Brooke Jenkins Recall DA Chesa Boudin
Brooke Jenkins, left, seen here with recall chair Mary Jung on election night in June, went from spokesperson for the recall of DA Chesa Boudin to his successor. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan

Brooke Jenkins, the disgruntled former prosecutor who quit Chesa Boudin’s office to become the face of the recall, has been tabbed by Mayor London Breed to be the next District Attorney. 

It is a bold and combustible move from the mayor; of the names on Breed’s list, Jenkins is surely the riskiest choice. 

In Jenkins, 40, the mayor has elevated a smart, tough and outspoken prosecutor who even former legal adversaries — who were deeply disturbed by this choice — described as talented and formidable. Jenkins is both Black and Latina (but is not San Francisco’s first Black female DA; you’ll recall Vice President Kamala Harris). She is a telegenic presence who, demonstrably in her role as the recall’s figurehead, can broadly make her case to the people. In this, she’s a marked contrast from her employer-turned-target Boudin, who excelled in small or one-on-one situations, but often struggled to explain his policies and politics in the media. 

And Jenkins’ professed politics and policies align with the mayor’s. Jenkins has called for, if not a rolling back, an easing of the brakes on some of the reformist policies enacted or approved by Boudin: The wholesale elimination of cash bail; abandoning the use of “strikes” to enhance penalties; gang enhancements; or the charging of minors as adults. These are the sorts of things Breed would seem to favor in remedying “the bullshit that has destroyed our city.” 

So, those are the positives for the mayor. And nobody knows how Jenkins will perform in the office, because she has never done this job before. In fact, as one longtime former prosecutor put it, she’s “never managed anything more than an intern.” 

Vanquished DA Chesa Boudin stood atop a beer keg to address his supporters at his election night gathering at The Ramp. Photo by William Jenkins.

And that leads to the risky aspects of this appointment. The signature-gathering drive to oust Boudin was, in large part, fueled by viral videos and anecdotal tales of a crime wave that were belied by the city’s actual crime statistics. But the accusations that Boudin was an inexperienced leader who had not adequately managed the staff and the nuts-and-bolts elements of the office — well, let’s put it this way: Not even some folks campaigning for him would belie that (some do, vociferously). 

Within the DA’s office, Jenkins was seen as a talented up-and-comer, but not yet one of the star attorneys. She has not served in a management role. So the replacement of a young, first-time manager with a young, first-time manager does raise questions. 

As do specific aspects of Jenkins’ personality and her route to this job. Erstwhile legal opponents, even ones who praised her gumption and skill, said she had a tendency to make things personal. And her position as the figurehead of the recall portends a potential bloodletting at the DA’s office. And, inescapably, there is an odiousness in naming a key recall figure as the next DA; it gives off more than a whiff of political deal-making and angling for an appointment. 

Nobody would argue in favor of politicizing the District Attorney’s office. Certainly, the mayor’s office wouldn’t claim it’s doing this now (My specific questions to the mayor’s office were answered with a rote, monotone repetition of the phrase “Brooke Jenkins will be a great DA”). But arguing you’re not politicizing the DA’s office when you install the public-facing spokeswoman for the recall as the new DA seems like an almost parodic scenario; it’s the kind of case that calls for the counsel of Nathan Thurm

And that would be the case even if Jenkins hadn’t made a litany of broad claims against her former boss that were on the far end of credible, even for heated campaign rhetoric, let alone for a sitting DA expected to take the reins of a large and consequential city department.

Jenkins has never run for political office. She has never fund-raised in the manner befitting a candidate for citywide office. And she has only been registered to vote in San Francisco since November 2021, one month after she left the DA’s office. She previously resided in Union City.

The powers-that-be in City Hall have, in the very recent past, told me that deep city roots are necessary to lead significant departments here; you wouldn’t want someone who “wouldn’t have known 28th Street from 28th Avenue.” 

Apparently that ethos was malleable. 

Apropos of that, it is difficult to know exactly what Jenkins’ ethos is. Before she became Boudin’s harshest and most visible critic in 2021, she was, in 2020, singing his praises. 

In emails previously excerpted in the Chronicle, she, in July, 2020, wrote to Boudin that she’s “been nothing but pleased with what you’ve accomplished so far. I commend the work you’ve done and believe it will greatly impact the criminal justice system here in San Francisco.” In September of that year, she wrote Boudin “I love this!” regarding his formation of a post-conviction unit and innocence commission. “I literally had planned to speak to whoever was elected about creating something like this. … Thank you!!!!” 

