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New Trial Ahead In S.F. Fatal Crash That Helped Lead To DA's Ouster

On December 31, 2020, Troy McAlister drove a stolen car through a red light in San Francisco and hit another vehicle. The collision sent McAlister’s car crashing into two women who were crossing the street. Hanako Abe, a 27-year-old real estate analyst, and Elizabeth Platt, a 60-year-old radio DJ who was struggling with homelessness, were killed, the Guardian reports. McAlister had been in and out of prison since age 19. Local news reported he was arrested several times in the months leading up to the crash and was on parole for a 2015 robbery with a toy gun. That case could have seen him locked up for 25 years to life, but San Francisco district attorney (DA), Chesa Boudin, a former public defender elected on a pledge to reduce mass incarceration, agreed to his release after five years in prison. Boudin, critics charged, “should have done more to keep Troy McAlister off the streets”. The crash went on to become the most politically consequential criminal matter in recent years in San Francisco: Boudin was already facing backlash from police groups opposed to his reforms and residents and business leaders who argued his efforts were exacerbating crime.


The deaths helped jumpstart a successful campaign to recall Boudin from office and shepherd a return to more punitive policies. The events raise fundamental questions about the interplay of politics, public safety, and the criminal justice system, highlighting how individual, exceptional tragedies can shift the trajectory of a city and its policies. For McAlister’s defense team, as he faces trial for vehicular manslaughter, the politicization of his record has raised major questions. For months, their client was held up as a symbol of out-of-control crime. The new DA overseeing the case is Brooke Jenkins, a key proponent of Boudin’s recall. As an assistant under Boudin, she downloaded documents from McAlister’s files, including his confidential rap sheet, even though she wasn’t involved in his case. She then resigned and joined the recall, frequently citing McAlister while calling for Boudin’s ouster. After the recall, she was appointed his successor. “There was a whole apparatus clearly waiting to find some case with a tragic outcome that they could make political,” said McAlister’s public defender, Scott Grant. “In a system where there are so many thousands of cases, you can always find a tragedy where some hypothetical action by police or a DA could have been different prior.”

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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