The San Francisco District Attorney’s office was sued on Tuesday by the Alliance for Asian American Justice over reducing a felony beating of an elderly Vietnamese-American man to a misdemeanor.
In November of 2019, then 69-year-old Anh Le was walking down the street in San Francisco when he was suddenly stopped and beaten with baseball bats by a father and son, both of whom had threatened other Asian-Americans earlier that day with violence. They then threatened to kill him.
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“I pleaded with the Tanners to stop, but they relished in their ability to inflict pain and fear on a defenseless senior citizen,” said Le later of the attack. “The attack was the most brutal, terrifying, and humiliating experience of my life, and has stayed with me ever since.”
The San Francisco Police Department caught the father and son later that day and charged them with battery, felony elder abuse, and felony domestic terrorism threats. However, without Le’s knowledge, the the DA’s office refused to prosecute them. The DA also did not allow Le to give a victim impact statement and failed to give him any kind of voice in the criminal proceedings. As a result, no jail time was given, with both father and son only receiving a year of probation each.
Outraged, Le decided to sue the DA’s office for mishandling case, asserting that justice had not been served. Along with the Alliance for Asian American Justice, they took the rare step of suing a District Attorney’s office on Tuesday. In the civil rights lawsuit against SF DA Chesa Boudin, they allege that justice has not been served, with the DA failing to follow Marsy’s Law, which allows victims to have a voice in the trial against their attackers, and not having Le give a victim impact statement.
“Although he was arrested for felony terroristic threats, felony elder abuse and battery because of the way my case has been handled by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office justice has not been served,” added Le on Tuesday. “I am a survivor of a horrendous attack that took place in San Francisco with no consequences to my attackers.”
One of Le’s lawyers, Quyen Ta, added that Le is not suing over any kind of money or compensation, but to have the DA’s office do their job.
“We are bringing this lawsuit, and this is the principal reason, I want to make very clear: on behalf of Mr. Le and other Asian American victims to ensure that the District Attorney’s Office does its job,” said Ta. “We believe we are the first legal team to file a lawsuit against a prosecutor’s office.”
Boudin faces lawsuit over office pleading down felony case
The San Francisco District Attorney’s office, which has faced mounting criticism over the last two years for being the primary reason for the large crime wave in the city due to lowering the number of prosecutions and crimes tried as felonies, responded in a statement on Tuesday defending Boudin as an advocate for AAPI victims. They also pointed out that the DA’s office recently formed an AAPI elder abuse committee.
“DA Boudin has been a steadfast advocate for improved victims for the AAPI community,” said the DA’s office. “We are committed to listening to community leaders, and experts to better understand how to best serve our elderly victims. The committee will address the gaps in services for AAPI elderly victims.”
However, legal experts noted on Tuesday that groups only sue the DA’s office when things have only reached a point where there is no other real course of action.
“There’s not much Le can do for justice right now,” said Harper Schultz, a civil rights lawyer in Seattle, to the Globe on Tuesday. “He did file a lawsuit against the two guys who assaulted him, but that doesn’t solve the problem of the DA basically making this a nothing crime.
“And this isn’t one that can be easily settled out of court. They aren’t fighting for money, which, speaking as a lawyer myself, can be a terrifying proposition to some in my profession. You just can’t settle out of court for an undisclosed sum here. All their wrongs are going to come to light.”
“Also, Chesa Boudin should worry. Seattle is like San Francisco with a large Asian-American population, so any slight like this making the headlines can hurt come next election. In Boudin’s case, that’s a recall election in early June. He can’t afford a big Asian-American group essentially calling the DA’s office not-caring towards the Asian-American community. They basically took a hate crime and battery situation, usually worth years of jail time, and made it nothing. The DA will have one hell of a time trying to defend himself on this one.”
The civil lawsuit against the two assailants is expected to be heard in April. The larger lawsuit against the DA is expected to be heard in the near future.
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