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This week, The Recorder is publishing interviews with the three candidates in the Nov. 4 San Francisco district attorney election. The newspaper’s editorial board interviewed Bill Fazio, who was accompanied by political consultant Duane Baughman, on Sept. 5. Interviews with Terence Hallinan and Kamala Harris will run Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. RECORDER: Why should the voters choose you? FAZIO: Because I have demonstrated and will demonstrate to anybody who cares to listen that I am the candidate who is independent from any political influence, past, present or future. I am the candidate with by far the most experience, both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney. I am the candidate who has shown a consistent interest in San Francisco and San Franciscans. I’m the only native-born, I’m the only one who has lived here for as long as I have — lived here all my life, in fact, with my family. I am the candidate who knows that office in and out. I believe I have the respect of prominent members of the defense bar, of the law enforcement community, retired [judges] and other individuals. And I think I’m the candidate who, consistent with my message, is the only one who’s able to get the job done right this time. � RECORDER: What sets you apart from the other candidates? FAZIO: Experience. During my 20 years in the DA’s office I estimate I [tried] over 150 felony cases, with a 90 percent conviction rate. Terence [Hallinan tried] personally one or two cases. I’ve prosecuted more cases than he’s defended. In my eight years as a defense attorney I’ve tried cases up to and including murder cases. Ms. Harris talks in some of her literature, I’ve seen a quote that says “I’ve tried hundreds of serious felonies.” I also know that is not correct, because at the Alice B. Toklas Club she mentioned — when asked, when pushed on it � she tried two or three cases in San Francisco, and that gives her seven or eight years in Alameda County to try hundreds, which isn’t true. So she was asked, and she said, after being pushed — not “prosecuted,” not “involved,” and not “handled,” you said “tried” — and she said, “Well, OK, I guess I tried under 30,” and that was as far as they were able to go. So I don’t know if that means 29 or it means nine, but I do obviously have much more experience, both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney. Terence says there’s not enough resources in their office. I think Ms. Harris agrees. I disagree. I think I shock people when I say, you know, there are more than enough district attorneys to get the job done. One of the things I don’t anticipate doing is asking for an increase in the budget. I don’t anticipate going hat in hand to the Board of Supervisors saying we need more prosecutors. Because the fact of the matter is there are more DAs today than there were eight years ago. Crime has gone down — which presents another question: If crime has gone down and prosecutors have gone up, why is the conviction rate so low? But that’s another issue. Terence’s ideas have failed. He’s supposed to be America’s most progressive prosecutor. Conviction rates have dropped abysmally. He’ll tell you, “Well that’s because I believe in diversion.” You know, I believe in diversion too. As a defense attorney I take advantage of it as often as I can to benefit my clients. As a prosecutor I’ll use it as much as I reasonably can to get people out of the system, to get them rehabilitated, so we don’t see them again. Anybody who doesn’t believe in it is nuts. RECORDER: Is it really the ideas that you think have failed, or is it the execution? FAZIO: Both. Because his office doesn’t practice what he preaches. So in that sense it’s his ideas. He’s saying, “I do not prosecute medical marijuana cases.” Then why do I, as a defense attorney, get appointed to represent a young man in a medical marijuana case who has a marijuana card? � Ultimately, the case was dismissed. Some of the Three Strike cases I’ve handled as a defense attorney are inconsistent with what he preaches to the public. So I’ve told people, his office does not practice what he preaches, which I think is an indication that the office is disorganized and not unified at all. � The police indictment was a failed indictment. One of two things happened in that case — and as you know I was involved as a defense attorney. Either these people were inappropriately indicted, which I think was the case. I believe that it was an abomination for the prosecutor to make a statement that he can’t prove the case, and then allow the grand jury to force him to do something that he should have been in control of. He dismisses the case against the police chief and the assistant chief a week later. The court three weeks after that, from the bench, looks down and says, “You have an ethical obligation to dismiss these charges. If you don’t, I will.” Dismissed. That was a failure. If, on the other hand, you take his argument, “I had the courage to go after the police. I had the courage to prosecute the dog-mauling case. I had the courage to prosecute the collapse of the deck case,” I say courage is only half the job. The other half that we look to is success, and you’ve failed. You failed in the prosecution of the deck. You failed in the prosecution of the dog-mauling case. You asked initially the grand jury [in the dog-mauling case] to return an indictment on involuntary manslaughter. After the attorney testified and so outraged him, they return an indictment on second-degree murder. The judge, after the conviction, had to reverse it and reduce it to an involuntary manslaughter, which most people in the legal profession feel that’s all it ever was. And with the police case, if in fact you had something against these officers, you failed. And he consistently fails. RECORDER: That’s an execution issue. Where are you ideologically different? BAUGHMAN: