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Facing city budget cuts and a few months after being forced to return millions of dollars in grant money to the federal government, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris laid off several employees on Thursday. Harris, in a statement to her office, said she made the cuts because of pressure from City Hall to deal with San Francisco’s projected $338 million budget deficit, according to an article in Friday’s San Francisco Chronicle. The Chronicle reported that Harris laid off at least three prosecutors and two support staff, with plans to dismiss about a dozen in all. Harris’ office confirmed that layoffs had taken place, but would not disclose how many attorneys and staffers were let go. “Out of respect for past and present employees of the DA’s office, we won’t disclose any specifics regarding personnel, including those affected by layoffs,” Harris spokeswoman Erica Derryck wrote in an e-mail Friday. Among those laid off were Reve Bautista, former child abductions unit supervisor Mario Jovel, and environmental crimes prosecutor Susan Austin, the Chronicle reported. Bautista and Jovel came to the office during the reign of DA Arlo Smith, San Francisco’s top prosecutor from 1981 to 1995. Bautista could not be reached for comment on Friday, and Jovel did not return a call to his office number. Friday evening, Austin’s outgoing office voicemail said that she no longer works at the district attorney’s office. Several ex-prosecutors said Bautista and Jovel had been gradually reassigned to less prestigious positions in recent years, a practice ex-assistant DA Randall Knox called “being 17(b)’d,” in reference to California Penal Code §17(b), which allows prosecutors to decrease felony charges to misdemeanors. Knox said the practice is the “traditional way” of letting someone know that “your future does not look that bright, you may have better opportunities elsewhere, so you give people a reasonable amount of time to find another job.” Knox said that Jovel had gone from supervising child-abduction prosecutions — a “really plum” job — to working in a preliminary hearing department after Harris became DA. Similarly, Bautista, a 22-year veteran, also ended her tenure in a preliminary hearing department. Judge Garrett Wong, who presides in Department 9, said she was the most senior prosecutor in his courtroom. Dennis Cashman, a 17-year prosecutor who left the office in 2007, said Harris’ pinning the layoffs on a “budget crisis” struck him as disingenuous. “If it’s really a budgetary issue, you would think you had to lay off the person who was most recently hired,” he said. “I imagine, given [Bautista and Jovel's] severance packages, that the city would’ve been happier if she had laid off younger deputies.” Cashman, who has worked for the union that represents San Francisco’s public defenders, city attorneys and DAs, estimated that Jovel and Bautista both earned a roughly $150,000 salary and would get around 15 and 34 weeks of severance respectively. He said he had worked with both of the prosecutors, who had told him that they felt “scrutinized” and thought that their work — even what times they checked in and out — was being documented. Anthony “Tony” Brass, who worked for the office in the 1990s and later from 2004 to 2006, said it made sense for Harris to avoid letting younger deputy DAs go because their ranks, especially in the misdemeanor division, are already thin. He said such a decision would have harmed morale among the younger prosecutors and made it harder for Harris to recruit. Cashman said he thought that Bautista and Jovel’s layoffs could have been handled better. He said he had spoken Friday with two prosecutors and one attorney who works regularly in the Hall of Justice and that he thinks morale in the DA’s office has dropped significantly. “They don’t know if there’s another shoe that’s gonna drop,” he said.

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