Gascon skips valuable reform panel

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and criminal justice expert David Onek discuss realignment

District Attorney George Gascon didn't show up for the town hall meeting that Sen. Mark Leno held on criminal justice reform last night. Gascon was scheduled to appear on a panel with Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, Chief Probation Officer Wendy Still, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, and Police Chief Greg Suhr (who also didn't show, sending Commander John Murphy instead).

Gascon spokesperson Stephanie Ong Stillman minimized the decision to forego appearing on a panel with Mirkarimi, whom Gascon prosecuted for a domestic violence incident and continues to persecute with calls to resign or abdicate some of his official duties, telling us, "There was just a change in his schedule."

But Gascon, who has only lived and worked in San Francisco for three years, might have benefitted from the discussion, which focused on how San Francisco has for decades pioneered a successful approach to criminal justice emphasizing rehabilitation and redemption rather than the punitive "zero tolerance" approach to crime pushed in Sacramento and other jurisdictions, which has been costly in human and fiscal terms.

"This team of individuals you see in front of you have had the most extraordinary results in leading San Francisco," Leno said, focusing much of the discussion on how well-prepared San Francisco was for Realignment, the year-old state policy of transferring low-level offenders from the overcrowded state prison system to the local level.

David Onek, the UC Berkeley criminal justice professor who ran against Gascon for DA last year, was added to the panel after Gascon bailed out. He said, "San Francisco by all accounts is way ahead of the curve and can really provide leadership to the rest of the state for how to do Realignment right."

The main reason for that, as most panelists acknowledged, was because of a variety of programs created by longtime Sheriff Michael Hennessey, who endorsed Mirkarimi to continue his legacy over two traditional law enforcement challengers. Mirkarimi noted that Hennessey didn't have a law enforcement background when he became sheriff, and that the SFPD and other local agencies long resisted the progressive reforms that he instituted.

"The constellation of what we're all addressing is unique to San Francisco," Mirkarimi said, describing the city's current multi-agency approach as "one that recognizes where redemption comes into the criminal justice system."

Still, whose department oversees Mirkarimi's three-year probation for his misdemeanor false imprisonment conviction, emphasized how much her department's approach has changed in recent years, adopting "evidence-based" approach that respects  probationers, which she now calls "clients," and addressing their needs.

"We created a plan for success instead of supervising for failure," Still said. "We changed the culture."

That cultural change came from the Sheriff's Department, she said. "Sheriff Hennessey developed a litany of programs over the years, so we were well-positioned for [SB] 678," the legislation that created Realignment. Despite all the recent talk about having "zero tolerance" for crimes like domestic violence, Hennessey's controversial approach brought ex-offenders into key leadership positions and refused to dehumanize criminals or see them in black-and-white terms.

"In San Francisco, we kind of live in a bubble. You don't know how crazy it is outside San Francisco," Adachi said, noting how politicians in other jurisdictions have aggressively sought to block sentencing reforms and demonize criminals for political reasons.
"In San Francisco, we've been so fortunate that we've had progressive criminal justice policies," Adachi said, recognizing that the last three DAs refused to bring the death penalty and Mirkarimi for six years ago creating the Reentry Council to address recidivism.

"It might seem like common sense, but it's radical to other counties," Mirkarimi said. "It makes me proud to be part of a criminal justice system that is looking forward."


It's about criminal justice system, peeps, not the sad saga of Ross Mirkarimi. Please don't miss the point.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

It's about Gascon and his corrupt cohort of machine politicians who are unable to put aside their misplaced verve against the man and simply do the jobs that the voters put them into office to do.

It looks like we'll have to clean house of these miscreants in order to create an environment where the sheriff can realize his full potential.


Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

think he should have sent a representative.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

Gascon, Lee and others are increasingly looking petty and poorly suited for their positions.

Posted by Viper on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

This is Ross Mirkarimi propaganda machine in action. Wait 'till budget time and it will all be about Ross's great budget being rejected.
This is all Ross bullshit, he was a bully to his staff for years, abused his wife, yet we get this crap.

