Chesa Boudin and Pee Party Politics

To call Chesa Boudin an odd choice for district attorney would be a monumental understatement. The former public defender is no doubt brilliant, a Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law grad, but he doesn’t exactly come from a family that dreamed of his some day putting people in prison.

Boudin was 14 months old when his parents, David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin, members of the domestic-terror group Weather Underground, dropped him off at a baby-sitter’s Oct. 2, 1981, and helped pull off the heinous heist in Nanuet in Rockland County.

Nyack police Sgt. Edward O’Grady and Officer Waverly “Chipper” Brown, as well as Brink’s guard Peter Paige, were killed in the robbery and its aftermath nearly four decades ago.

This was known as the Brinks Robbery, and it was a very big deal. On the one hand, this might push a person like Chesa to defend the accused, to be rather radical in his outlook on the world and to not, more than most of us on the defense side, want to be the guy asking the jury to “lock ’em up.” Yet, he ran for district attorney and won. It’s now left to Chesa Boudin to do the job of prosecutor.

As one would expect, Boudin’s vision of what a good prosecutor should do differs from some other district attorneys.

Chesa Boudin, the urine-and-feces-plagued city’s incoming district attorney, pledged during the campaign not to prosecute public urination and other quality-of-life crimes if he was elected.

“We will not prosecute cases involving quality-of-life crimes. Crimes such as public camping, offering or soliciting sex, public urination, blocking a sidewalk, etc., should not and will not be prosecuted,” Boudin vowed in response to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) questionnaire during the campaign.

The rationale for this position is fairly straightforward: these are crimes that primarily afflict the poor, minorities and the marginalized, and Boudin chooses not to prosecute crimes born of poverty. It’s not a crime to be poor. Fair enough.

But putting aside the doctrinal issues of a District Attorney seizing veto power of the legislative branch of government, and the philosophical problem of decrying the excess of charging power of prosecutors from the other team while hypocritically making their own tribe’s prosecutors the most powerful person in government, unrestrained in his choice to categorically refuse to execute any law he doesn’t feel like prosecuting, there’s the question of what to do when the fantasy fails to pan out like a Chanel No. 5 commercial. And Jesse Watters plans to put that to the test sooner rather than later.

“Do you remember the Tea Party?” Watters asked his co-hosts on “The Five” on Tuesday. “San Francisco needs to start the ‘Pee Party.’ OK. And this is what they need to do every day when the D.A. walks into his office there needs to be a bunch of patriots just peeing on the sidewalk in front of him until he’s forced to arrest them.”

San Francisco has problems on its streets. Needles. Feces. And puddles of unknown origin. When the new district attorney announces his intention to cease prosecuting such conduct, it suggests that the problem might not improve. It might even get worse. Then again, Watters isn’t exactly concerned with finding viable solutions to intransigent social problems either.

“The D.A. really hates this city. He is there to destroy this city. His parents were domestic terrorists. They got locked up. Then he was raised by domestic terrorists,” Watters said. “It makes perfect sense and now his job is to destroy an American city. He’s a socialist. He wants to run everybody out of San Francisco and rebuild it as a socialist utopia. That’s what’s going on here.”

Boudin may not be Watters’ first choice for prosecutor, but that doesn’t mean Boudin is out to destroy America. Unfortunately, Watters’ crazed shrieks notwithstanding, he’s not entirely wrong either. Will Chesa dodge the pee party on his way into the district attorney’s office, where prosecutions will be limited to male sexual assaulters and corporations exploiting the workers?

As much as these concerns about caring for the poor, most of whom don’t defecate on the streets because it’s the cool thing to do, are real, and it’s foolish not to recognize that much petty crime, particularly the stuff that impacts the “quality” of life of those who prefer not to take in a strong whiff of poop when they breath deeply, is a product of unaddressed poverty and mental illness, the residents of Frisco (they hate it when people call it Frisco) aren’t all that thrilled about scraping feces off their Louboutons either.

For those trying so hard to swing the pendulum away from the decades of failed “tough on crime” legislation and prosecutorial practice, the election of their tribe’s prosecutors, who really aren’t prosecutors unless you’re on their disfavored list, offers a chance to undo the evils of mass incarceration, excess criminalization and prosecutorial misconduct. As they’ve come to realize, it’s a lot easier to elect one person in a relatively obscure position than it is to win over a legislature. Why go through all that effort when a district attorney can undo all of criminal law with the wave of his hand?

