DA Brooke Jenkins announces she is revoking lenient plea offers to fentanyl dealers (Also, Chesa Boudin won't run again)

On her first day in office, San Francisco’s new District Attorney Brooke Jenkins asked for a review of plea agreements offered to drug dealers. Yesterday, Jenkins announced she was revoking the offers in about 30 cases where fentanyl dealers had been given a chance to plead to lesser crimes.

“On my watch, the D.A.’s office is going to take these cases seriously,” Jenkins said in an interview. “We are dealing with a public health crisis with regards to fentanyl, and no longer are we going to be giving a free pass to people who sell (that) drug in San Francisco.”…

According to a spokesperson for Jenkins, all of the initial plea offers that are now revoked would have allowed the defendant to plea down a felony drug-dealing charge to a misdemeanor offense. Instead, these defendants will either plead guilty to a new offer — a felony charge — or take the case to trial.

Under Boudin’s tenure, many defendants prosecuted for drug sales ultimately pleaded guilty to a charge of accessory after the fact — a conviction that is not a deportable offense under federal law.

Under state law, prosecutors are required to consider someone’s immigration status before charging them. And because many of the drug dealers in San Francisco are illegal immigrants (called “Hondos” on the street because many of them are from Honduras) the former DA was always pleading these cases down to the point that the dealers were cycling through the system over and over with little jail time.

Jenkins said of her office’s new approach, “We’re still going to be taking into account offerings that allow people to protect their immigration status, but we’re not going to be abused.” What does abuse of the system look like? Based on the review of cases she requested, here’s how former DA Chesa Boudin was running the office:

In a press statement, Jenkins’ office said one case involved a defendant arrested carrying more than 100 grams of fentanyl who had previously been referred to a community justice court — a diversion program — five times for separate, open cases. This person was initially offered to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor conviction to settle all six cases, officials said.

The office’s review found that, as of July, there were 156 open drug sale or possession for sale cases that were referred to collaborative courts, and that 57% involved the sale of fentanyl. Of those, 26 defendants had two open cases, nine had three open cases, four had four open cases and one had five open cases, the office said.

Twenty of the cases reviewed included defendants possessing over 100 grams of fentanyl, the office said.

According to this site, a gram of fentanyl is worth $150-$200 on the street so someone carrying 100 grams is walking around with $15,000-$20,000 worth of drugs. Why would you want someone caught with this much fentanyl on four or five separate occasions to be given a single misdemeanor charge?

In addition to revoking more than 30 such plea deals, Jenkins has also put in place three new policies that will toughen up how the DA’s office deals with these cases moving forward:

Jenkins will allow her prosecutors to seek pretrial detention against drug dealers who are repeat offenders or in otherwise extreme cases involving fentanyl, she said. The option is normally reserved for those accused of the most serious and violent crimes under Boudin. Jenkins said her office will argue that prolific fentanyl dealers pose a significant public safety risk.

Jenkins is also giving her office the option to charge defendants with an enhancement that could add years to their sentence if they were arrested selling narcotics within 1,000 feet of a school. She said the policy is needed to protect children walking by dealers on the way to school.

The last prong of the policy limits the discretion her office has to send drug dealers to collaborative court, where they can access housing services as well as drug treatment and potentially avoid a conviction. Jenkins said the previous administration “abused” the court by sending dealers there who were arrested with more than five grams of fentanyl.

Chesa Boudin’s former Comms Director is already trashing the plan as the return of the war on drugs.

But Jenkins isn’t aiming her new approach at drug users. People walking around with $15,000 worth of fentanyl aren’t addicts they’re dealers. And Jenkins is correct that this is a serious problem in the city. Recent data shows the city is experiencing about 53 overdose deaths per month, with most of those deaths involving fentanyl. The idea that we should be more concerned about the possibility of deporting the drug dealers than the 600 or so people per year who will overdose on their product seems crazy to me. DA Jenkins’ approach is a step in the right direction. Here’s a local news report on Jenkins’ announcement.

Update: After I finished this, I noticed a new thread that just went up in which Chesa Boudin says he will not be running again for his old office. Thank goodness.

Of course he can’t leave it at that. He has to take a shot at DA Jenkins for trying to clean up the mess he created.

Skipping a few…

This will come as a relief to a lot of San Franciscans who are glad Boudin was recalled and didn’t want to see him return.