The liberal-leaning case for the recall of SF DA Chesa Boudin

(as this post is gaining wider attention, a quick bio about me: I’m a 39 year old resident of San Francisco who moved here from my native London, UK in 2006 with barely a few months rent in my bank account to seek the startup-driven American dream. Since then I’ve had some luck and been successful but never wavered from my core European values installed upon me by my career social-worker parents: equality, human rights and opportunity for all.)

For a while I have publicly supported the efforts to recall San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, including tweets which gained the attention of Bill Ayres, the former leader of militant group Weather Underground who at one point was the legal guardian of Chesa (Chesa Boudin’s parents were senior members of the Weather Underground movement).

However as supporters of Chesa are now spinning this campain into a “VCs against Chesa” narrative, I want to take the opportunity to lay out my argument and reasoning.

To set the stage, for those who don’t know me:

  • I’m pro Prop 47, which reclassifies many non-violent crimes down from felonies to misdemeanors, so as not to ruin a person’s life with a felony around their neck forever.
  • I believe the concept of bail is terrible and highly discriminatory towards minorities.
  • I believe those charged with non-violent, non-distribution drug offenses should be rehabilitated in addiction programs not jail. I believe the same for those charged with crimes related to mental health — they need to be supported with medical care, not thrown behind bars.
  • While I have some slight libertarian leanings in places, I am a proud card-carrying Bernie Sanders supporter and donor, due to my fundamental belief that healthcare must be free to all at the point of use and because of the need to readdress the insane wealth disparity in this county. Of course, as an affluent VC, this is against my own self-interest and stems from a desire to see greater equality of opportunity in America despite not even being a citizen here.
  • I am a huge proponent of criminal justice reform. Krystal and I are proud to support our friend Matt Blodgett’s new non-profit Put Me In which provides financial support for sporting activities for the children of incarcerated parents.

While others, including other prominent VCs, may have their own world view which contributes to their desire to see Chesa Boudin’s recall, as you can see my views no doubt align for the most part with Chesa, who himself was a child of incarcerated of his parents.

Despite the above, I am very, very against Chesa Boudin holding office as San Francisco District Attorney and would like to see him recalled immediately.

Not because of his personal political beliefs but because he is a career public defender who has a strong history of advocating for individuals who find themselves up against the terrible American criminal justice system.

While these are laudable values, they are not aligned with the role and responsibility of an elected (or appointed) district attorney prosecutor.

Lady justice holds a scale to represent the weighing of evidence. It said that the scales lack a foundation in order to signify that evidence should stand on its own.

Assuming a defendant has solid representation, to create that balance of evidence the plaintiff also needs solid representation — remembering that in this instance the plaintiff is the local government and more broadly We the People.

A capable DA fulfilling his or her duties must advocate for the interests of the public regardless of the needs or circumstances of the defendant in order to balance those scales. It is for the judge and jury to weigh up those scales for themselves to decide the outcome and fate of the defendant.

Until he became San Francisco’s DA, Chesa Boudin had never prosecuted a case in his life. He essentially ‘switched sides’ to tip the scales to advocate from the other side of the courtroom. Regrettably, in what is becoming an ever frequent occurrence in America, the public voted for him without considering more deeply his suitability for that office.

I think Chesa believes that people, especially the vulnerable, prosecuted by the courts often end up having their lives destroyed through the terrible American criminal justice system that they subsequently enter. I also think Chesa believes that those suffering with addiction or mental health challenges should not be incarcerated when they could be rehabilitated instead.

And I agree completely with his assessment.

The problem is that Chesa also believes that the way to solve that is to not put those people in front of judges in the first place, and that is deeply, deeply flawed and dangerous. In fact, it’s frightening.

It’s another example where we’re trying to short circuit what is broken in our society by dealing with the symptom rather than take on the root-cause (the criminal justice system in this country).

But more immediately it leads to a dynamic where SFPD will only pursue crimes they believe the DA will move to prosecute. This is creating large blindspots where the police will not pursue certain crimes because Chesa refuses to charge anyone with them even if there is clear evidence.

The impact of Chesa’s approach to prosecution is clear from a recent San Francisco Chronicle analysis:

Crime rates in San Francisco (San Francisco Chronicle)

While it is fantastic that serious and violent crimes are down, it is hard to point to any of Chesa’s actions as DA as key contributors to this decline. Instead it is more logical to attribute most of the drop to lockdown, where fewer people are on the streets, attending events or congregating with each other. Meanwhile theft and burglaries are becoming rampant due to the lack of prosecutions which has led to SFPD not actively investigating and arresting suspects. See here, here and here.

That’s why there is a ‘large tent’ forming of many different people who want Chesa recalled — yes there are the Richie Greenberg republicans who just want anyone not Democrat in the role but there are others like us who have some balance to our reasoning.

San Francisco needs a District Attorney who will advocate for the people of San Francisco while also defending the constitution of the United States and California, and upholding the laws of San Francisco. An office, I would remind you that as recently as 2011, was held by Vice President Kamala Harris.

We need to reform the criminal justice system of America but we also must continue to punish those who are truly guilty in order to maintain civil society.

If you feel compelled by what I have written and are a San Francisco registered voter you can fill out and return the petition to recall DA Chesa Boudin

Founder & General Partner @Monochrome_VC • Co-Founder @WPEngine • Ex- @RidgeVC, @Uber, @BBCNews & @MySpace • Former Product-Focused Entrepreneur & Executive