2020, starting on DA Chesa Boudin’s inaugural day. While crime was, overall, down 25 percent, clearance rates were — counter-intuitively — down too.

The parole office appears to be stating that it took its lead from the DA. And yet, the reverse appears to be true as well: Just as the parole office says it declined to revoke McAlister’s parole in large part because the DA declined to file charges, the DA’s office states it declined to file charges in large part because the parole office never saw fit to revoke McAlister’s parole. 

There is a very bad O. Henry vibe going on here. And, in the fog of miscommunication, we’ve had a shipwreck of sorts. 

When I asked DA Boudin just what became of McAlister all those times he was referred to parole, he said he’s not certain, and there’s no expedient and formal way for him to find out. This is the kind of information that’s obtained via phone calls or texts or emails among acquaintances on an informal and case-by-case basis; there is no system, per se. 

Boudin’s office was told that, on at least one of the parole holds, McAlister’s parole officer met with him and had an extensive discussion. The DA’s office was further told that the parole office “tried to get him into some program.” Clearly any such effort did not succeed — and Mission Local has seen no written evidence of any interventions the parole office took regarding McAlister.  

But even this level of communication between the DA and parole office seems only to have come post-facto, after McAlister’s circuitous path came to an abrupt end at Mission and Second. 

“In an ideal world,” says Boudin, “We’d say, ‘We’d love it if you could handle this so as not to clog up our caseload.’ They’d say, ‘This is something we can address with treatment or intermediate sanctions. Let us work with him.’ Then they might call up and say, ‘He walked away from the program. You should file charges.’” 

This should happen. “It doesn’t,” Boudin continues. “There is virtually no communication between my office and parole, and what communication does exist is from the lawyer handling parole court. And she does not handle charging decisions.”

So, this is a problem. This should change, especially considering that the DA sees merit in discharging low- to mid-level cases to parole rather than filing new charges. 

“State prison hasn’t picked up a single individual in San Francisco since early April. I literally cannot send anybody to prison.”

DA Chesa Boudin

And why do this? Well, it doesn’t appear to be a sign of creeping radicalism infiltrating the DA’s office via Boudin. The elected DA is not personally involved in charging decisions involving every suspected auto burglary; the three attorneys who handled McAlister’s cases are all 20-plus-year office veterans whom Boudin says “do not care about my politics.” 

Rather, shunting misdemeanors (or even low-level felonies of the auto burglary variety) to parole is simply viewed as an expedient way to clear out cases. In fact, tough-on-crime former Los Angeles DA Jackie Lacey, recently supplanted by George Gascón running from her left, in March adopted Covid-related policies both limiting the filing of new cases and referrals to the parole office. 

There are practical reasons for this, in addition to any feel-good political messaging about “decarceration.” 

“State prison hasn’t picked up a single individual in San Francisco since early April. I literally cannot send anybody to prison,” said Boudin. “I have like 40 or 50 guys sentenced to state prison who are still in county jail.” 

Fair enough. But current and former county prosecutors contacted by Mission Local said they still feel it was a bad move for Boudin’s office to repeatedly discharge McAlister to parole when there was so little clarity on what, if any, repercussions this triggered. 

“If the point is to discharge to parole, you better have a fucking answer about what happens when you do that — or what are you doing?” queried one former San Francisco prosecutor. 

“How are you treating public safety seriously when you don’t know what’s on the other side?” 

What’s on the other side, the prosecutor alleges, isn’t much: “Why do this multiple times when everybody knows parole doesn’t do shit?” 

And yet, had Boudin filed charges “it would have changed nothing,” the prosecutor surmised. 

That sounds about right: Data provided by the SFPD indicates that, even with parole holds in place, McAlister exited the jail in well less than a week on two recent property crime arrests; minus a parole hold in his third recent incident, his sojourn was shortened by only perhaps a couple of days.  

“He’d be out of custody,” continued the prosecutor. “It’s a pandemic. It’s San Francisco. Gimme a fucking break.” 

Remember Introducing Spider-Man, Amazing Fantasy No. 15 from 1962? No? Remember that part where young Peter Parker sees a blond-haired suspected thief running from a slow-footed cop, and fails to intervene? And you remember what happened? 