Boudin, in August, 2020, rebuked the California District Attorneys Association for attempting to pressure the National Football League into withdrawing a public service announcement featuring the family of Stephon Clark, who was shot dead by Sacramento Police. Jenkins wrote to him “When I see things like this, I remember why I am so proud to be a part of this office. Thank you for all that you are doing.” 

Boudin’s defenders point to this as proof Jenkins is an opportunist. That’s their interpretation of things. What’s not up for debate is that things certainly worked out well for Jenkins. 

The breaking point for the former DA and his successor was ostensibly the murder trial of Daniel Gudino, who, in 2020, horrifically slaughtered his own mother.  

Jenkins successfully argued the murder case. But the jury deadlocked 7-5 on the question of whether Gudino was sane or not, with the majority finding that he was not sane. 

While Jenkins wanted to take another shot at putting Gudino in prison, Boudin accepted an insanity plea that resulted in Gudino being incarcerated in a locked mental hospital instead. Jenkins came out swinging: She quit Boudin’s office, and argued that leniency in cases like these was imperiling San Franciscans. 

Well, that’s one way of looking at things. Another is: Three different experts testified that Gudino was severely mentally ill. He said he thought his mother was a clone and not a person; he was nude and spattered in blood when authorities found him. By that point, he had mutilated his mother’s corpse and lit her ablaze; his public defender described him as “on the porch screaming about demons and throwing charcoal at the neighbors.

While Gudino’s stepfather wasn’t in favor of his insanity plea, other members of his family, including his father, were. Again and again we’re told that District Attorneys must listen to victims. Unless, it seems, victims want fewer carceral outcomes instead of more. 

So this is a terrible and complicated case. And a concerning one. With all due respect, it is very hard not to argue that Gudino was deeply insane. And, over the objections of some (but not all) of his family members, Jenkins was determined to put him into prison. 

And this situation came up in an earlier case, too. In 2019, Jenkins was unsuccessful in convincing a jury that a man named Antonio Carter-Bibbs molested his stepdaughter. This, too, is a strange and terrible case. But it took a turn for the bizarre when a Public Defender investigator, who just happened to be in the courtroom to take in the proceedings, said he grew concerned by Jenkins’ behavior in the hallway. 

Reached on July 7, that investigator told Mission Local that he saw, and filmed, Jenkins telling the four-year-old alleged victim “Say that! Say that! That’s what you need to say.” 

His video was turned over to the defense and became an exhibit. He testified in open court. We are not using his name because, as he put it, “I still have a job to do, and it would be harder if I’m a pariah with the DA’s office.” But the subject matter of his sworn testimony is not in question. Nor is the outcome: Carter-Bibbs was acquitted of most of the charges, with the jury hanging on others. 

In the end, the judge did not take any action against Jenkins. Mission Local is told that he did “basically say, ‘no more talking to the witness.’” 

During the recall, Jenkins was uncritically labeled in the press as a “progressive prosecutor.” But the drive to put people into prison, to win at all costs with prison being that win and anything else being a loss, harks to a more traditional prosecutorial role. 

DA Chesa Boudin on May 18, 2022.

Jenkins is Mayor London Breed’s second nominee for DA. That’s got to be a record. Boudin defeated her first, Suzy Loftus. The electorate will determine what becomes of Jenkins in November. But she’ll have to hit the ground running and earn her office with the voters. 

Boudin hasn’t returned our calls. It’s not clear if he’ll run again (and in November, no less). But the selection of Jenkins must rankle; this could be perceived as spitting in his eye. 

But if Boudin does run, it figures to be a competitive race. Jenkins, again, has never run for office and is not an experienced fundraiser. She does not have the demographic advantage of Chinese American Nancy Tung, another aspirant for the position. And if Tung or one or more Aliotos runs in November — like Marsalis brothers, they always seem to be discovering new Aliotos — the moderates could, once again, split the vote and Boudin could triumph. 

The social ills that led 55 percent of voters in June’s election to opt for booting Boudin from office will not be solved by November. And it remains to be seen just how much of the tough-on-crime solutions called for by the mayor and her handpicked DA are even feasible.

Jenkins may well, as the mayor’s office claims, be a great DA. In November, she’ll have to convince San Franciscans she’s the best we can do.   

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Managing Editor/Columnist. 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 editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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31 Comments

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  1. Glad to see Jenkins already promising to reevaluate some of the plea deals! However full transparency on the tactics (isolation, victim-blaming, perjury, etc.) used by Boudin & co. is needed. People of SF should have access to the knowledge, tools, and support necessary to identify and fight this BS notion of an intersectional violence-hierarchy. Probably easier to say this as an immigrant with no connection to America’s past, but no victim of violence should be forced to bow to the entitled demands of this totalitarian and ethnocentric (perhaps even racist) garbage that is intersectionality.

