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.
“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.