The state Assembly race is over, and the politics of San Francisco are now shifting to the June 7 election—and the big money is pouring in for the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
The latest attack on Boudin: A pair of slick TV ads that are now on Twitter but will be on the airwaves this week, with what I am told is at least a $500,000 buy.
That’s paid for by a group called Neighbors for a Better San Francisco. The primary funding is William Oberndorf, who also gives a lot of money to Republicans; the Shorenstein Realty Corporation; and tech investor Garry Tan.
So everyone who watches TV in San Francisco will be seeing them.
And there is a lot more to the story—and the truth—than the ads suggest.
Both ads feature women who had some connection to Boudin or his office. In one, a former assistant district attorney, Shirin Oloumi, who was in charge of prosecuting car break-ins, says that Boudin “dissolved that unit and prevented me from collaborating with the police … now car and home break-ins are on the rise because repeat offenders know they can get away with it.”
If Oloumi left in anger because Boudin wouldn’t let her do the work, an email she sent in her final days doesn’t give any indication of that.
The July 7, 2021 email from Oloumi to her colleagues, obtained under the California Public Records Act, says that “I hope to leave you and the next DA with a good foundation. In fact, I have no doubt that I will be reading about the success of Operation [REDACTED] in the news media soon … I wanted to send this one last email so everyone is on the same page and that the incoming DA for the operation will be in a good position to hit the ground running.”
Rachel Marshall, a spokesperson for Boudin’s office, said that “Operation REDACTED,” the name of the break-in operation, hasn’t been dissolved, and the office hasn’t stopped prosecuting break-ins. “We still have that funded position, and we are still doing that work,” she said.
What has happened is that car break-ins have moved from tourist areas to the neighborhoods, because during Covid there were no tourists—and the police have made arrests in only a tiny, tiny number of cases.
In fact, in a letter to Sup. Hillary Ronen, Chief Bill Scott says as much (quoting Mission Local here):
“Property crime incidents with little to no suspect information or physical evidence (i.e., vehicle break-ins) continue to be considered a lower priority in order to have available staff to respond to calls for service,” Scott wrote in his response letter to Ronen.
The SFPD’s rate of solving crimes, and bringing cases to the DA for prosecution, is at the lowest rate in a decade, and getting worse.
In other words: If criminal gangs think they “can get away with” breaking into cars, it’s not because the DA isn’t filing charges; it’s because the cops aren’t making arrests.
I tried to reach out to Oloumi at what appears to be her email, but she didn’t respond.
The other ad features a doctor who is identified only as “Michelle” who says that Boudin fails to prosecute domestic violence cases. She says that she was a victim of DV, and “after police arrested my husband, Chesa Boudin dismissed the charges.” She goes on to say that Boudin only prosecutes 14 percent of DV cases.
This is serious stuff, and cops, courts, and prosecutors have historically failed to protect survivors of domestic violence.
In this case, court records show, Michelle (I am withholding her last name) and her husband (I am withholding his name) were going through a contentious breakup.
According to law-enforcement sources, the husband was arrested after an incident at their home, but never charged; the charges weren’t “dismissed.” A senior prosecutor, with 23 years of experience handling DV cases, determined that there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue the case.
Then Dr. Michell asked for a restraining order against her husband, banning him from coming to their apartment.
But it was complex, because his 98-year-old mother owned the building where they lived, and occupied the unit below the one occupied by his soon-to-be ex-wife.
He opposed the order, and after considerable legal wrangling, both sides stipulate to an order; she agreed to move out soon, and he agreed not to come to the apartment while she was there. But the order, which I got from Superior Court, clearly states that he had the right to come and visit his mother on certain days and times, when it was likely Michelle would be at work.
At one point, his mother was ill and in a hospital, and he came to the house on a date and time that the order allowed, to get her a blanket and pick up her mail. He also dropped off an envelope with money he owed Michelle in the mailbox of the unit where she was living.
Michelle was home, and alleged that he had violated the order.
The case went to a senior prosecutor, a woman who is known statewide as an expert on prosecuting DV cases. She didn’t see how she could take this to a jury. When Michelle complained, Boudin called in an outside expert, another career DV prosecutor from another jurisdiction, to review the case. That outside review concluded that the evidence failed to suggest that the husband willfully violated the order.
Individual cases are complicated. But the idea that Boudin’s office cavalierly ignores DV is misleading at best. In fact, the 14 percent figure reflects a three-month period in the height of the pandemic when a lot of courtrooms were closed and it was hard for any DA to prosecute anything short of very serious violent crimes.
Boudin’s charging rate for DV cases, according to data from his office, is 45 percent for 2022. Since taking office, it’s 30 percent. When George Gascon was the DA, the rate was 29 percent.
Again: These are serious crimes. But to say that Boudin doesn’t prosecute them is just false.