One of the areas politically — and they talked about this at the women’s debate, what they said is it’s an amazing city where all the candidates tend to agree on so many of the issues. One of the basic areas is prosecuting, and making sure we have clean, safe neighborhoods. Quality of life. Prop M is one of those. FAZIO: Yes. We disagree a lot on quality-of-life type issues. I don’t know where he stands. I don’t think he stands anywhere on those issues. And I think that’s a big issue this time. I’ve talked to a lot of community groups who supported him last time and are not supporting him this time for that reason. I’m talking about misdemeanor-type violations [involving] conduct which is criminal, not one’s condition — graffiti, urinating/defecating in public, violating/spoiling the public’s parks. Minor incidents of batteries, petty thefts, aggressive panhandling. I wrote a ballot [argument] in favor of Proposition M. Hallinan opposes Proposition M, I favor Proposition M. I think it’s appropriate under certain circumstances. It doesn’t prevent people from soliciting alms. What it does, it prevents them from engaging in certain conduct and from engaging in certain locations. I don’t have a problem with it, and I think there’s a certain care aspect built into it. So I think that’s where we really disagree.� And I’ve told people over and over again I will enforce it when it becomes an issue for the district attorney. It’s a bigger issue for society obviously; it’s not an issue to the district [attorney] until someone is arrested and the district attorney is faced with the consequences — do you prosecute this case or do you not prosecute? One of the things I have mentioned to effectively deal with this is to engage in what I term to be legal triage of misdemeanor offenses. When a misdemeanor comes in I will have an officer, a district attorney at the booking counter at certain times of the day when they’re processed through, who will review those brief reports before they even come into court. Those people who would be discharged a day or three days later depending on the time of the day or the week when they’re booked, will be discharged immediately from custody, saving them money, saving them the indignity of being in custody when they shouldn’t be. Those people who might benefit from treatment will be offered treatment through jail psychiatric services, and I won’t charge them [with a crime]. Those people who aren’t eligible for treatment, reject treatment, and those people who can’t reasonably be prosecuted with a reasonable assurance that we can obtain a conviction � will be screened and logged into the system for dealing with later on. RECORDER: You would prosecute a public urination case? FAZIO: Might have to. I might have to. I mean, it’s been done before. When I was in the DA’s office in the early ’70s, there was a Penal Code section still on the books called depositing offensive matter in a public place, which covered that. � I can’t tell you, yes, I will prosecute a public urination case. I mean, if a guy is leaning up a building, and he’s arrested for that, and that’s his only offense, that’s highly unlikely to be prosecuted. If someone’s been a constant problem, and he’s urinating in front of schoolchildren to the point where he’s been warned on numerous occasions, and my office has tried to help him and he continues to do that, yes, that individual might be prosecuted. So it’s a case-by-case basis, which is based on your discretion, which is based on your experience. RECORDER: What can you do to, at the same time you mend fences with the police, also assure those who are concerned about the allegations and the conduct of fajitagate, that you can also be an effective watchdog on the police department? FAZIO: [I would] let the police officers know that I’m somebody they can trust. I’m not somebody who’s going to do their bidding or jump at their request. But I’m somebody they can trust, and I expect to be able to trust them. And if they provide me police reports that are lacking, I’ll refuse to prosecute, but at the same time I’ll go out of my way to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Because I think a district attorney on occasion can blame the police department. But after then it becomes your job, as an instructor, as a teacher, as somebody who’s going to guide them. So I’ve taught at the police academy, I’ve taught at the district attorneys association, I’ve taught at law schools and colleges throughout the Bay Area, so I have that background. � I will reinstitute the position of the chief trial attorney. That individual and his or her team will be responsible for certain types of offenses, and part of it will probably include political corruption and cases that are sensitive to the public. The people in that unit will be skilled, will be trained, will be experienced and will be sensitive. But ultimately the responsibility will go to me. RECORDER: Based on what you know of [the fajitagate] case, do you feel that the three officers directly involved in the incident should be prosecuted? FAZIO: I believe there was sufficient evidence presented to the grand jury which sustained their indictment as to those three officers. As to the others, I think it’s important that we make a distinction here, because people say, “Are you saying the officers didn’t do anything wrong?” I’m not saying that. I’m saying they did not do what they are accused of doing, and that’s really the crucial point. Because as we know, the prosecutor is only supposed to bring before a jury [a case] that he or she feels he can reasonably prove based on competent evidence and his or her understanding of the law. � So we’re not saying they didn’t do anything wrong. They may have violated internal police codes, I don’t know. But they didn’t do the felony charge that they were charged with. RECORDER: Fajitagate aside, in general do you feel there are corruption problems or excessive force problems in the police department that ought to be addressed? FAZIO: Absolutely. Absolutely. I absolutely think there are problems, and there certainly is the perception of problems in the police department. We read once or twice a month about incidents. Unfortunately, oftentimes there are certain areas of the city where unfortunately the police do not have the best relationships with the community, but I’ll work toward solving it.