Recalling San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin
Chesa Boudin has been serving San Franciscans as their district attorney for nearly 2 years. He is a leading progressive in what has been called the progressive prosecutors movement. Other progressive district attorneys in that small cohort are George Gascon in Los Angeles and Larry Krasner in Philadelphia.
In Berger v. United States, the Supreme Court said that the duty of a prosecutor in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. Yet all too many prosecutors are more concerned with winning cases than doing justice, which includes the protection of constitutional rights.
Chesa campaigned by proposing solutions to the disaster of mass incarceration, the civil rights issue of our time. He introduced policies of diversion and no cash bail. He put fewer juveniles behind bars. He opposed the death penalty and focused his efforts on helping victims of crimes. Chesa Boudin said that the recall effort is about criminal justice reform, that it is a question of whether we are going to go forward and continue to implement data driven policies that center on crime victims, that invest in communities impacted by crime, and that use empirical evidence to address root causes of crime in our communities or if we are going to go back to the failed policies of Reagan and Trump.
Chesas efforts are now being challenged. A claimed 83,000 signatures were gathered in San Francisco by paid workers to put a recall Boudin question on the San Francisco county ballot in June. Even Donald Trump has injected himself into the campaign in what has become a national well-funded Republican putsch. Fear mongering is employed to create a false conception that crime in San Francisco is rising. Today, my co-host Marjorie Cohn, a former criminal defense attorney and law professor, and I talk with Chesa Boudin about his philosophy and successful efforts as a progressive prosecutor.
Decision To Not Extradite Julian Assange To U.S. Reversed
A devastating decision, the worst decision against free journalism in modern U.S. history came down on December 10th from a British appellate court against Julian Assange. It will abolish National security journalism everywhere giving United States the power to reach across oceans and indict journalists and publishers who publish stories exposing and embarrassing the U.S. government. This is what Julian did.
The horrible but not unexpected decision reversed the decision of Vanessa Baraitser, the lower court judge who had refused a U.S. Government request to extradite Julian and send him to the Eastern District of Virginia where he will be put on trial for 17 counts under the 1917 Espionage Act. The charges stem from WikiLeaks 2010 revelations of U.S. war crimes. It is unlikely he could receive a fair trial in that most conservative district where most of the so-called War on Terror cases have been tried.
The lower court judge had ruled that the conditions of imprisonment in a U.S. prison are so egregious that Assange, who is in very frail mental health, would likely take his own life. He had already tried to do so in the wretched London Belmarsh prison where he is now being held in torturous solitary confinement.
When Baraitsers decision came down, the United States was quick to offer so-called assurances to the appellate court that Assange would not be sent to the maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado and would not be subjected to special administrative measures which would cut him off from human contact. It was these assurances on which the appellate court relied in overturning the lower courts decision.
Julian Assange was a young computer genius, an Australian citizen, who figured out a way to receive information from whistle blowers and publish that truth telling material anonymously in order to protect them.
When he began publishing WikiLeaks, Assange won awards for his journalism. He exposed U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantnamo. He embarrassed the Democratic Party by showing how Hillary Clinton stole the nomination from Bernie Sanders.
When Mike Pompeo was Trumps CIA director, he called WikiLeaks a hostile non-state intelligence agency and CIA officials suggested that Assange be kidnapped from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had received political asylum, and assassinated.
It was to the United States that the British High Court had no hesitation in sending Julian. So can the U.S. governments assurances be trusted? Probably not, as they have reneged on nearly identical assurances in the past.
Meanwhile Julian Assange sits in isolation in Belmarsh prison in failing physical and mental health. His lawyers will appeal the decision to the British Supreme Court. But in the meantime, the United States has Julian exactly where they want him in the upcoming months or years that an appeal would take.
U.S. smearing, persecution, and isolation of Julian Assange has been going on now for 10 years. The sordid story began a decade ago when the US Department of Defense took the position that Julian should be discredited and slandered. He was falsely blamed for sexual misconduct in Sweden involving two women who never wanted Julian targeted. But the United States was able to get a prosecutor who did. A warrant was sent from Sweden to England requesting that Julian be sent to Sweden for questioning.
Our own Michael Ratner was representing Julian at the time. In an attempt to avoid being sent to Sweden, which would have extradited Julian to the United States for trial under the Espionage Act, Julian was granted political asylum in the tiny apartment that serves as the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He remained there for seven years under the direct video surveillance 24 hours a day by the CIA
Then the U.S. bribed and bullied its way to reverse the grant of asylum after a U.S.-friendly president assumed the helm of the Ecuadorian government. The British police brutally extracted him from the embassy and put him in solitary confinement in the notorious London Belmarsh prison, where he has remained for nearly 3 years.
Then the Trump administration brought the Espionage Act charges against him. Biden had referred to Julian as a high-tech terrorist, and his administration continued Trumps historically unprecedented pursuit of Assange.
Guest ” Chris Hedges whose many books and brilliant journalism have caused him to be respected as a moral philosopher. He is a regular columnist for Scheerpost and is host of the show On Contact. Chris most recent article on the decision to extradite Julian Assange.