Posted by Chris Pratt on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

Is Leno part of that propaganda machine, Chris? How about Wendy Still? They were the people singing the praises of an enlightened and forward-thinking approach to criminal justice in San Francisco that Ross has supported since his days of working for then-DA Hallinan, back when Gascon was working for the thuggish LAPD. It seems that Lee and Gascon are the ones doing the bullying here, refusing to work with another elected official or accept the fact that most San Franciscans don't see the world in such starkly moralistic terms.

Posted by steven on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

Aaahh, Ross, his name stirs up butterflies and rainbows. Everyone must bow to his grandeur and masculinity. Our god Ross, is heaven on earth, thank you SFBG for showing the commoners the light and it is bright and soothing.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

Actually, Ross has serious flaws and made a terrible mistake, for which he paid a heavy price. We at the Guardian see shades of grey in the world, which is why we've always preferred Hennessey's approach to the often intolerant and unrealistic approach of cop culture. We're happy to have leaders like Leno who embrace that approach as well and we're hopeful that officials like Lee and Gascon will eventually accept the idea that "zero tolerance" is not a San Francisco value.

Posted by steven on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

How about "Mirkarimi has flaws" -- just like... I don't know... fucking everybody -- and "Mirkarimi made a mistake."

I can understand wanting to draw some special distinction between the imperfect Mirkarimi who despite his long record of public service, and thoughtful contributions to good governance and other imperfect politicians who didn't grab their spouses' arms, but honestly did you ever write "Willie Brown has serious flaws?" Did you ever write "Gavin Newsom has serious flaws?"

Look, obviously you and the Bay Guardian have a clue with respect to this case; but why bend *at* *all* along the lines that the Mirkarimi haters want you to bend? They will never accept any "reasonable" compromise position because they are freaking reactionaries who always want more, more, more, and more.

These people come from the same culture of white privileged "victimhood" from which most of the tea party; they aren't wired for moderation.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

I was talking to a friend about how similar Tea Party is to anti Mirkarimi gang. Neither is mature enough to accept defeat. Both have a mentality of entitlement as in "they are entitled to their man". If they don't happen to win they will whine and cry. It was these people who turned me away from the Republican party.

I used to wonder about Nixon but now I think Nixon looks pretty good compared to Lee; Gascon and Tea Party.

Good news is that I managed to convince my friend who is a hard core Progressive that the Mirkarimi thing is political. The parallels between harassment and demonization of Obama and Mirkarimi were so obvious my friend finally admitted "there is something more than DV" going on in this persecution.

Posted by Akvanediv on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 6:03 am

I was thinking about your comment regarding Ross' fitness and possible destiny to serve in higher offices.

Yes indeed; and it's also amusing to consider how -- just like Obama -- Ross Mirkarimi's occupancy of the White House would drive the reactionary tea-partiests koo-koo-crazy-NUTS!

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 6:29 am

Agreed, our divine Ross would only create peace in the white house. Ross would bring all parties together and unite everyone just with his godlike voice and serene congeniality. There will be mass exodus from all other countries to Rossland just to be a part of nirvana. Lilli, Tim, Aknav, Steven, Ann, Christine, these are the holy disciples that will help prophets like Agnos and Avalos to shed the Rosslight throughout the universe. Beings not from this earth will line up to share in his sacred teachings. Stars will align, the excitement is intoxicating. The Ross effect is intoxicating.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 7:23 am

gang has just as much as of sense of entitlement and zealotry as the anti- Mirk crowd- if not more?

Posted by D. Native on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 8:41 am

Anybody who had no prior knowledge of this story and the people and politics involved would see right away that the only kooky one-sided comments made are those being made against the sheriff; oftentimes made falsely pretending to be in support of their true target.