� RECORDER: The district attorney has had eight years to build his staff. Do the folks who’ve been added during his tenure have reason to fear pink slips on the chair? FAZIO: Definitely not pink slips on the chair. That was the way [Hallinan] discharged the people. I will give everybody in that office a fair shot. I actually probably have more contact with the day-in-day-out deputies in that office than Terence does. He doesn’t go to court every day. � Miss Harris hasn’t been in the Hall of Justice in a year or so, and even while she was there I think she tried, like, two or three cases. So she doesn’t know the deputies as well as I do. I know them as adversaries. I know most of them are dedicated, motivated people who want to do a good job. I think a lot of them are frankly embarrassed under the administration they currently work [for]. There will not be any wholesale discharge of people. Everyone will be properly considered. � RECORDER: How do you plan to handle domestic violence cases? FAZIO: I have a special interest in domestic violence, because I like to think I was responsible for the institution of the domestic violence vertical prosecution unit. In 1979 under Arlo Smith I was asked to speak to the Board of Supervisors. At the time I was on the sex crimes unit, which was incredibly successful because we had this small, tightly knit unit which worked closely with the police department, which worked closely with the sexual trauma services, which worked closely with support groups like Women Against Rape. � In 1978 or ’80 I prosecuted one of the first successful first-degree murder convictions in a case of domestic violence. Back then — and it’s hard to believe but it’s true — if a man killed his wife, or a wife killed her spouse, it was sort of like this is a manslaughter because of the relationship between the people. � We got a first-degree murder conviction. People talk about it a lot, but I don’t think the resources are made available, the training’s not there. I would continue to have a domestic violence unit � and I would make certain the people involved in that unit are properly schooled and trained. � I would look into cases carefully to make certain that those cases that should be prosecuted are successfully prosecuted. We’d monitor the cases better, because there’s a total breakdown. I mean, this being a technological era, one unit doesn’t know what the other — I promise to make sure the police department, the district attorney, the sheriff, the courts and probation all have one database they can share. If I can do a search on my little Palm Pilot and boom it to somebody else, I can’t believe San Francisco can’t find out where somebody is in their system. I mean, I’m in court and I see judges get a clerk to run to Room 201 to get a hard copy because they don’t have anything there. It’s a shame. RECORDER: This is your third campaign for district attorney, as you’re well aware. FAZIO: Yes I am. RECORDER: You’ve come close twice. Why haven’t you been able to push it over the top, and what are you doing differently this time? FAZIO: I’ve got Duane Baughman with me. I mean, seriously, I think I’ve got some top-notch political consultants working for me. Last time, you all know how close that election was, and there were political things operating against me. In retrospect, the introduction of Tom Ammiano [to the mayor's race] was history for me. But even with him I only lost by less than a thousand votes. � I’m getting more of my message out. I think quality of life issues now are very important. I’ve talked to community groups � who identify themselves as liberal progressives, but who are tired of putting up with people’s conduct which interferes with their ability to enjoy their lifestyle. � I’m getting people to know who I am. Hallinan was able to label me in a certain manner in past elections. I’m not going to allow that to happen. � Miss Harris and Mr. Hallinan, they’re sniping at one another. If you come to the debates, I talk about my programs. I talk about my issues. I talk about who I am, what I’ve done and what I can do. So I really do believe in this case that third time is the charm. I like running for office, but I don’t like pounding my head against the wall. And my wife told me, “You know, you’d better do something different this time.” And I said, “Well, what is that?” And she said, “You’d better win.” BAUGHMAN: [In past elections] Bill’s always been the best prosecutor and the worst politician. Terence has always been the best politician and the worst prosecutor. This time that’s what the race is about. Bill’s background as the only born and raised native that people don’t know. Bill’s background as board member on Centro Latino that people don’t know. As the only union card holder in this race, whose father was also a union card holder. � This time around we plan to be second to none in the political arena. � RECORDER: One of the things that’s changed is that in past campaigns you indicated you would prosecute a capital case if it was an extreme case. And this time you’re saying no death penalty period. That looks like a politically opportunistic thing. FAZIO: I’ve thought about it carefully. People may view it that way. Toward the end of the [last] election, Hallinan came out with this allegation that I had an innocent man on death row. I immediately challenged him, and it was sort of funny. “If he’s innocent, let him go.” I said, “Why wait until December, let him go.” Of course he wouldn’t do that. That was Russell