Davis Vanguard: A Challenger for Brooke Jenkins

Davis Vanguard Ryan Khojasteh San Francisco DA Ryan Khojasteh brook jenkins

This article was originally published in the Davis Vanguard

By David M. Greenwald

San Francisco, CA – Two weeks ago Ryan Khojasteh announced he was running for San Francisco DA against Brooke Jenkins.

Jenkins, who was appointed by Mayor London Breed after Chesa Boudin was recalled by the voters, and then won election in November 2022, is now running for her first full term. Khojasteh was hired by then-DA Boudin but fired when Jenkins replaced him.

In July 2022, Khojasteh wrote an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, noting that when she was appointed, Jenkins “assured her staff that she wanted to unite the office. She wasn’t concerned with what administration we came from.”

He explained, “After witnessing Jenkins lead a rancorous recall campaign against her predecessor and the man who hired me, Chesa Boudin, I appreciated the sentiment.”

But she didn’t keep her promise, and Khojasteh and 14 others were fired from the DA’s office.

Khojasteh explained to the Vanguard, “Brooke Jenkins was appointed and I was fired from my job. I didn’t want to be fired. I wanted to continue being a prosecutor. I love this city.”

He continued, “This is my home and I’m committed to the wellbeing of San Francisco. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that opportunity.”

Khojasteh said he never had any intention in his life ever running for DA. He came into this work through immigration rights organizing.

He noted that when the DA’s race was moved from odd years to 2024, he wasn’t really thinking about running for DA.

He said, “I didn’t have a job. I needed to make sure I paid my rent and I wanted to continue being a prosecutor. I was fortunate. I applied to a lot of different prosecutor’s offices.”

He said, “I was committed to this work. I didn’t apply to be a public defender. I didn’t apply to other agencies. I was committed to being a prosecutor, and I was lucky to be granted many opportunities, but one of which was closest to home across the bay in Alameda that would allow me to still live in my city, in my rent control apartment in my home.”

Khojasteh came to realize that no one was willing to step up and run against Brooke Jenkins.

After months of conversations, he said, “I realized that I had no choice, that it was going to be me that needed to step up and provide this important counter narrative to highlight the failings of this district attorney’s administration and hopefully to earn the trust of voters in this city because we need an ethical, responsible, collaborative district attorney who actually has a vision for a better way on public safety here in San Francisco.”

For him, “What is going on is not working.”

He explained, “People feel less safe, violent crime is on the rise. Drug overdoses are the highest ever in the history of our city, and now we’re just scapegoating and blaming everybody—that is not leadership.”

Many voted to oust Chesa Boudin because they were frustrated at the direction of the city. But for Khojasteh, many of those problems are now worse under Jenkins, not better.

He said, “I think this district attorney is prioritizing political ideology and personal ambition over not only the wellbeing of the DA’s office and its stability, but at the expense of public safety.”

He noted the mass firing that took place at the DA’s office which he argued “wasn’t good for cases.”

He said, “First and foremost, the mass firings that took place in the DA’s office, that wasn’t good for cases. I was handling almost 150 violent felonies and no one was there to pick up the slack.”

Khojasteh told the Vanguard that, following those firings, they did not prepare coverage. So the next day in court, he explained, “I got calls from victims and police officers asking me, Hey, we’re in court. What should we do? I don’t know. I didn’t get a chance to be able to meaningfully prepare.”

While one could write that off as a short-term problem, Khojasteh noted that overall under Jenkins, over 60 people have quit the office.

“More so than under Chesa that people criticized him for,” he explained.

“When I was fired on the news, I wished Brooke Jenkins success because I said, look for the sake of the DA’s office, for the sake of the city, we need stability,” he said. “Instead of stability, it’s been further turmoil and drama. It harms the public. It harms the ability to have competent and fair prosecutors who will do what’s right.”

Boudin was criticized for a rising crime rate—a crime rate that rose at a time when crime was going up across the nation and there was a pandemic.

But as Khojasteh points out the cuts in programs and services are resulting in a rise in crime under Jenkins as well—except that she seems to be getting away with it in ways that Boudin could not.

He explained, “Violent crime under this DA is now up 3.1%. Robbery citywide are almost up 15%.”

They have cut programs that are evidence-based which are designed to reduce recidivism.

He said, “You are continuing the revolving door of criminal behavior and custody without actually getting people to help they need.”

He wants to toe a middle road path between Chesa Boudin and Brooke Jenkins.

“We must have accountability, which I have done,” he said. “I have held people in custody, but we also must recognize the value of rehabilitation and treatment and programming as a means to actually get people the help they need before they escalate behavior.”

But that’s not happening right now.

“Right now, the DA’s office is focusing fully on reactive measures to crime, custody, incarceration as opposed to a fair balance of exploring the other means that prevent crime,” he said. “So that’s why we have the largest drug overdoses recorded in San Francisco’s history.

“We have brought back the failed policies of the War on Drugs, which did not work in our country. We are incarcerating drug users who need help, who need treatment, who need intervention through the public health realm. Instead, we’re cycling them through the custody, through custody of county jail without even the adequate infrastructure to get them help.”

At the same time Khojasteh acknowledged that mistakes were made under Boudin.

He said, “I think mistakes were made. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to run an office during Covid. That was certainly an extraordinary circumstance.”

At the same time, “as someone who worked closely with career prosecutors who essentially, I am a career prosecutor, I was never paid to be a public defender. I’ve only ever worked for the government as a district attorney. I think there were things that could have been done better.”

He felt that “communications and narrative is very important to set, and there wasn’t enough of an emphasis on victims’ rights and the normal work we were doing as prosecutors, we should have been highlighting the fact that we were holding people accountable.”

He said that “when you set the narrative early on as to what your agenda is going to be, that can be exploited. And I don’t think that the communication was strong enough to let people know that job number one is public safety and we are still pursuing

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