Mission Local: Ex-SF prosecutor fired by DA Jenkins now running to replace Jenkins

mission local ryan khojasteh sf da san francisco district attorney election

This article was originally published in Mission Local

By Eleni Balakrishnan

Ryan Khojasteh, a 30-year-old Alameda County prosecutor who was among 15 fired from the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office during the 2022 administration change, will announce his candidacy today for San Francisco’s top prosecutor seat.

“People are frustrated. They feel unsafe,” said Khojasteh, a one-time employee of ousted District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “And they want not only something to believe in, but they want to have hope that our city will be able to turn the corner in a responsible way.”

Under current DA Brooke Jenkins, Khojasteh said, the city has not become safer. Jenkins helped recall Boudin, her predecessor, by blaming him for crime rates, but Khojasteh pointed out that the city broke its all-time record of overdose deaths in 2023, and saw a slight increase in violent crime last year under Jenkins’ watch.

“This city needs a responsible prosecutor that understands job number one is public safety,” said Khojasteh.

In November, he will run against Jenkins. If elected, Khojasteh said he would be the youngest DA in the country.

The 30-year-old was born and raised in the Bay Area, and received his law degree from University of California Law San Francisco (formerly UC Hastings). Before he joined the San Francisco DA’s office as a prosecutor in 2020, he spent a year working unpaid at the Public Defender’s Office.

Jenkins fired Khojasteh and more than a dozen others after she took over the office in July 2022. In January 2023, he took a position as a deputy district attorney, joining other fired or departing former colleagues from San Francisco in the Alameda District Attorney’s Office under DA Pamela Price — another progressive prosecutor facing a recall movement.

In Alameda, Khojasteh has worked in restitution for crime victims, parole and probation violations, and collaborative courts, which divert criminal defendants into treatment or other programs.

And when the District Attorney election was moved from 2023 to 2024 through Proposition H, Khojasteh realized he met the minimum of five years of experience required to run for the office.

In an interview, he accused Jenkins and Mayor London Breed, who appointed her, of playing politics with a seat that should remain “non-political.”

Khojasteh believes Jenkins fired him because he supported reforms to the criminal justice system, like not prosecuting juveniles as adults. While at the DA’s office working in the general felonies and juvenile units, Khojasteh said, he never lost a case, he won jailtime for fentanyl dealers, and he was praised by San Francisco police officers, but lost his job anyway.

“The honor and integrity of the DA’s office has been eroded,” Khojasteh said. “It’s important that people can trust and respect our DA to find them credible.”

DAs, for example, should stay out of the “high-profile political decisions” of criminal prosecutions in cases of police misconduct, Khojasteh said.

Instead of the DA’s office deciding whether to file charges against police officers — something former DA Boudin attempted, to much backlash and little success — Khojasteh said a grand jury should consider evidence and decide whether those cases should go to trial.

Khojasteh received an endorsement from San Francisco’s former district attorney and police chief, George Gascón, who is now the district attorney of Los Angeles.

“San Franciscans deserve a district attorney who is committed to real public safety, instead of playing politics,” Gascón said in a statement, adding that Khojasteh has experience in different sectors of the DA’s office. “I believe Ryan has the right vision to balance accountability, rehabilitation and community-based partnerships to make the city safer.”

Khojasteh said he plans to implement a data-driven approach to the DA’s office, which could mean treatment, diversion programs or incarceration, depending on the case.

“Incarceration is one of many tools, and should be used to protect the public when necessary,” he wrote in an opinion piece last week. “At the same time, we know that over-incarceration does not necessarily make us safer… That’s why we need to be cautious before embracing the simplistic “tough-on-crime” narrative.”

Khojasteh has also been outspoken against DA’s office turnover, and said if he wins, he plans to help the prosecutor’s office unionize to win employment protections. He said the office should remain stable and ensure criminal cases stay on track, regardless of who is in charge.

In 2018, Khojasteh made his first bid for office, putting his name in the hat for U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s seat representing California’s 12th Congressional District. He served on the city’s Immigrant Rights Commission for six years, and sat on the board of San Francisco Young Democrats.

Khojasteh has also won endorsements from much of the City College board and San Francisco Unified School District school board, as well as former supervisor and State Senator Mark Leno, former U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, former State Superintendent of Public Schools Delaine Eastin, former supervisor and State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, and the 24-year-old Mayor of South San Francisco, James Coleman.

“With all the vitriol and toxicity and scapegoating in our politics, I’m hoping as a younger candidate, as someone that believes in these things, as someone who’s had family affected by crime, I … can talk thoughtfully about these important issues and hopefully earn the respect and the trust of the voters of the city.”

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