  2. First, I’d like to say that this is a pretty level headed article, and I appreciate that.

    As far as this DA business, I am starting to think we’re really getting played here.

    Maybe Boudin was an evil monster who is responsible for every single homeless person in the city. Whatever.

    He would have DESTROYED Jenkins in an election.

    like obliterated.

    Is this what the recall was about? Replacing him with someone who is even less qualified?

    The next time there’s a “Recall” election, I think it should be mandatory to say who they propose to be the replacement.

    1. Dude, you’ve been drinking the Chesa
      Kool-aid. Chesa would not have obliterated Jenkins. If he’d really been a strong
      candidate, his anti-recall campaign could have been run on his record, which it most assuredly was not (hence the “a vote for the recall is a vote to repeal Roe v. Wade” flyer – almost an open admission of his weakness as a candidate.).

      Your mentioning the homeless as the alleged reason for the recall is a total red herring. Chesa didn’t get recalled because of the homeless problem. He got recalled
      because he was incompetent and refused, over and over again, to do the job of the DA – he refused to prosecute violent criminals, some of whom went on to re-offend. People were killed by some of the repeat offenders he refused to prosecute.

      NB: you can be in favor of criminal justice
      reform and also think that clearly violent offenders with long criminal histories should not be released to attack other people. Victims are people, too.

  3. Throughout the rabid red meat driven recall where proponents sought only to whip up fear and loathing, the most credible were folks like the commenter above who was involved in the actual process of jury selection in a court of law; here lies the truth. Maybe Brooke Jenkins fancies herself like Kamala Harris, Diane Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi or London Breed. All of these office holders are big on optics and speeches, but when you dig into their actual records of looking away from systemic corruption, frame ups, use of excessive force by cops and going for the law and order meat at any cost, we see they pander to Media and fear mongering. Not a good look. SF desperately needs strong legislators and policy makers not more Media pablum and law & order kabuki.

  4. For what it’s worth and probably that isn’t much, I was on jury selection for Gudino case and thankfully wasn’t chosen as it was a horrible event. It was impossible to understand why it was being brought to a trial. When Jenkins flipped her lid because Boudin settled on a case she didn’t win and she never should have brought to trial (it was her decision to prosecute) told me all I needed to know about this woman.

    1. Just wondering how “it was impossible to understand why [the Gudino case] was being brought to trial” if you didn’t serve on the jury – in case you didn’t realize it, the evidence in a case is NOT introduced to the pool of potential jurors. And just because one side’s lawyer says something doesn’t make it
      true. So a member of the pool of potential jurors would be in no position to pass judgement on the case.

  5. One quibble ” And if Tung or one or more Aliotos runs in November — like Marsalis brothers, they always seem to be discovering new Aliotos — the moderates could, once again, split the vote and Boudin could triumph. ”

    You can’t split the vote in a ranked-choice or regular election where the requirement is that the winner gets 50% plus 1 of all votes cast. This democracy. If the vote is split between three candidates, it goes to the next round or runoff election of the top two vote-getters. In the next round of rank choice or a runoff, voting is always historically less, but people vote or do not vote by their own choice.

  6. I was a swing voter in the recall. I ultimately ended up voting for the recall because, while I like many of Boudin’s policies, he is personally divisive and insulting.

    His interview with the Standard decided it for me. He clearly thinks there is an “us” and “them” in San Francisco, and I got the impression that if you were a crime victim and he didn’t approve of your politics, he would not prosecute your predator. In fact, I wonder if this is why he was so slow to respond to anti-Asian hate crimes: he thought the victims aren’t his tribe politically.

    The bar to clear for Jenkins isn’t that high. We can’t expect her to make major changes in the department in the three months between now and when people start voting. We don’t know if she can succeed at management, which was a problem for Boudin.

    But what we do know, from her campaigning for the recall, is that she’s good at politics. Better than Boudin. Boudin wanted to rule the city’s law enforcement with the backing of his true believers, and he did not care what anyone else thought, because he believed everyone else was a Republican. (Many of his supporters are in the same bubble. They really should travel to other states more.)

    All Jenkins has to do to win re-election is say the right things on camera. Boudin didn’t think outreach outside his circle was important. But the DA is supposed to speak for the city, not just one segment of it. Jenkins seems much better suited for that than Boudin.