Of course your premise itself is skewed because many of those who objected to the mayor's illegal attempt at overturning the election of Mirkarimi did not start out as "Pro-Mirk;" tyhose who are against an illegal attempt to overturn an election have good reason to enjoy a sense of "entitlement."

And though some comments in support of Ross Mirkarimi have utilized amusing bastardizations of names -- Lie and Gascan -- it has been the anti-Mirkarimi haters who are inexorably tainted by the regular appeals ethnic/racist and sexist/homophobic sociopathology.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 9:16 am

The only sense of "entitlement" I see from "pro" Mirkarimi is that they are entitled to get their elected official. You know what: They *are* entitled to it as much as Tea Party does not like it.

The right wingers are so used to winning at all costs they are not able to accept a loss. Just like Romney supporters going insane. You might get one Florida 2000 or one Lee but it not 100%. Cheating is not a guarantee for victory. I realize the right will never stop cheating but they should mature and accept sometimes they lose despite a corrupt judiciary and lots of cheating.

Or hold their breath and stomp their feet.

Posted by Akvanediv on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 10:15 am

Authoritarians will accept no challenge to authority but will bow down like sheep for their betters and expect the rest of us to be similarly disinclined towards autonomy.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 10:40 am

Everyone did not cause their spouses arm to be bruised. Everyone is not well known for being a general all around jerk and arrogant twit- famous throughout City Hall for his arrogance and all around "I'm better than you" attitude. Face it, Ross is a massive jerk and is just helping lead the progressive movement down the drain.

Posted by D. Native on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 8:48 am

Not for nothin but everything you posted is "gossip" of the malicious variety. Famous throughout city hall ? how would you know ? and dont worry about the "progressive" movement we have moved on we just do the right thing and dont subscribe to corruption that others defend. Namecalling to divert attention from the corrupt machine at city hall run for Willie Brown's clients. We dont go along with that now... thats considered progressive ?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

Yes, Lilli, the Guardian used barrels of ink writing about the myriad flaws of Brown and Newsom, and I do think political failings are more relevant than personal ones. But I don't think we do a service to anyone if we pretend that Ross doesn't have flaws as well. As I wrote last week, we need to be honest with ourselves and the public, and not stoop to the level of our opponents, if we're going to grow and strength the progressive movement at a moment when it's badly needed.

Posted by steven on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 11:37 am

I know the Bay Guardian published information about that.

My complaint is with the phrase "serious flaws" because it seems preamble to your opining that Ross Mirkarimi is unsuitable for public office. Once again, I think you overreact and bend unnecessarily in the direction the reactionaries would have you bend.

Just as with Davis, who you have indicted for lying and bullying and had un-endorsed when all he did was defend himself from a last minute smear campaign, I think your reference to Mirkarimi's "serious flaws" is a harbinger for the SFBG endorsing Ross' recall.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

I'm done talking about this, but I'll just say that you're misrepresenting the Davis situation, lilli. And you're doing so in a way that is damaging to the local progressive movement, as I discussed in my essay.

Posted by steven on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 11:07 am


Even if the charge is true, it is six years old, and Davis was a young man in his twenties at the time. Don't you think that he deserves the same chance to redeem himself as you've bestowed on Ross Mirkarimi?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

(apparently frequently) when he was younger but rather his over-reaction recently to the charges made. That shows poor judgment NOW, not back then.

Likewise with Ross who, although he has somehow saved at least his paycheck, if not his credibility, has also clearly hurt the progressive movement by tainting and tarnishing us with mysogyny

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

The people need to vote to affirm Ross's place in our pantheon of progressive heroes. Once he survives that trial by fire he will be golden - set to run for mayor in 3 years. We must support Ross by supporting a recall. Shut down the naysayers and defend Ross!

Posted by Troll II on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

This reads like a Ross for Sheriff Press release.

Posted by D. Native on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

I am hoping next will be mayor and onto governor and keep going on. Ross for POTUS!