That suspected thief shot Peter’s Uncle Ben dead in a botched robbery. 

If only this man was incarcerated, he wouldn’t be out committing crimes, and Uncle Ben would be alive. 

Santa Clara University law professor David Ball remembers that. He wrote an October, 2020, paper about incarceration called The Peter Parker Problem. The recriminations bandied around in the wake of McAlister’s alleged crime spree are eerily similar to those he wrote about, using a 59-year-old comic book as inspiration. 

“How was Peter to know that the man running past him that fateful night was even violent, much less a killer? There was no evidence of violence and people who steal (and leave witnessing police alive) aren’t necessarily violent,” wrote Ball. “In this case, the simple causal story promotes simple solutions. Peter Parker decides to wear a spider costume and fight crime as Spider-Man.”

Elizabeth Platt and Hanako Abe are dead, and that did not need to happen. The concatenation of missteps that led to McAlister purportedly careening through a red light and killing them, as stated above, do not conjure up comparisons to a Swiss watch; there is, plainly, room for improvement. 

But it is a stretch to say that, clearly, someone should’ve known that a man on a run of property crimes would predictably harm people, and do it in this way. 

Rather, the accusations now being tossed about seem designed to more broadly appeal to people grumbling about a DA who fails to prosecute wrongdoing, leading to commuter criminals and lawless impunity. Accusations of this sort have, in some form, been leveled at the San Francisco DA’s office for a decade, if not more.

Let the record show that Boudin’s office last year charged 73 percent of residential burglaries presented to it by the police; Gascón in 2019 prosecuted 75 percent. Boudin last year charged 78 percent of drug cases; Gascón in 2019 charged 83 percent. Boudin in 2020 charged 75 percent of homicide cases; Gascón in 2019 charged 65 percent. 

These numbers are not so dissimilar — and crime, in San Francisco, dropped 25 percent in 2020. 

These statistics should not be used to console someone who’s been burgled or robbed or harmed or lost a loved one. But it is a better basis for policy-making than shocking anecdotes; Ball notes that lurid commercials about Willie Horton’s criminality may well have turned the 1988 presidential election — but 99 percent of the inmates in his Massachusetts furlough program did not re-offend. 

You don’t know the names of the thousands of men who did nothing wrong. You don’t know anything about the successes. But you do know Willie Horton. 

Whose name will you learn next?

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Joe Eskenazi

Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. “Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior...

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48 Comments

  1. Decent write up until you get to the statistics at the end which are, simply put, extremely lazily analyzed: not all charges are made equal so comparing charge rates is not particularly informative (and what’s the difference on the margin?), and year over year crime counts ignore both Simpson’s Paradox and the fact that San Francisco’s 2020 daytime population, and therefore per capita statistics, is nothing like 2019.

    1. statistics nerd here. I whole-heartedly agree with Jake T’s prior comment above, both on the decent write-up but also the gross mis-comparison of statistics at the end between the prior DA and Boudin.

      If you do not present the collection method, the dependent variables (and Bayesian implications), or even likely biasing in the data, it’s very hard to agree with your conclusion that Boudin is simply the victim of a misguided recall campaign for which there is no numerical basis.

      1. I agree with Jake T and Edward. In fact, I’ll go farther and say that the author cherry-picked his data, choosing to highlight data for certain crime—home burglary, drugs, and homicide—but electing not to present the overall view. A review of the DA’s data (https://sfdistrictattorney.org/policy/da-stat/) indicates that:

        1. The DA in 2020 filed cases in 45% of the arrests presented, as opposed to 55% and 52% in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

        2. The DA in 2020 acted in some way on 58% of the arrests presented, as opposed to 68% and 66% in 2018 and 2019.

        3. The DA in 2020 filed on 47% of the felonies presented, as opposed to 60% and 57% in 2018 and 2019.

        If we’re going to play the year-over-year game, those numbers are “dissimilar.“

        1. Sir or madam —

          These stats are useful and I look forward to reporting them out. As for choosing burglary, drugs and homicide, I picked these crimes not to make anyone look good or bad but because they’re the crimes people complain most about — and complain are not being charged.

          Best,

          JE

          1. Nobody is complaining about charges or not, they’re complaining about lack of convictions secured.

            Why aren’t total convictions being reported by the DA?