    1. Yeah, I think this article misses the mark.

      You just have to roll your eyes at things like “deeply disturbed by the choice”. We had an incredible recall here, that almost overnight after someone was elected and showed their colors said, oops, we screwed up. And guess who was front and center of that recall?

      Anyways, all these “deeply disturbed” rich folks in their fancy houses who’ve never experienced crime themselves – they’ll get a chance to vote and kick her to the curb.

  7. Search CALBAR for Brooke Jerkins and she comes up living in Union City!

    Additionally, California Rule of Court 9.9 requires attorneys to use My State Bar Profile to report changes to contact information and provide a private email address for State Bar communications. California Business and Professions Code Section 6002.1 requires that you maintain a current address with the State Bar and notify the State Bar of a new mailing address within 30 days of a change.

    1. The Union City address is definitely a single family residence. Apparently she grew up in Union City so this might be a family address where she receives mail. That said, if she is living there can she be SF DA if not living in SF? Does she live in SF? Does this Union City address meet the requirements of state bar rules of residency and contact info? If it doesn’t can or will she be brought up on disciplinary charges by the state bar? From listening to her speak it seems she is interested in certain criminal reforms but values accountability and consequences for repeat offenders.

    2. So . . . she has a mailing address in Union City where she receives correspondence from the state bar. Wow, you’ve really cracked this thing wide open!!!

    3. This one is easy. I know a fair number of folks living in San Francisco where there are theft issues including mail theft. Your claims are totally false in a number of ways:

      You claim she must update her Calbar profile to list her residential address:

      This is totally false and a lie. In fact, given the level of theft issues in San Francisco, the cost of housing (which may result in moves) etc, attorney’s are permitted (and regularly do) use PO Boxes as part of their mailing address. This is literally discussed by the bar because many folks, particularly attorneys, do not want their home residential address so publicly available, and so is particularly applicable for attorneys who do not maintain separate staffed offices able to accept mail in a secure manner.

  8. San Francisco City Hall runs on PR and backroom lobbyists. Who is to blame for the lack of candidates running for office? You get what is paid for not what you deserve when there are no alternative candidates.

  9. Great political analysis, as usual. Although Jenkins doesn’t have any fundraising experience she’ll have the backing of the Breed/Real Estate/POA political machine. The national right-wing, such as Bill Oberndorfer, will also likely lend their fundraising talents. So money won’t be her problem

    1. This continues the huge misconception that people opposing Boudin are right-wingers.

      Have you ever looked at the number of Democrats vs. Republicans in San Francisco?

  10. Brooke Jenkins best looking candidate by far
    Inbox

    h brown
    2:13 AM (2 minutes ago)
    to Bulldog, me, matt, Joe, Rich, Tim, Matt

    Campers,

    Only thing that matters here is will she be a Suzy Loftus with the staff and show grace and form and leave them be in the 5 months until the election or will she go all Kamiko Burton and destroy as much of Adachi’s work as possible before the election she then lost to him ??

    Really, that’s all that matters.

    Let me run down the basics …

    Looks …

    Jenkins wins hands down.

    Undertaker a bit perhaps but the Navy Blue Cashmere jacket against the pearl blouse had class.

    Boudin dresses like Pee Wee Herman and kind of looks like him.

    Veronese has that Sicilian assassin look thing going on and has lots better connections to the cops and underworld after 20 years in criminal law he has them all beat with experience.

    Joe dresses in two thousand dollar suits.

    I’m loving this contest already and my candidate has yet to declare.

    Neither has Jenkins far as I know.

    Bulldog review ??

    No contest

    Chesa Boudin in a walk.

    Watched the minute and a half ‘Acceptance’ speech from Jenkins.

    She read it.

    Her memory lasts 20 second then she rushes back to her crib sheet.

    Boudin can talk with no notes as he did with the Standard’s to guy whose name I forget for the moment.

    Veronese will get ten or fifteen percent and he cudda been Mayor if he’d have listened to me and run for School Board instead cause that would give him one elected office under his belt and he’s an ant crawling up an elephant’s leg til he does that.

    Love the guy but School Board then Mayor.

    I told you that you could beat Breed head on next year from the School Board seat.

    Crazy ?

    Spiro Agnew was an angry racists with thick chunky heavily oiled had combed straight back all around and the profile of a still Roman Emperor.

    He was fucking nobody.

    Then, he took his hate and rage to the School Board in Baltimore and became their President and spewed anti-bussing and other hate slogans better than Trump.

    He was such a loud an loquacious guy who sent you to the dictionary with every speech and hate was his game.

