San Fran DA touts liberal reforms in campaign email: End to cash bail, no sentence enhancements for gang crime

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New San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin sent an email to supporters on Friday touting his accomplishments in his first four months in office, including ending cash bail, opting not to pursue sentencing enhancements for gang members and declining to prosecute many crimes for which evidence was acquired during a traffic stop.

Boudin was sworn into office in January following posts as a public defender and with nonprofits, as well as two federal law clerkships in the past decade. But notable in his biography are the facts that his parents are Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, notorious former leaders of the Weather Underground domestic terror group, and that Boudin formerly worked for the late Venezuelan socialist president, Hugo Chavez.

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In this Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, photo, San Francisco District Attorney candidate Chesa Boudin pauses during his speech at an election night event at SOMA StrEat Food Park in San Francisco. Boudin, the son of anti-war radicals sent to prison for murder when he was a toddler, has won San Francisco's tightly contested race for district attorney after campaigning to reform the criminal justice system. (Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

In this Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, photo, San Francisco District Attorney candidate Chesa Boudin pauses during his speech at an election night event at SOMA StrEat Food Park in San Francisco. Boudin, the son of anti-war radicals sent to prison for murder when he was a toddler, has won San Francisco's tightly contested race for district attorney after campaigning to reform the criminal justice system. (Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

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Now about 120 days into his term, Boudin checked in with his supporters in an email that addressed his office's response to the coronavirus pandemic, but also a number of other liberal reforms he promised during his campaign that led to fierce opposition from the local police union and vocal support from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and other high-profile left-wing politicians.

"By replacing money bail with a risk-based system, people who are safe to be released get released quickly with appropriate, non-monetary conditions, and those who pose a serious threat to public safety are detained, regardless of their wealth," reads a news release from January announcing the city's new bail policy, which is highlighted in the Friday email.

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Ending cash bail is a popular idea with the political left, which argues that it unfairly impacts minorities and poor people. But similar moves in New York City, for example, have led to criticism that it allows criminals back onto the streets with little or no repercussions, putting the public at risk. This has led to a number of examples of people being arrested, then released, and soon after committing more crimes.

Gerod Woodberry, for example, had been jailed for allegedly robbing Chase banks in several New York City neighborhoods between Dec. 30 and Jan. 8, according to the New York Post — and then allegedly robbed a fifth bank just one day after his release.

Charles Berry, 56, who had been arrested 139 times in his life, thanked Democrats for passing bail reform after an arrest in February, which was his sixth of 2020.

“Bail reform, it’s lit!” Barry yelled to reporters outside the NYPD Transit District 1 headquarters in the Columbus Circle station before officers transported him to Manhattan Central Booking. “It’s the Democrats! The Democrats know me and the Republicans fear me. You can’t touch me! I can’t be stopped!”

Boudin highlighted another one of his efforts in the email, to end "racist and draconian sentencing enhancements."

Those enhancements, which Boudin has effectively ended by making it his department's policy not to file them, according to The Appeal, tack extra time onto the sentences of people who are convicted of committing crimes on behalf of gangs.

Proponents of such enhancements say the longer sentences put a dent in the number of gang members on the streets and discourage gang membership. Opponents like Boudin say they are racist and don't help rehabilitate people convicted of crimes.

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"This whole idea of time served is a fallacy for many people,” Boudin is quoted as saying by a story in The Appeal which he links to in the email to supporters, “and so for us to then turn around and punish people more harshly because we collectively failed to rehabilitate them, because we collectively set up these roadblocks and obstacles for them is draconian. We don’t need to do that in most cases, so our presumption is we will not do that."

Another change Boudin has made in his first few months in office is to decline to prosecute crimes that are discovered in the process of traffic stops or similar interactions with police in which incriminating evidence is discovered by the police asking for and receiving consent to search peoples' cars or other property.

"The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has a presumption against filing possession of contraband crimes when the search stemmed from an infraction-related stop, and no other independent probable cause (such as observed contraband in plain view) or other legal justification exists to justify the search and seizure of the contraband," a policy directive from Boudin's office reads.

"This policy encompasses 'consent-only' searches because of the long-standing and documented racial and ethnic disparities in law enforcement requests for consent to search," it continues.

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Also in the email, Boudin noted that his office is focused on reducing prison populations during the coronavirus pandemic, cutting the number of people locked up in San Francisco jails by almost half in just weeks.

"I guided my office to immediately prioritize the release of the most vulnerable people and enacted policies to safely reduce the usage of pretrial detention," the email says. "Since the shelter in place order, the jail population has decreased by more than 40%. The crime rate has also plummeted by more than 40%."

Fox News' Talia Kaplan and Daniell Wallace contributed to this report.