A car break-in case that sparked a city-wide outcry, particularly from a group of White anti-crime crusaders, came to an end yesterday. DeShawn Patton, a 21-year-old black man, was sentenced to state prison.
His auto-burglary case gained momentum as a series of new outlets, including the SF Chronicle, pushed the agenda of an all-White “anti-crime group.” The group’s members, dubbing themselves Stop Crime SF, followed this case as they voiced their concerns on break-ins around the city.
In a series of interviews the group’s members decried people like Patton and demanded they be made an example of. Ultimately, their goal was to pressure Judge Christopher Hite, who is also Black, for being too “soft” on crime.
At 1:30 pm, a seemingly calm and unfazed Judge Hite was met by about 20 Stop Crime SF members in his courtroom for the sentencing of Patton. As a wave of white faces glared from almost every bench on the right side, Patton had a mere five family members supporting him on the left.
Among those associated with Patton was his daughter, a jubilant one-year old held by DeShawn’s aunt who softly repeated “DeShawn is innocent” during the proceedings. Seeing Patton’s anxiety-ridden family did not deter the Stop Crime SF members as they sat militantly in Judge Hite’s court, listening intently with concerned faces.
Before Judge Hite dissected the matters of the case he began to address the audience by making it a priority to clarify certain false narratives that the group and other news outlets were espousing. Hite explicitly stated that it was “inaccurate to suggest he [Patton] was released by this court.” He also stated Patton was never given 11 chances for probation, as had been reported by the SF chronicle.Patton had never been under adult felony supervision in San Francisco and has only been in one adult probation program in San Mateo, stemming from a misdemeanor conviction prior to his first adult arrest.
Judge Hite went on to explain that Patton pled guilty to all charges, yet District Attorney Gascon proceeded to push for a trial, which is extremely rare. Hite noted that Gascon’s desire for a grand jury was “unusual” and that he took it a step further by reporting the case to the press.
From what Judge Hite presented, it appears Gascon did what he did so he could make a headline flash, which resulted in knee-jerk reactions from groups like Stop Crime SF.
Finally, Judge Hite said he sympathized with residents’ concerns about local thefts, but made it clear that portraying a 21-year-old man as the face of auto-burglary in SF was not going to end crime.
As the hearing continued, psych evaluations done by Dr. Rachyll Dempsey were taken into consideration for Patton’s behavior. She reported that he suffered from intellectual disabilities and cognitive dysfunction that stemmed from childhood substance abuse and a head trauma that occurred in 2016. Still, Patton was sentenced to four years in state prison after the parole office deemed Patton unfit for the Restorative Justice rehabilitation programs.
When the court adjourned, the faces of the Stop Crime SF members displayed both confusion and concern. The prosecutor had explained to them that although Patton was sentenced to four years in state prison, his time would be shortened to approximately nine months. This reduced sentence was due to time served from being in custody for a year, statutory issues because he was charged at under 21, and the average 50 percent time cut for good behavior.Although their hope turned into disappointment, they still callously applauded the prosecutor with emphatic shouts of “Thank You” for incarcerating the father of a one-year child.
When the court was adjourned, it was immediately apparent that the defendant deserved more than to have his case tried through the press. The case was cluttered with knee-jerk reactions resulting from irresponsible journalism pursuing a controversial narrative. Judge Hite should be applauded for debunking the faulty reporting that created this mob mentality.
Stop Crime SF believes what they’re doing is groundbreaking, but Black and Brown bodies have been historically used as scapegoats in our judicial system for quite some time. The move to demand imprisonment for Patton was fueled by the same false accounts and incendiary judgements that have destroyed the lives of Black men throughout our nation’s history.
And with this “success,” they will no doubt be back for more.