    So much so that the next year the people of Maryland elected him Governor Hate Guy and Nixon picked him as VP in the next year or so and he went from being a guy screaming across a back fence to a heartbeat from the Presidency of the United States in about ten minutes it seemed like to me.

    Course, I was drunk most of the time so who knows ??

    Anyway …

    I make Boudin getting a solid 60 percent this time.

    I give Jenkins 30 or 35 and I’m being generous.

    My sentimental favorite whom I’d never vote for cause our politics are different like his mom who is my best friend of women named Angela Alioto and that’s saying alot.

    Welcome to the top seat in the DA’s office, Brooke.

    Please be gracious and don’t fire anyone til you win in your own right.

    Go Giants !!

    h.

  11. Nice article. Thanks. I saw Jenkins on Bill Maher’s show. She was quite the propagandist. The people of The City deserve better.

  12. Excellent, thought-provoking article. I already was troubled by this pick; you provided more information here than I had and that solidifies my concerns.

  13. incompetent mayor makes short term political appointment. big shock. she’s a joke no one is laughing at

    meanwhile the city is falling apart and crime will remain out of control.

    you get the government you deserve SF!

  14. If Boudin runs in November, he wins in November, because like every homeless crackdown “solution” since Frank Jordan’s “Matrix Program,” crackdowns fail. Remember Newsom’s “Project Homeless Connect?” Or Angela Alioto’s 10 year homeless plan under Newsom?

    If the SFPD gets exercised enough to hound fentanyl dealers after they scramble from UN Plaza and keep hounding them until they abandon SF and hound them every time they try to return, or if the suburban commuter cop corps ever enforced car speeding and blowing through red lights and stop signs, I’ll eat my hat.

    The problem with magnifying the risks is that it magnifies the scale of the solution to a point where stoked fear can never be assuaged. It must suck to make your way through the world being so damn paranoid of danger lurking around every corner.

  15. I like this piece. As someone that dispassionately supported Boudin’s removal, I agree that London Breed’s answer is an opportunistic and purely mediatic one.

    Breed is a great politician for this age, i.e., one that has to be good with her impactful media shenanigans but does not need to dive deep into policy or even appear to be. As long as she is perceived to be supporting the cries of the current loud side of the (San Francisco) pendulum, she knows she will keep her office. Kudos to her and her machiavellian traits.

    Good for her. Bad for us. It pains me to see no concrete movement other than discourse and token headline-seeking actions from a government. Any government.

    Governing has become a full time PR stunt. Granted, there was always a PR component, but remember the “first two years” or even the “first 100 days”? Gone! Campaigning starts when your adversary concedes.

    And let’s not blame the 70 year olds in power: if anyone still have a go at policy-making, it’s them. This trend is absolutely backed by consciously and unconsciously outrage-seeking millenials and Gen Zs (ps: I’m a millenial). And they (we?) are not even consistent: the ones that batter Feinstein for being old and preventing young people to come to power (and hugging Lindsey Graham) are the same ones that applauded octagenarian and then nonagenarian Justice RBG to stay in office (she could have retired in the Obama years and allow a 40-something liberal to waltz into the SCOTUS). Her friendship with Justice Scalia was also celebrated (and it should be, albeit one can argue that Scalia has caused considerably more palpable damage to America than Lady G).

    Well, that’s it. That’s what I have. I guess ending here make me an outraged no-suggestions-offered millenial too, but I believe I’m “entitled” to it.

  16. Pretty sure I saw an “Alioto for DA” sign in a window on Nob Hill on a recent walk. Not 100% sure it wasn’t for a previous election (I’ll admit to not knowing all former candidates for DA) but it did not look old and dusty.
    Anyhow – would be hilarious if the moderates split and Chesa got his job back with 36% of the vote or something.

    1. “would be hilarious if the moderates split and Chesa got his job back with 36% of the vote “. Possible scenario, courtesy of ranked choice voting. And again the DA would start as a lame duck and it’s deja-vu all over again. On a different note: Regardless of Joe’s smokescreen, put mildly, Boudin’s been a major letdown for crime victims. We don’t need that back.

    2. You can’t win a SF election with a plurality. Boudin had 36% after yje first round, and then he did something unheard of in RCV – he garnered more transfer votes from an opposite party candidate than that party’s leading candidate did.

      A “moderate split” in November isn’t at all an indicator of a moderate loss. It doesn’t work like that.

  17. The social ills and so called anecdotal crime wave won’t be gone 10 years from now. Neither will the anecdotal piles of feces, maniacs attacking innocent citizens or drug addled homeless people but I sure hope a few more liberal crackpots like Boudin are long gone.