Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated that then-San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin had represented the suspect Troy McAlister in 2018. Boudin had in fact appeared on behalf of McAlister.
A man detained for causing a car crash that killed two pedestrians in San Francisco was facing a life sentence for previous crimes, court documents show.
Troy McAlister, 45, allegedly ran a red light in a stolen vehicle and crashed into another car, which then hit Hanako Abe, 27, and Elizabeth Platt, 60, at Second and Mission Streets in the South of Market neighborhood on Dec. 31.
McAlister, who was charged with felony vehicular manslaughter, had been in jail for a 2015 robbery, which prosecutors pursued under California’s Three Strikes law. Had he been convicted, he would have faced a life sentence, being previously guilty of another robbery and carjacking.
McAlister was released on parole in April 2020, about two months after San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin ordered the discontinuation of Three Strikes cases. However, the 45-year-old was arrested four times after — in June (for residential burglary), August (for drug- and theft-related offenses), November (for car theft and parole violation) and December (for car theft and possession of burglary tools).
Boudin reportedly blamed parole officers for not following through on McAlister’s arrests. However, those officers insisted on having done proper follow-ups, since no charges had been filed.
“This is not about blaming police about this case,” Boudin told ABC7 News. “The fact of the matter is my office can not prosecute cases until and unless police present us with adequate evidence that a crime was committed.”
There are currently concerns about a potential conflict of interest. Boudin appeared on behalf of McAlister in 2018 as a deputy public defender, according to court documents via NBC Bay Area.
“He was let go time and time again — and now we are in this very tragic situation,” said Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, according to NBC Bay Area. “When we put a public defender, a criminal defense lawyer in office to be the chief law enforcement officer of the county, you can expect that the interest will lie with those charged with crimes, those convicted of crimes, rather than with potential victims.”
We are focused on three things as we move forward: holding Mr. McAlister accountable for the harm he caused; supporting the victims’ families; and working internally in our own office and along with our justice partners to make changes to prevent this kind of tragedy.
— Chesa Boudin 博徹思 (@chesaboudin) January 6, 2021
The San Francisco Police Officers Association (SFPOA), which has long opposed Boudin’s policies, called for an independent oversight panel to review the attorney’s charging decisions and conflicts of interest. Meanwhile, local residents launched a “Chesa Must Resign” campaign.
“Well yes, of course this was an evitable. Frankly, to many of us including myself, we are surprised that it didn’t actually happen sooner,” Richie Greenberg, who launched the campaign, told CBS San Francisco.
McAlister entered a not guilty plea in court on Tuesday. He will return for another hearing on Jan. 20.