Coleman. And he wasn’t innocent of anything. A year later, [in] 2000, Russell Coleman’s death penalty — just the penalty phase — was reversed, because of judicial instructional error that Judge [Claude] Perasso gave to the jury. When I tried that case in 1981, [against] Peter Keane, Russell Coleman was sentenced to death. Nineteen or 20 years later, the punishment is reversed. I remember that case, it was my first murder case. Plus my son was born when I tried that case. So I turn around, here’s my son, 20 years old, taller than I am, and I’m thinking, “You know, there’s something wrong with this system.” Not because he didn’t do it. But because of some inane comment. It was like this: The judge failed to tell the jurors that the governor could commute the punishment of Russell Coleman to life without parole, because the governor really did not have that power because of Russell Coleman’s past felony convictions. The governor could only do it with the consensus of the majority members of the then-sitting California Supreme Court. Like that would have made a difference in anybody’s mind. So I started thinking about it. I meet Gene Sweeters, who’s an old friend of mine. Great homicide prosecutor � recently retired. He said, “Man, you ought to re-evaluate your position on capital punishment.” So I start thinking about it. And then there’s an article that came out in the Bay Guardian. It was a picture of [Cary] Stainer, [with the headline], “Do we need to spend a million dollars to kill this man?” So I started thinking about it more. And I sat down and I wrote a letter to the Guardian, this was like March of 2001 maybe. And I said, You know, I’ve changed my position. Number one, this is the district attorney of San Francisco, and I don’t think San Franciscans want the death penalty. � And I have prosecuted death penalty cases. I’ve prosecuted more than one, that’s the only one where I got the conviction. And it does take an incredible amount of time and costs an incredible amount of money. I use as an example, two defendants were charged with killing with four people. We had to sever the case due to certain problems. We tried the husband first, two good defense attorneys. The case takes nine months. We’re seeking the death penalty. Jury returns life without possibility of parole. The guy will never get out of jail. We then re-evaluate trying his wife, and decide, well, since he didn’t get the death penalty we won’t ask it for her. Two different but equally competent defense attorneys. Same evidence. That case takes six weeks. Six weeks, compared to nine months, because of the death penalty issue. � Then you’ve got the other issue: “Oh, this provides closure for the family of the victim.” And I said no, it doesn’t. It provides anything but closure. And that Coleman case really [underscored it]. Here’s his family. The husband of the woman who was murdered is a friend of mine. � His little boy was seven years old when Mom was killed and two years later when the case was brought to trial. He’s 30 years old now, almost. This is crazy. It does not provide closure. And what is the alternative? Well, the alternative is life without the possibility of parole, which means you never get out. � The only thing I think that the death penalty provides that LWOP does not is a certain amount of vengeance, which is deep-rooted in the heart of most people. I’m not saying I agree or disagree, but I’m saying that should not be the job of society. It’s not society’s job to execute. RECORDER: Hasn’t a lot of this information been in front of you for a long time? It’s not news that it takes 20 years to execute people in California. BAUGHMAN: The DNA technology is new. FAZIO: But the Coleman case, that was my only death penalty case that was successful. � I probably tried four or five or maybe more death penalty cases in my career. All the other ones ended in life without parole. Those families go on with their life. They get over the initial disappointment, if you will. But, it’s like, it’s better for them. And the amount of time, energy, money and human resources expended, it’s just not worth it. � After I made that decision I’m driving down the street and I read a bumper sticker, and it made me feel comfortable because it said, “If you haven’t changed your mind lately, maybe you ought to check. You might not have one.” So yeah, I changed my mind. But I did it after careful consideration and thought. � RECORDER: Most of Kamala Harris’ criticism seems focused on Terence Hallinan. She says that you’d make a good DA, but that you’d be kind of old guard, not proactive, not as in tune to the modern DA’s office. It has been almost a decade since you worked as a prosecutor. Is that a fair criticism? FAZIO: No, not at all. It’s not fair for a couple of reasons. There’s nothing which causes me to believe — and I’ve watched her and listened to her speak on the stump — that she’s got any innovative ideas. She had the opportunity as a team leader of the career criminal section in that office for three years – BAUGHMAN: The fact is that we’re not running against Kamala. We’re all running against Terence and the most dysfunctional DA’s office in the country. We would love to have Kamala’s and her supporters’ support if we end up being in the run-off, and we think she brings a lot to the race. She brings a lot to the race and we’re glad to have her in it, but we’re not going to say anything bad about Kamala. RECORDER: It sounds like you started to. FAZIO: Well, that’s why he’s here, to control me [laughs]. What I was going to say, she had the opportunity to do things in that office. I don’t see any legacy that she left. I’m the one with the ideas that I’ve talked about on the community stuff, so I’m not yesterday’s news. I know the day-in, day-out operation of the Hall of Justice better than both of them put together, and I’m totally tomorrow’s news in my plans.

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