District Attorney Pamela Price could face recall

Voters in Alameda County elected Pamela Price last November on a reform platform that included not charging juveniles as adults, relying less on incarceration, and holding police accountable. Since taking office six months ago, the county’s first Black district attorney has faced strident opposition from dozens of prosecutors on her own staff who disagree with her reform agenda, as well as some East Bay residents who believe she’s too lenient on people charged with violent crimes like homicide and assault. 

Now, according to official county election records, she could be facing a recall. 

On Monday, two Oakland residents and an Alameda resident submitted paperwork to form a committee that can raise money, gather petition signatures, pay for advertising, and more.

Called “Save Alameda for Everyone: Recall DA Price,” or “SAFE,” the group’s leaders include victims’ rights advocate Brenda Grisham, who lives in East Oakland; Oakland Chinatown business leader Carl Chan, who lives in Alameda; and Philip Dreyfuss, a North Oakland resident and investor who played a role in last year’s recall of progressive San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

Grisham told The Oaklandside her group isn’t making any public statements until a yet to be scheduled press conference. Chan did not return a phone call or email.

“We believe this will be a well-resourced and serious effort,” Dreyfuss said Wednesday in a brief phone call. “A lot of people have been waiting for this.”

Price did not respond to a request for an interview. The Oaklandside also reached out to several Oakland-based organizations that supported Price’s campaign for DA but did not hear back.

Price, a civil rights attorney, was elected with 53% of the vote last year. Her opponent, Terry Wiley, was a prosecutor in the Alameda County DA’s office who told voters that while he differed with the incumbent DA Nancy O’Malley on some policy issues, he would mostly carry on her tough-on-crime policies. O’Malley, who ran the DA’s office since 2009 and endorsed Wiley, was in line with most of California’s 58 other county district attorneys in that she opposed several criminal justice reforms implemented by state lawmakers over the past decade that have reduced prison sentences.

The families of some victims of violent crime have criticized Price saying her policies are too soft on crime. This includes Price’s decision to require deputy prosecutors to obtain permission from their supervisors before charging someone with an enhancement, a kind of extra charge that alleges a defendant belongs to a gang or used a firearm to hurt someone. 

Enhancements can lead to much lengthier prison sentences when added to charges like homicide and assault, and some victims and their families consider them an important part of seeking justice in their cases. But Price has pointed out that enhancements have been disproportionately applied to people of color, one of the systemic inequities she wants to root out in the criminal justice system.

Price’s policy on the use of enhancements led to speculation in the media over the past few months that several men charged with the murder of a toddler during a rolling gun battle on I-880 two years ago wouldn’t face the longest possible prison terms if convicted.

Ultimately, Price’s office charged two men with the murder of 23-month-old Jasper Wu and added gang enhancements that could result in 265 years to life and 175 years to life sentences. 

Price’s policy of not charging juveniles, people under 18 at the time of an alleged crime, as adults has also drawn the ire of some victims’ families. And during a recent seeming uptick in armed robberies committed by children in North Oakland, some residents took to online forums like Nextdoor and council members’ town halls to denounce Price’s approach to juvenile justice.

Other family members of victims of violent crimes have said that Price’s office hasn’t communicated well with them after their loved ones were hurt or killed.

Grisham, the East Oakland resident who is helping organize the recall campaign, became an advocate for victim’s rights after her son Christopher LaVell Jones was fatally shot and his sister was wounded outside their home on Dec. 31, 2010. The Oakland police identified suspects but never made an arrest, citing a lack of evidence.

Grisham has supported the family of Jasper Wu, the toddler who was killed in 2021. She spoke out against Price’s approach to a case involving a 32-year-old man, Delonzo Logwood, who was previously charged by then-District Attorney O’Malley with the killing of three people in 2008 when he was 18 years old. Logwood was arrested in 2009 and incarcerated since then while he fought the charges in the triple homicide case.

Price inherited the Logwood case and decided to seek reduced charges against Logwood. She cited the complexity of the case and the difficulty of successfully prosecuting the three murder charges. Logwood was sentenced earlier today to voluntary manslaughter and could be released in two years after accounting for time served, according to the East Bay Times.

Carl Chan, another driver of the recall effort, is a local real estate agent and a longtime advocate for Oakland Chinatown. He has been the president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce since the early 2000s. During the pandemic, he spoke out against the perceived rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and was himself attacked in 2021 in what he said was a racially biased incident. District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s office ultimately dropped the hate crime charges against Chan’s assailant, who, according to the public defender’s office, was suffering a mental health crisis at the time of the assault.

Chan has asked city and state leaders for years to grow the Oakland Police Department and devote more police resources to Chinatown and other neighborhoods where businesses and residents have been subjected to violent robberies and other crimes.

Chan has campaigned against criminal justice reforms similar to those Price is trying to implement in Alameda County. They include a 2021 state bill that reduced the charges for certain robberies—not involving a weapon, and resulting in the loss of under $950—from felonies to misdemeanors, and a slew of recommendations made by an Oakland city commission two years ago to shrink the role of the police in the Oakland’s public safety system.

Philip Dreyfuss, the third member of the new recall group, is a partner at Farallon Capital, a San Francisco hedge fund. Dreyfuss was among the top donors to the successful recall campaign against San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin in 2022, a list that included real estate corporations, real estate lobbying groups, and tech investors.

Just how a recall campaign will work in Alameda County isn’t clear. Monday’s filing serves only as a notice that some of Price’s critics have organized and plan to start raising money. They must still gather signatures of registered voters—likely over 100,000, but the county elections office has yet to determine the amount—in order to qualify the recall for an upcoming election. Doing so could cost millions of dollars because recalls of elected officials in large counties like Alameda usually require employing paid signature gatherers.

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