Posted by Akvanediv on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 4:45 am

Our god must not stop, Ross must succeed in world domination. That is the only way for peace to spread on earth. Trees will magically appear in the dessert, crops will turn up in masses and hunger will disappear. His spiritual voice will stop wars. Flowers will fill the mountainsides and children wil sing his praises. I will stand with Aknavediv and demand our god Ross, perfection on earth, is the one and only savior. We shall attack naysayers and unbelievers with a vengeance. No one must speak ill of purity and Ross is purity.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 7:45 am

I know it is thanksgiving and all, but i hate you, loathsome, small-minded poster and wish you would go away, crawl under a rock, join karl rove and mitt romney in their caves. you lost, ha-ha, and you can't stand it. while too f-ing bad! hahahaha.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

And thanks to you too Guest for bringing that to light.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 21, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

The SFBG God, Ross Mirkarimi, is perfection and only unicorns and mermaids may bask in his gloriousness. No other Sheriff in the country is or ever will be on the same cosmic level as Sheriff Gpd Ross, the most pristine being to ever walk this earth.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

She's the gift that keeps on crap. Go back and read Steven's comments. No one ever claimed that RM is perfect....just that you folks overreacted. But I suppose you'll keep on blessing us with your smug "irony" and sense of morality.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 6:35 pm

Did anyone let Wendy Still know that Ross violates the terms of his probation anytime he steps foot in a jail facility?


Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

Pathetic the falseness of your remark of a supposed violation of "his probation" and "setting foot" you actually should be concerned because you are the one "setting foot" in the stuff

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 7:58 am

How dare a miscreant speaks ill of our god Ross! Don't they know they will be fought with vengeance for their sinful remarks against the perfect human, Ross!
Anywhere our god Ross "sets foot on" should be deemed holy ground and the lowly unbelievers should weep in his presence.
His aura alone is blinding with angelic light.
Keep up the fight against the anti-god Ross villains. Only our bible, the SFBG, can spread the goodness that is Ross.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 9:36 am

No matter how good you think it feels, I'm telling you that people notice if you drink in the AM.

Posted by Guest's roommate (p.s. rent was due on the 5th) on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 9:56 am

I pray for it every day. So I know that the only way he can succeed and put this all behind him is by bravely facing a recall where he triumphs and is able to re-assume his role as sheriff. I fear he has been set back by these lingering questions over his fitness to be sheriff. He should publicly call for a recall, demand to face the forgiving voters of San Francisco and pass this test of fire.

I'm hoping The Guardian and Steven and Tim personally will back this plan to help Ross succeed. A recall will be the final, climactic battle of the war we have been engaged in the past year. It will allow Ross a fresh start, to move forward free of the nagging suspicion which continue to dog him. It will allow healing.

Support Ross by supporting a recall. Let's move forward - together.

Posted by Troll II on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

Be honest, you have no interest in honesty or success of anyone. You are full of it and so much it it oozing out.

Posted by Akvanediv on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 4:32 am

Full of anger.

Posted by Troll II on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 6:12 pm

"Hennessey's controversial approach brought ex-offenders into key leadership positions"

Including a convicted domestic-violence perp (Mirk0, who got a leadership position as sheriff.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

Hennessey hired a murderer as undersheriff, as well as other former felons, and it only helped make the Sheriff's Department the proud example of compassion and rehabilitation that it is today.

Somehow, I don't think having a sheriff who committed a low-level misdemeanor for which he is getting regular counseling is going to make the sky fall. In fact, I think Lee and Gascon could take lessons in self-awareness and humility from Mirkarimi, and perhaps some history lessons from Leno and Hennessey.

Posted by steven on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 11:49 am

Steven, I believe that the "murderer" who Hennessey hired as undersheriff was convicted of killing his horribly abusive father in an act of self-defense. Strangely apropos to this discussion, in a way.

Also, I wanted to just say that I agree with this statement of yours...