But that won’t get the poop off the sidewalk. What’s a well-intended District Attorney like Chesa Boudin to do? Now that he’s elected, will he find that his plan to categorically ignore wide swaths of crimes doesn’t sufficiently serve the people of San Francisco, such that he’s not the guy slamming shut the cell door on the poor who just won’t stop crapping on the sidewalk or stealing from the similarly marginalized but harder working shopowners who aren’t bad people but can’t afford to have their shelves cleared by poor thieves?

Did Chesa step in shit when he got elected or will he step in pee to remain true to his beliefs? Either way, it makes for a rather crappy job.

26 thoughts on “Chesa Boudin and Pee Party Politics

  1. Steve Brecher

    “crimes that primarily afflict the poor”

    “Afflict” seems ambiguous in context. My reading of the current version is that the poor are the victims, rather than the perpetrators, of the crimes. I think you may mean “crimes committed primarily by the poor”.

    American Heritage 4th:
    To inflict grievous physical or mental suffering on.
    Synonyms: afflict, agonize, rack1, torment, torture
    These verbs mean to bring great harm or suffering to someone: afflicted with arthritis; was agonized to see her suffering; racked with cancer; tormented by migraine headaches; tortured by painful memories.

  2. DeJon

    Is the plan to … categorically ignore wide swaths of crimes or something more like “explore other responses besides incarceration?”

    1. SHG Post author

      What does announcing you’re not going to prosecute a crime as enacted by the legislature mean? On the other hand, is there a reason they didn’t name the position “District Social Worker”?

      1. DeJon

        Not sure what a social worker has to do with fighting the State oppression of the least powerful among us.

        Currently the State relies excessively (exclusively?) on two options for redress societal harms resultant from an adjudicated criminal act. Given how metrics work, The State has gone so far as to presume these two options constitute the entire reason the criminal legal system exists. These two options:
        1) Take the convicted’s freedom
        2) Take the convicted’s money
        If the accused has no money, then achieving “the system’s goal” takes little to no effort.

        Justice is the goal of this broken system. I know you can imagine a reality where Justice demands just a slightly more enlightened form of redress vis a vis the societal harms resultant from each individual’s criminal act(s) that the two option the State relies on excessively.

        No one goes to jail for corporate crimes.By your logic, we can presume they are hemmed in by a secret cabal of social workers for rich f*cks.

        1. SHG Post author

          Different public positions serve different purposes. District Attorneys prosecute. That’s the job. You don’t have to like the way they do the job. I know I very often don’t, but that doesn’t change what the job is. That you prefer other responses to the commission of crimes is both fine and understandable, but that doesn’t mean the job of prosecutor changes to whatever job you would prefer govt prosecutors perform.

          As for no one going to prison for corporate crimes, that’s just insanely false. They don’t use PDs, and don’t have 10,000 useful idiots screaming about their injustice, so they’re invisible to you. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, just that you don’t know about it.

    1. Fubar

      But putting aside the doctrinal issues …, there’s the question of what to do when the fantasy fails to pan out like a Chanel No. 5 commercial.

  3. Jesse

    Frankly I like the approach. District Attorneys’ are entitled to their discretion, it’s part of the job. Unless the legislature wants to send the state police to his office and force him to file charges at the point of a gun, his stance is part of the reason he was elected by the voters and they get what they ask for.

    It might force lawmakers to address the other laws, regulations, and bureaucratic reasons for the homeless problem in San Francisco. Asking the DA to clean up a problem they created is a fool’s errand.

    1. SHG Post author

      Are district attorneys “entitled” to categorically determine that duly enacted laws will be ignored? This isn’t remotely similar to discretion in individual cases, which is permitted by the Supreme Court based on individual facts and circumstances. As for “people elected him to do this,” does an election entitled a public official to fail or refuse to perform his official duties or change the nature of the duties of the position and abuse the power of the office? Are the rest of his constituents entitled to a district attorney who performs the official duties of the office?

      That some guy named Jesse “likes the approach” might matter to Jesse, but it’s unlikely anyone else cares what Jesse likes.

    2. Weebs

      Sure, elected officials reflect the preferences of a voting majority, but are you comfortable with ALL elected officials ignoring laws? What about, for example, an elected county clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses for gay couples?

  4. Jesse

    It sounds like his constituents have spoken, at the ballot box. I’m unsure of the process for removing an elected DA based on non-performance of his job but sounds like whatever that is may be the only recourse for those that don’t agree with him. I’m guessing it’s not easily done and messy.

    I’m sure no one cares what I think, but neither this DA nor his voters care what anyone else thinks here either. Interesting, if unorthodox way of rubbing the feces in the faces of those who by policy helped get it there in the first place.

