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News + PoliticsCrimeSome perspective on the case of a brutal stabbing of an Asian...

Some perspective on the case of a brutal stabbing of an Asian senior

The assailant is not going free; he faces a 10-year prison sentence if he doesn't enter a mandatory mental-health residential treatment program.

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So I got this email today from StopCrimeSF, which tried without success to get rid of two judges in the March election:

Stop Crime Action strongly condemns the judicial ruling handed down Friday for defendant Daniel Cauich, who was charged with attempted murder, elder abuse and assault.  He stabbed 94 year old Anh “Peng” Taylor multiple times in the city’s Lower Nob Hill neighborhood in an unprovoked attack in June 2021.  She survived and currently resides in an assisted care facility.
 
Over the objection of Assistant District Attorney Phoebe Maffei, Judge Kay Tsenin sentenced Daniel Cauich to five years of probation, while also requiring him to participate in “Intensive Supervised Court”. Judge Tsenin suspended the prison sentence of 10 years for attempted murder. The District Attorney’s office had requested 12 years in prison for the horrific crime which was committed in broad daylight. 
 
Cauich had been charged with a murder in a previous case, and has a long criminal history. With this sentence, there is no guarantee that Cauich will not attempt new crimes or another murder. As a “visiting judge”, Tsenin is not subject to re-election by the voters.

Then I got an email about a rally that Safer San Francisco is holding Friday:

We can’t allow this to continue. Join us this Friday morning at the Hall of Justice as we protest this reckless decision by Judge Tsenin and demand justice for Anh Peng Taylor. 

It follows an SF Standard story on the case, and of all things, a story in the Daily Mail of London, which talks about a “soft touch judge.”

As usual, most of the reporting has an edge that plays into the narrative of progressive San Francisco being too soft on crime and misses some key elements of the case and the sentence.

DA Brooke Jenkins is being a little disingenuous here; her office has to approve the sentence anyway. Photo by Ebbe Roe Yovino Smith

It also plays into this idea that attacking judges will somehow make us all safer.

The case was horrifying. Daniel Cauich attacked a 94-year-old Asian woman in the Tenderloin in June, 2021, stabbing her repeatedly. She narrowly survived.

It happened during a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, and left the local AAPI community in a state of shock.

Cauich was identified and arrested fairly quickly, and has been in county jail for almost three years, awaiting trial.

On Friday, Judge Kay Tsenin, who is retired but still handles cases as a visiting judge, sentenced Cauich to ten years in prison, five years probation—and a mandatory supervised mental-health program, which likely means an in-patient facility where he won’t be allowed out on the streets.

StopCrimeSF wanted more prison time. The DA’s Office wanted more prison time.

The media says Cauich “avoided prison time.” As if he gets to walk out the door and back to the streets.

But some perspective here:

Cauich has been diagnosed with severe mental illness. His lawyer says he doesn’t even remember the incident. A court-approved expert forensic psychologist, Rachyll Dempsey, presented the court with extensive evidence of his condition.

He has already served 1,004 days in jail awaiting trial. He was not released on bail. That, under current rules for Credit for Time Served, is the equivalent of a four-year prison sentence. One he has already served.

He was not released on probation. He was not released at all; he’s still in county jail.

When Tsenin sentenced him to ten years, he agreed to waive his Credit for Time Served, which means in effect that his sentence is 14 years, more than the DA is asking for.

But Tsenin, as is common (and required by state law in many cases) suspended that sentence—as long as Cauich enters a residential mental-health treatment facility.

Under the terms of the sentence, he will not go “back to the streets”  where he could “commit new crimes.” If he walks out of the treatment center—and his behavior will be monitored under a program called Intensive Supervision Court—he is subject to immediate arrest and, with no appeal of further hearing, goes right to state prison.

Where he will not get realistic mental-health treatment.

The idea of mental-health treatment instead of incarceration has been, in some cases, very successful.

More: Lisa DewBerry, a defense lawyer with more than 40 years’ experience who represented Cauich, told me that Intensive Supervision Court is collaborative; that is, it requires the District Attorney’s Office to agree.

The office of DA Brooke Jenkins so far has refused. That means the sentence is still pending, and Cauich is still locked up.

It’s a bit disingenuous for Jenkins to tell the media that the sentence is some kind of outrage:

“Our seniors shouldn’t need escorts to leave their homes or walk down the street. But decisions like this are why they continue to feel vulnerable.”

She knows very well that Cauich isn’t going back to the streets, and that the sentence Tsenin imposed won’t happen unless Jenkins’ office agrees to it.

Blaming a judge who followed established precedent and state law has nothing to do with justice; it’s all political. And Jenkins, who is determined to seem tough on crime at all costs, is a part of it.

This is yet another example of what we saw in the March primary: An attack on judges based on a false political narrative about crime that is being used by the billionaire class to elect right-wing local officials.

“Aside from the fact that that my client is being denied the treatment he needs and deserves,” DewBerry told me, “I am dismayed that these outfits have no respect for the three branches of government. Do we want the DA and the executive branch to tell the courts what to do?”

That has a very bad history. And groups like StopCrimeSF don’t seem to care.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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