"Actually, Ross has serious flaws and made a terrible mistake, for which he paid a heavy price. We at the Guardian see shades of grey in the world, which is why we've always preferred Hennessey's approach to the often intolerant and unrealistic approach of cop culture. We're happy to have leaders like Leno who embrace that approach as well and we're hopeful that officials like Lee and Gascon will eventually accept the idea that "zero tolerance" is not a San Francisco value."

Posted by Snoozers on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

-- and perhaps I should feel grateful that your statement that zero tolerance is not a San Francisco value got through along with the rest -- but again, "terrrible mistake?"

Ross grabbing his wife's arm was wrong -- and of course, that itself has been said quite enough in view of all that it has cost him and his family so far -- but "terrible" mistake? How about use the word "serious" there instead, and just leave "flaws" on its own?

I mean: a terrible mistake is like running the car backwards over the pet dog or something. It's like discharging a weapon while cleaning it and killing a loved one. Lets remember that Ross' grab of Eliana's arm did not demonstrate an intention to cause an injury; it was nothing like a two-fisted beat down which properly would arouse the ire that his act aroused.

In closing, let me point out to Snoozers that people don't properly go to prison for killing in self-defense. I'm not a blind fan of the criminal justice system and don't know the particulars of the case in question, but I doubt it would be a bad guess that the killing in question had some non-self-defense aspect to it.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 5:36 pm


Just to clarify, were Steven to have simply written, "mistake", instead of, "terrible mistake", I would still agree with his statement. I guess I don't think the word, "terrible", changes the meaning of that sentence as drastically as you do. But that's just my interpretation.

Also, you've got to be kidding if you think the Bay Guardian hasn't described Newsom and Brown as more than merely "flawed". That honestly made me laugh out loud :) The SFBG has been BRUTAL in their criticisms of both former Mayors. Were you joking when you wrote that?

And, finally, people go to prison for killing in self-defense all the time. People go to prison for not doing anything criminal at all... all the time. In fact, there have been a good number of people on death row who have been found to be factually innocent of the crimes which they were convicted of. Some were found to be innocent before they were executed, and some weren't so lucky. The reason that I mentioned the details of our undersheriff's antecedents to civic service was because I admire him and felt it was important that people weren't just told that he was a "murderer" without the extenuating details - like he had just killed a clerk in a liquor store holdup or something. Of course, I'm not his biographer or an expert in SF History, so I suppose I could have the details wrong. But that's why I said "I think" before relating the story. You know?

Posted by Snoozers on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 11:46 pm

Ross, a leader?!, Lol!

He's riding on the backs of true leaders while the Bay Guardian supports of fraud.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

He is a leader, of DV Abusers and supporters! They appear strong and united on this blog.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 10:56 am

For God's sake stop using DV as a tool for your unfunny propaganda

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 8:02 pm

The so called DA is too useless to show up and sit on a panel. Is he allergic to work or what. Maybe he is too busy having dinner with Rose and taking orders. Maybe plotting his next attack against the people and figuring how to steal their votes. Yet another far right example of how GOP went stray pushing out the sane Republicans. Now pretending to be a Democrat so he can wreck SF as well.

Posted by akvanediv on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 4:30 am

What was rich boy Onek doing at this meeting? Is he starting his 2015 campaign this early?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 7:26 am

Gascan isolates himself more and more to escape scrutiny of his malfeasance in office. Who really suffers? the City the average citizen of SF expecting better life and solutions to our society it aint going to be more prosecutions and more jails that wont work. The
Sheriff's ideas might work what a despicable lot Lee/Suhr/Gascan like a fascist corrupt regime from a banana republic of yesteryear.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 8:04 am

I think this isn't just an anti-Ross thing, although that's part of it. He's like a petulant child. Since he wasn't successful in forcing Ross out, he'll just refuse to have anything to do with him, even if the city suffers.

But it's more than just that. Fundamentally, Gascon is an old-school law-an-order conservative, who has no interest in innovation. Let's not forget that he was a Republican until he realized that he needed to change his registration to further his ambitions for higher office in San Francisco.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 15, 2012 @ 8:35 am