  2. Joe, you’re apologizing and propagandizing for Boudin. Sad and shameful for a so-called “journalist.”

    1. Sir —

      You need to read the words on the page. I’m sorry that the facts and contentions in this article don’t correspond 100 percent with your preordained views, but that’s the nature of things.

      As far as being a journalist, you can take the scare quotes out. I write it on my tax forms and everything. Once again, my employment status is not determined by whether or not you agree with the facts and contentions in my stories.

      Yours,

      JE

      1. Joe, all you’re doing here is damage control for Boudin. Maybe you should just go work in the DA’s office as Boudin’s PR guy.

  3. Is there anyway to look up what the actual sentences were for these prosecution statistics? We’re they placed in a drug program, or incarcerated as they should be for violating the law?

    1. Steven — 

      I believe this is possible, but difficult. As you would imagine. It is challenging to make perfect sense of District Attorney’s statistics. A Boudin predecessor, for example, was known for settling cases so as to not tarnish their prosecutorial record. This is hard to nail down without concerted effort.

      JE

      1. Joe – this is the most comprehensive piece I’ve seen on this incident, nice work. But did you really just say that it’s ok that maybe you got it wrong because it would have taken a “concerted effort” to get it right?

        1. No, Mitch. This is in response to a query about tracking down the specifics of every last sentencing decision by this office and in reference to procedural/numerical tricks employed by a prior DA.

          Yours,

          JE

  4. You explain things in a most understandable fashion Joe. You pretty much cover all the bases. I would thumbnail portray it like this….The criminal justice system around these parts is like a giant plumbing problem. There is too much shit in the system to have any flow . There is not nearly enough money to hire the plumbing contractor to get it to work. “ It’s all about the money honey”

  5. It’s good to see at least one journalist on the job in this town. Thanks. One question still open: Is this an either/or situation? Couldn’t the DA charge the case AND have the Parole Board take constraining action?

    1. Gregski —

      Yes, that is possible. The DA can file charges and put in for a parole revocation. But, going back to 2013, it is *not* policy here (and I believe elsewhere in the state) for a DA to put in for a parole revocation if there are not new charges filed. That duty is left to the parole office.

      Yours,

      JE

      1. All the more reason to file new charges. On any or all of the 5 new cases since Boudin let this perp out last April.

      2. So, a question – is this situation about supervision or coordination? Does the DA’s office supervise what the parole officers/board are doing or does the DA’s office hand a parolee case over to the parole side to take action as needed? Somehow, everything fell through the cracks here and we don’t want to have anymore wonderful lives lost. What all needs to happen here, so that going forward, parolees are managed, such that if they violate parole – even the very first time they violate parole (Troy was let out in April and evidently committed his 1st crime in June), they are caught and held so that they cannot be out anymore hurting the public? Aren’t there terms of parole saying that if any crime is committed, they go back in? Do all parties involved – police, parole board, whoever, have access to the parole info to know who they’re dealing with? If they have that access and see who they’re dealing with, then they can take appropriate action. The main issue is to get any parolee back in jail the 1st time they start committing crime again.

        1. Robin — 

          Good questions. Before a change under Gov. Schwarzenegger, parole restrictions were so tight that 50 percent of state inmates were in on parole violations.

          So, that was untenable.

          There needs to be enough communication and nuance that someone isn’t automatically hustled back to prison on the first violation (but could be if that’s deemed the right call) and we don’t have people like McAlister getting fourth and fifth chances with no discernible interventions.

          There ought to be a system for coordination and communication and there ought to be a workable point between those extremes.

          JE

  6. Joe,

    Thanks for giving Chesa a fair shake.

    The ‘for profit’ Private Prison Industry will fight you every step of the way.

    Mostly thru right wing groups like the SFPOA.

    Hope the Niners get Najee Harris.

    h.

  7. “But it is a stretch to say that, clearly, someone should’ve known that a man on a run of property crimes would predictably harm people, and do it in this way. ”

    This is where you’re going to lose a lot of people. You do a good job using the data to show your point, but data can’t be the only thing used to analyze life situations. By all accounts, a person critically looking at how Mr. McAlister conducted himself can deduce that he was a complete piece of shit. People who do nothing good for society should not be allowed to live within it. This guy should have been in jail. If that notion means I need to move my ideological identity to the right, so be it. We’ll agree to disagree on the type of society you and I want to live in. I can only wish that the Troy Ramon McAlister of the world live in your neighborhood and not mine.

