The San Francisco Public Defender’ ‘s Office filed a motion Tuesday that, if approved, would disqualify the DA’s Office from prosecuting the high-profile Troy McAlister case.
The filing, which was submitted by McAlister’s public attorney, Scott Grant, contends that District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ “personal and political motivations have undermined her and her office’s ability to prosecute this matter fairly and impartially.” In the motion, Grant lists several reasons why he believes there is a conflict of interest between Jenkins and McAlister.
McAlister, who has an extensive criminal history, was arrested in 2015 for robbing two women in the Mission using a toy gun. He was released in 2020. He now stands accused of striking and killing 60-year-old Elizabeth Platt and 27-year-old Hanako Abe on New Year’s Eve, 2020, while driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
In his Jan. 10 filing, Grant cites a Mission Local article to contend that, one week before leaving then-DA Chesa Boudin’s office, Jenkins improperly sent sensitive files related to the case to fellow Assistant District Attorney Don du Bain’s personal email. At the time of the email, neither Jenkins nor du Bain had a direct connection to the case, but details of the case were later used extensively by both of them in the successful effort to recall Boudin.
State law says that lawyers sending and receiving rap sheets containing criminal information must have a legitimate statutory reason to access that information. Experts who spoke to Mission Local characterized sharing this information as a “fireable offense,” and noted that it “is a misdemeanor offense to share a rap sheet for any purpose other than doing the prosecution.”
Jenkins is currently facing a state bar complaint from retired Superior Court judge Martha Goldin over the allegation that these files were shared in violation of California law. Grant writes that “Jenkins has not provided any reason for accessing or sharing any files, police reports, or the rap sheet of Troy McAlister,” and that “misconduct is one of the factors for a court to consider in a recusal motion.”
Jenkins’ direct role in the recall election is the other main strand of Grant’s motion. McAlister’s name was frequently invoked by Jenkins as an apparent example of lenient sentencing that leads to avoidable future offenses.
McAlister is still mentioned on Jenkins’ campaign website, where she calls him a “violent, repeat offender who the previous administration didn’t hold accountable.” His case featured heavily in campaign ads, and Jenkins publicly called for harsher punishment for repeat offenders on several occasions.
Jenkins received a six-figure payment from recall-aligned groups for “consulting” after she left her role as Assistant District Attorney. She maintains that these payments were not directly related to her work on the recall campaign.
“A basic right of a defendant in a criminal case is to be prosecuted by an objective, unbiased district attorney,” writes Grant. He said that Jenkins’ public statements against his client during the recall, plus her potential misconduct in handling his files during her time as Assistant District Attorney, add up to conflict of interest.
It is unclear how often requests for District Attorneys to be recused are successful, but Grant cites a recent motion in People v. Lastra, in which the District Attorney’s office of San Luis Obispo was removed from a case due to the DA’s public opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. In an opinion from that 2022 case, the court stated that defendants were “entitled to a prosecution not clouded by political or personal advantage to the prosecutor.”
On Monday, a judge for the San Francisco Superior Court denied a similar request to recuse the DA’s Office in the case of Napoleon Brown. Brown is Mayor London Breed’s brother, and he is seeking a reduction in his sentence for manslaughter.
This motion is set to come before the Superior Court on Jan. 25 at 9 a.m. If successful, McAlister’s prosecution could be handled either by the state Attorney General or a neighboring District Attorney’s Office.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has not yet replied to a request for comment.