Attorneys representing San Francisco Chinatown attack victim Anh Lê have accused the District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s Office of releasing “misleading” statements in response to their client’s lawsuit, insisting that he was never made aware of a potential plea deal.
Lê, 69, filed a federal lawsuit against the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office on Jan. 25 after it allegedly failed to inform him of and involve him in plea discussions that led to a lenient sentence for Jimmy Tanner Sr., a man who allegedly attacked him in November 2019.
On Jan. 27, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article that cited records it had obtained from the Chesa Boudin’s office that reportedly demonstrated that a victim advocate from the office had documented reaching out to Lê “more than two dozen times” but received no response.
Those attempts were reportedly made through emails and phone calls. The advocate, according to the Chronicle, left “several messages in the week leading up to a plea deal” for Tanner.
Lê is represented by King & Spalding LLP, a member of the Alliance for Asian American Justice. In a statement to NextShark, his legal team disputed several details in the Chronicle’s report, saying their client was “never told in a phone call or email that a plea deal would be reached or was being considered – let alone dozens of times.”
“We are shocked by the San Francisco DA’s Office’s decision to attack a victim through misleading statements rather than to address the systemic issues in Mr. Lê’s Complaint,” the team said. “As a result of these statements, the San Francisco Chronicle’s article from [Jan.] 27, 2022 contains significant errors that we wish to correct.”
Lê’s attorneys pointed out that the contacts Lê had made with the district attorney were related to a “preliminary hearing,” which indicated that the case was still charging Tanner with a felony. Tanner, according to the Chronicle, later pled guilty to misdemeanor battery through the deal, resulting in no jail time and year-long probation.
NextShark obtained a record of emails from Lê’s attorneys that show that Lê was first invited to a “preliminary hearing” on Nov. 9, 2020, but that hearing did not take place and was rescheduled on March 22, 2021. The hearing was then later rescheduled yet again for April 12, 2021, when Tanner pled guilty to the misdemeanor battery charge. In an email sent on April 13, the victim advocate told Lê, “The case resolved yesterday.”
The emails seen by NextShark show that Lê had been seeking updates on the case since September 2020. But throughout his correspondence with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office between that time and April 12 — including in the advocate’s invitations to the “preliminary hearing” — not once did the word “plea” appear.
Lê responded to the district attorney on April 13, writing, “I have not received a phone call from you.” His attorneys also rejected a claim that he received an email on April 8 that said the case “might conclude in four days.”
Lê’s legal team also contradicted details claimed by Tanner’s defense team surrounding the original incident, which took place on Nov. 2, 2019. Lê’s attorneys claimed that Tanner was on foot, contrary to his lawyer’s statement that he had been traveling in his wheelchair.
“Mr. Tanner followed him on foot when he chased Mr. Lê with a glass bottle and was on foot when he attacked others the same day,” the team said. They also stressed that Lê did not know whether the bat used by Tanner’s son to allegedly attack him was plastic, but that it was “3 feet long, solid and painful.”
ABC7 reporter Dion Lim obtained surveillance images of Tanner and his son, along with the bat in question. NextShark could not independently verify the material of the bat, but the image of Tanner shows him standing on both feet inside what appears to be a retail store.
“Mr. Lê suffered significant trauma as a result of this event, for which he is still undergoing mental health counseling, two years later,” his attorneys said. “The DA’s attempt to minimize the attack, in order to avoid responsibility for his office’s failures, is deeply disappointing.”