    1. Sir or madam — 

      It’s a different thing to say that this man should’ve been kept off the streets and saying that a fatal traffic crash was predictable.

      Treating it that way leads to a policy-by-disaster situation. Instead, we should be asking why he was repeatedly referred to parole with no discernible actions taken.

      Yours,

      JE

      1. You’re mistaking the critics saying it was predictable with them saying it was avoidable. Policy disaster to whom? Believe it or not, there are a lot of San Franciscans who still ride with law and order over justice reform. If dishing out punishment worked for the Mesopotamians, it’ll do fine for us.

      1. Better question is, how much did you get paid for this? This is not journalism. It’s crappy propaganda.

        1. “I disagree with the author, who, therefore, must be in league with the subject of the article” is the most cliched and half-bright feedback any working journalist can receive.

          So, congrats: This is a crappy comment.

          JE

  8. I’m honestly shocked by the tweet you put in this article which says: “If I’m hit and killed by a driver on a dangerous, overwide street, and the driver had a history of committing property crimes, don’t make it about the f***ing property crimes”. Let me correct that. It should say “If I’m hit and killed by a driver in a stolen car with no license, no insurance, and HIGH ON METH, don’t make it about the f***ing dangerous, overwide (sic) street”

  9. Joe – concerned missionite here. I find it maddening when I hear that crime was down 25% in 2020 but burglaries are up 75% in the mission and clearly the most serious crimes (other than rape, I believe) are way up, like hot prowls, armed robberies and homicides. The crimes that really effect people the most. I don’t think it’s anecdotal. It’s not safe at all to walk around at night due to violent predatory commuters. I also don’t see a lot of other cities with this problem because they’re taking repeat offenders more seriously. Everybody wants criminal justice reform. We all want to let out the people caught with weed in the 90s, or with some BS 3rd strike, but the violent repeat offenders breaking into peoples houses and stealing 5+ cars with impunity absolutely do need to be take much more seriously, including real jail time, until there’s an effective system in place. You should poll the repeat offenders and ask if they think SF is a welcoming place for career predators.

  10. Not sure I agreed with the overall framing of the piece but definitely a valuable perspective on things versus just reading the Chronicle’s coverage.

    Yes there are systemic failures and complex history behind the deaths of Elizabeth Platt and Hanako Abe. And it is neither realistic nor fair to expect the DA to be involved in the intricate details of every case going through his department. But Boudin has agency too — for example, he has rightly taken a more active responsibility in the handling of police brutality when previously they could be referred to external decision makers. Upon becoming DA, he could have conducted a review of how his department coordinates with the parole board, and discovered this dangerous communication failure.

    Officials have limited time, so people will inevitably judge their priorities based on what they do and don’t do. I actually agree with Boudin’s view that, in the long term, reducing incarceration and finding more alternative justice paths is better not only for the accused but also for public safety at large. But in the short term, it could be argued that pursuing that goal causes at least some marginal increase in risk to public safety. That may be the right trade off to make in order to eventually get to the society that we want to live in. But we ought to acknowledge there is always a trade off.

  11. Troy McAllister is emblematic of the dysfunctional San Francisco criminal justice system. For the most part, the criminals in SF are quickly released, re-arrested, and then go on to burglarize, rob, etc without killing anyone. But it takes the McAllister case to get serious focus on Boudin and his great hesitancy to incarcerate. Hopefully, the SF courts’ practices and the DA’s policies are made more transparent to the public and are critiqued. Boudin is part of the larger problem of almost mindless de-carceration efforts. State Parole at one time was effective in how it handled parole violations but now they want to limit their prison population so they “hold” very few on violations. Boudin and his staff should be knowledgeable about what parole is likely to do with a case, and if they are not that is irresponsible. The public suffers as the new progressive prosecutors try out their ideas – some of the citizens did not have to die. Jail and prison are not the total solution. They are part of managing the problem. Education and diversion problems can be effective but neither are they the only remedy or the appropriate sanction. The SF criminal justice system is out of wack and it has been for a long while. Boudin has moved it further out in that trajectory, to the point that his office enables more that it impedes.