    1. Sgt. Schultz

      I hate to break it to you, dude, but this isn’t about unelecting Chesa Boudin. Not even a little bit. But I’m sure there’s a subreddit on that, and I bet they care deeply about whether Jesse like Chesa.

    1. SHG Post author

      A fair question, as some crimes are ignored while otherwise become unforgivable and for which no punishment is severe enough.

  5. C. Dove

    Disclosure: I know Boudin from the 10+ years I spent working at SF’s Hall of Justice and working along side him (and many other prosecutors) in SF.

    Two things. First, Watters’s golden shower idea is at least a year late. Given your no-hyperlinks-on-my-lawn policy, I suggest Google’ing “san francisco hall of justice pee problems”. The reason? There are two jails on top of the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant Street, directly above the DA’s office. Plumbing problems (eh em) would cause the toilets to overflow. We all know where shit rolls. I truly do not envy the line deputies who would literally don crime scene booties just to access their offices. Forget grabbing a file. (They’ve since been moved to a temporary space while someone does something with with the building.)

    Second, notwithstanding SF’s reputation as the bastion of extreme liberalism (a reputation that is a bit overstated, if I may), court in SF is . . . unique. (I speak from personal experience as a former CDL.) SF also has a rich tradition of novel elected DA’s. Boudin’s elected predecessor, Gascon, also came in as a reformer with an unusual but slightly more stay-in-the-lane background: Gascon was an LAPD assistant chief when he took the job at Chief of Fuzz at SFPD for a breath before putting on his lawyer hat and becoming the City’s DA. Gascon took hits for many things, but the top three public gripes were (1) refusing to prosecute OIS’s (officer involved shootings), (2) an uptick in auto burglaries, and (3) the homeless. Mental health seemingly played a role in all three. SF has experimented over time with various “alternative courts” and the DA has, in years past, gone so far as to institute a “neighborhood court”. (I’ve never been but from what I hear, “neighborhood court” is a far cry from Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.)

    To an extent, Boudin’s campaign promises are directly related to his time at the SF Public Defender’s Office, which put a premium on social work and trials, in that order. It’s unclear if his campaign got a boost from the Mayor’s decision to appoint an opposing candidate as interim DA. Either way, Boudin struck a cord with the voters. Will his social justice viewpoint find support among his new staff and the public in general? Time will tell.

    1. SHG Post author

      The failure to deal with OIS is one of the strongest arguments for a new breed of prosecutor, but it doesn’t necessarily require a prosecutor to ignore other crimes. It just seems to turn out that way. As for Suzy Loftus, that appears to be a serious miscalculation by the Dems. What’s interesting is that she wasn’t exactly the posterchild for evil prosecutors, but still not woke enough for Frisco.

  6. Joseph Masters

    So, only NY Post, Daily Caller and Fox News quotations for now on, eh? Anything…suspicious come to mind about the editorial biases of those three publications, especially concerning San Francisco, the Central Boogeyman from the press from a certain spectrum?

    Homelessness is an issue nationwide, isn’t it? Or more accurately worldwide? The homeless beg on the streets of Sydney, Hong Kong, Paris, London and Leipzig as much as they do in Louisville, Cincinnati, Anchorage and Charleston (in addition to the unholy quintet of Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York). The prevalence of pay toilets in Europe makes feces and urination an even greater problem, except in places like Amsterdam where public toilets are truly public because of the prevalence of drunk men peeing into the canals.

    Of course, who pays to clean these toilets if San Francisco were to adopt the Dutch model? Not Silicon Valley, as taxing billionaires is lower than being Willie Sutton, but are arrests for this behavior even an economically viable method to “solve” the problem?

    Or is it simply a convenient talking point, something to complain about before changing and/or doing nothing and turning to the next college campus outrage?

    1. SHG Post author

      Homelessness is a problem everywhere. It’s more of a problem in some cities than others, and more of a problem because of local policy choices. It’s raised here because it’s directly implicated in the policy choices being made by a new prosecutor, which are reflective of this push for progressive prosecutors in general. This isn’t hard to follow.

      If the solution is as simple as you invariably believe it to be, why are you commenting here instead of running for office and fixing all of society’s intractable problems? But this post is about the job of prosecutor, not the viability of the Dutch system of public toilets. I would think someone as brilliant as you could figure that out.

  7. Casual Lurker

    So far, there’s no indication that CTE is inheritable. However, I’m thinking further research is needed. The shock-wave Kathy Boudin experienced on March 6, 1970 — at the 18 West 11th Street “Weather Underground” bomb-making factory in Greenwich Village — may have done some permanent damage. I think it’s wholly possible that a limited subset of known effects may have somehow been passed to her offspring.

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