Commentary: What a Difference a Real District Attorney Makes

by Lloyd Billingsley


Chesa Boudin, named after cop-killer Joanne Chesimard, and son of Weather Underground terrorists Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, was elected district attorney of San Francisco in November 2020. Criminals were happy with the outcome.

“Chesa Boudin threw a monkey wrench into the city’s criminal justice system,” recalls Richie Greenberg, San Francisco resident and business consultant. “Amid a series of high-profile cases, his promise to release repeat criminals and to allow quality of life crimes to go unpunished, San Francisco descended into a scofflaw paradise.”

Greenberg spearheaded a recall effort and in June 2022 voters booted Boudin by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin. Mayor London Breed then appointed University of Chicago law alum Brooke Jenkins, a prosecutor in the city’s homicide division.

Jenkins proceeded to fire 16 Boudin loyalists, part of “important changes to my management team and staff that will help advance my vision to restore a sense of safety in San Francisco by holding serious and repeat offenders accountable and implementing smart criminal justice reforms.”

In November 2022, Jenkins prevailed over three rivals with approximately 54 percent of the vote. As the victor proclaimed. “I pledge that improving and promoting public safety will be my and our office’s top priority.”

The “scofflaw paradise” recently threw up a challenge.

On April 27, “black trans man” Banko Brown shoplifted items from a downtown Walgreens store. That drew the attention of security guard Michael Earl-Ray Anthony, who struggled with Brown. Anthony contended that Brown threatened to stab him and shot the shoplifter, who later died from the wound. No weapon was found on the decedent.

“Banko’s death is yet another testament to the dire need for increased advocacy for the safety of all trans people in this country, especially Black trans people,” said a statement from Tori Cooper of the Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. “His death comes at a time of blatant hateful, xenophobic rhetoric and legislative measures which fuel violence against our community. We can’t continue to stand idle while this unfolds.”

Protesters also called for Anthony to be prosecuted for murder, but San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins took a different approach. “The killing of Mr. Banko Brown on April 27, 2023 was a tragedy and my heart breaks for his friends and family,” Jenkins said in a statement.

After careful review of all of the evidence gathered by the San Francisco Police Department in this case, my office will not be pursuing murder charges, at this time, in connection to the shooting. We reviewed witness statements, statements from the suspect, and video footage of the incident and it does not meet the People’s burden to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that the suspect is guilty of a crime. The evidence clearly shows that the suspect believed he was in mortal danger and acted in self-defense. We cannot bring forward charges when there is credible evidence of reasonable self-defense. Doing so would be unethical and create false hope for a successful prosecution. No matter the case, however, we must follow the law and the evidence, wherever it leads. We never make decisions based on emotions or what may be politically expedient.

For Jenkins, “this wasn’t someone just walking out with an item. This is a shoplifting that became violent because Banko Brown initiated that aggressive contact with the security guard which turned this legally into a robbery.” The D.A. asked that “even in the midst of very intense heightened emotions that people look at the same evidence that we did, because that is what our decision is based on.”

“We all share that we wish that this never happened,” Jenkins added, “but the facts are what they are and that is what we are limited to.” One fact missing from many reports was that Michael Earl-Ray Anthony is also black and something of a hardship case.

“I’ve really been on my own since I was a young teenager,” Anthony told the D.A.’s office. “Always moving, different places, different houses, different family, friends. My parents never really worked. I was the only one working. My stepdad — he was on drugs.”

Anthony spoke of working as a security guard since he was 18, and for a time as an armored truck driver, delivering bags of up to $600,000 to banks. The guard was distraught at killing someone and told detectives, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” Local activists cast him as a murderer.

“If there was a crime that was committed in terms of stealing — that is if — there was a greater crime, which was murder.” That was Honey Mahogany, the first black trans chair of the local Democratic Party, in a May 17 protest outside the D.A.’s office.

“Banko Brown was not a danger to anyone,” according to Kevin Ortiz of the Latinx Democratic Club. “Brooke Jenkins needs to do her job — she must be held accountable for the families she’s failed. And that starts with Banko Brown.” The people of San Francisco might not think so.

California’s 2014 Proposition 47 changed felonies to misdemeanors and essentially legalized theft of property valued at less than $950. Car break-ins and property crime quickly surged, and in parts of the city, contrary to Tony Bennett, the stench of excrement filled the air. The pro-criminal Chesa Boudin made it all worse, and voters turned him out.

Brooke Jenkins, by contrast, has made public safety a top priority. She follows the law and the evidence and does not make decisions on what may be politically expedient. That is good advice for district attorneys in Los Angeles, New York, and across the country.

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Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.
Photo “Brooke Jenkins” by Brooke Jenkins.



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