  12. Saying that any specific crime from this guy was predictable may not be fair.

    Saying that yet-another-crime from him was. You seem to take the approach that property crime doesn’t harm people. It does. It destroys peace of mind and feeling of safety. If it happens to someone who isn’t wealthy, it could destroy their savings, and have a lasting impact on their lives. So, yes, it was entirely predictable that he would harm someone again. He’d already done it multiple times while on parole, and with clearly no consequences, why would he stop? The only thing that was a question was how severe the damage would be.

    Shouldn’t we lock up people who I’m the midst of crime sprees? Isn’t that what the law is for, protecting the innocent?

  13. Thank you, Joe, for the article. I was waiting for you, after reading the other coverage. Our house was one of the recipients of way too many hate mailers against Chesa Boudin when he ran for DA. We figured, with such a high amount of law-and-order hostility, he might have some new ideas to offer. It has become pretty clear that just throwing people in jail is not the answer. I am hopeful that some of the efforts to “defund” the police will lead to better and more social workers and parole officers. And I hope that we will figure out how to confine people who are dangerous or disruptive — not in jails, but in some kind of more compassionate, therapeutic facility. They should not be allowed to just walk out.
    Again, thanks for the thoughtful coverage.

  14. Joe I have lived in the Mission for 18 years and I have enjoyed your work, but your conclusions are truly flawed. Two Points. One, if “the DA sees merit in discharging low- to mid-level cases to parole rather than filing new charges” surely they should be sure that they are having clear, transparent and traceable communication lines with the parole office. To not know is completely inexcusable, and reveals a DA with a strong political belief without the practical knowledge or common sense to implement it effectively. Two, you are correct in saying that property crime does not lead to violent crime; yet there is an absolute heuristic that includes the amount of crime, the drug use, and repeated offenses would be mean he is much much MORE likely to commit a violent crime. As such, a prudent DA would prioritize the safety of its citizens and, knowing that he could not rely on the imperfect parole system, file additional charges ASAP. Yet, his laziness to implement his beliefs effectively has meant two innocent people have died; their blood is on his hands.

    1. Ari — 

      Thanks for your kind words.

      I’m not sure how you read this article and don’t see the clear statements that it is not advisable to repeatedly discharge cases to parole without having any idea what interventions are being made, if any are at all.

      As for your second point that sounds solid. But the larger idea is, rather than see a guy who is arrested repeatedly for property crimes then kill people in a hit-and-run and react as if this was something that could, logically, have been predicted — or act punitively against future would-be parolees — I think the correct policy step is to examine how this individual was assigned to parole five times in just a few months. Clearly something was amiss, and nobody needed to die to reveal this.

      Best,

      JE

      1. Hey Joe, I think where you and Ari differ on the “clear statements” is that in Ari’s framing, more of the responsibility is directly put on Boudin, whereas your article focuses on the systemic failures. I think a lot of us are having hard time with this story because it doesn’t spend enough time on whether Boudin’s criminal justice priorities have affected his ability to effectively carry out his public safety duty. The answer may well be “no”, but it’s not explored enough.

  15. I am not a fan of the DA, but I do appreciate how you have illuminated the facts on this, @EskSF. I only wish you would shine your sharp eye onto the disproportionate swaths of our city that are allotted for motor vehicle (mis-)use. If 2nd Street were calmed/car-free, if there were fewer car lanes due to protected bike lanes, if there were ASE cameras, Hana & Elizabeth might be alive today.

    There should be:
    * two-factor authentication on cars so they can’t be stolen
    * speed limiters on all motor vehicles in cities/populated areas
    * speed limiters on parolees (accelerometers in ankle bracelets) so they can’t drive or even travel beyond the speed limit
    * a comprehensive tracking program for people who enter the criminal justice system to ensure that all appropriate agencies are aware of their pattern/history

    It seems so clear now. Why did two people have to die to see it? What else are we missing? (Hint: Vision Zero by a country mile)

  16. Nicely articulated, but a thoroughly apologist tome to diminish the shortcomings of the DA. By the way, Peter Parker’s job wasn’t to ensure public safety, it is Chesa’s. You think will be the only failed attempt to redeem someone by not adequately adjudicating them? Think again, and hopefully, the next victim of this largesse doesn’t die.

  17. Joe — While there is plenty of blame to go around, Boudin and the office he runs is 100% at fault for the not filing charges part. A person on parole for a violent felony (armed robbery), and then arrested 5 times in a 6 month period (almost one arrest per month) on charges including burglary, driving a stolen car, and meth was 100% a danger to society and should have at least been charged with crimes. Did we know he was going to kill 2 people? No. Did we know he was going to offend again. Absolutely. 100%

    How can we expect the police to do their job when they arrest a convicted violent felon on parole 5 times and charges are still not even filed. What do you think that does to police morale?

  18. My condolences to the families of the 2 innocent victims. Anytime a Parolee is arrested and/or have contact Police there’s an immediate the police puts and immediate hold and takes the parolee to jail. The parole office is contacted and a revocation hearing is set, while the parolee sits in jail. Oftentimes there is no charges. The parolee is still incarcerated. That’s the way it works, ask all of the parole violators who are incarcerated for coming in contact with Police. In this case, SFPD and Parole Supervision failed the public. Failure is not an option, 2 innocent lives were lost and families devastated.

  19. There is a systemic problem of highly dissadvantaged people, causing crime to be a more frequent choice.

    Punishing crime less does not solve the problem. More effective crime stopping, and preventions does.

    Install cameras at every intersection, have a live team dedicated to tracking down any reported violent crime perpetrator. If the city can effectivly catch 99% of all the violent crimes, it will get much safer.

  20. Your article makes it sound like it was Boudin’s office who dealt McAllister’s 2015 case by agreeing to a 5 year prison term with no enhancements. But Boudin only became DA in January of 2020 and couldn’t have had anything to do with that decision. He wasn’t even in the DA’s office before then. You also seem to be personally blaming Boudin for decisions made by deputy DA’s not to charge McAllister for these petty crimes, as if Boudin had to approve all of those decisions, which the main DA doesn’t do. Finally, you never mention that McAllister is now being prosecuted by Boudin’s office for homicide for the hit and run. Instead, the article makes it sound like Boudin’s office simply sent McAllister back to the parole authorities for killing the two ladies. Yet these other commenters are claiming you’re Boudin’s press agent. I don’t get it.

    1. You are right in saying that Boudin was not the DA in 2015, or even in the DA’s office. But to suggest that he had nothing to do with the 2015 decision overlooks the fact that he was a public defender working (in some capacity) in McAllister’s defense. I think it could have been written much clearer, but the implication was that Boudin has been keeping this guy out of prison in one way or another for the last 5 years. Boudin’s efforts failed, McAllister is in jail, and 2 innocent people are dead.

      We’ve seen a similar result in the recent arrest of Jerry Lyons. Released on parole in May, arrested 5 times since on drug/DUI/theft charges… slams into a pedestrian and 7 other cars while drunk driving a stolen vehicle. A 26 year old married father is dead, and Lyons is headed back to jail where he should have already been.
      https://sfist.com/2021/02/05/suspect-implicated-in-eight-car-crash-near-lake-merced/

  21. you are right, Boudin wasn’t the DA in 2015… he was a public defender. He worked to get Troy McAllister’s sentence reduced. The article could have stated this much more clearly, but I think the point being made was that Chesa Boudin has actively kept McAllister out of prison, one way or another, since 2015. In the end, he failed, McAllister is still in jail, and 2 innocent people are dead. This story was repeated last week when Jerry Lyons, on parole and arrested 5 times since May, struck and killed a pedestrian while drunk driving a stolen vehicle. A repeat offender is in jail, but not until they kill an innocent person.

  22. Thanks for the article, Joe.

    Clearly the DA’s office dropped the ball, but they weren’t the only ones who dropped it. When someone is repeatedly offending shortly after being released from prison, they need to be taken off the streets quickly. Especially when booze or drugs are involved,

    I do think the DA’s actions here were likely influenced by Boudin’s politics. He should learn from this mistake and move forward with that knowledge.

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