Left-wing prosecutors have implemented soft-on-crime approaches to criminal justice across America, in some instances making it a matter of policy in major cities not to prosecute specific crimes, a Daily Caller News Foundation review found.
A common, though not universal, feature of prominent left-wing district attorneys is the backing of political organizations funded by left-wing billionaire George Soros. The New York Times has credited Soros with pioneering the “push to overhaul prosecutors’ offices” across the country.
Cook County, Illinois, State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx, whose jurisdiction includes Chicago, took office in 2017 after winning her election with the help of a Soros-funded super PAC.
Soros poured more than $400,000 into Illinois Justice & Public Safety PAC in 2016, Illinois State Board of Elections records show. Foxx was the only candidate that the PAC supported in 2016, those records show.
Foxx announced in December 2016, shortly before taking office, that her office wouldn’t charge shoplifters with felonies unless they either had more than 10 previous felony convictions or if they stole more than $1,000 worth of goods, which was more than triple the previous felony threshold of $300.
Storeowners blamed Foxx’s policy in December 2019 for what they said was a string of brazen thefts targeting their businesses.
Foxx announced in June that she wouldn’t prosecute protesters charged with minor crimes, such as curfew violations and disorderly conduct, in the unrest following the death of George Floyd. Floyd, a black man, died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, video shows.
Multiple analyses of Foxx’s record have found significant decreases in prosecutions since she took office.
The Chicago Tribune published an analysis Monday showing that Foxx dropped all charges against 30% of defendants in her first three years in office, while her Democratic predecessor, Anita Alvarez, dropped charges against 20% of defendants in her final three years on the job.
A report in June from the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, a pro-police nonprofit, found “a 13% decrease in felony guilty outcomes, with a 27% decline in guilty verdicts and a 54% increase in dropped and dismissed cases” since Foxx took office in 2017.
A separate study by the Marshall Project, a nonprofit supporting criminal justice reform, also found that Foxx has dropped thousands of cases that would have been prosecuted by her predecessor.
“We found that since she took office she turned away more than 5,000 cases that would have been pursued by previous State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, mostly by declining to prosecute low-level shoplifting and drug offenses and by diverting more cases to alternative treatment programs,” the October 2019 report said.
Foxx faced criticism for her handling of the case against actor Jussie Smollett, who was accused in February 2019 of staging a hate crime against himself. In April 2019, the Chicago police union declared “no confidence” in Foxx.
A special prosecutor appointed by a Cook County judge to reinvestigate the case announced this past February that a grand jury had indicted Smollett on six counts related to the alleged hate crime hoax.
Illinois Justice & Public Safety PAC gave Foxx’s re-election campaign a much-needed boost that same month, announcing plans in February to spend nearly $417,000 opposing Foxx’s main competitor in the primary, Politico reported.
Foxx won the four-way primary on March 17, virtually guaranteeing her re-election in the heavily Democratic city. Her office didn’t return an email seeking comment for this story.
Suffolk County, Massachusetts, District Attorney Rachael Rollins, whose jurisdiction includes the city of Boston, campaigned in 2018 on a list of 15 crimes that her office wouldn’t prosecute as a matter of policy. Among them: trespassing, wanton or malicious destruction of property, shoplifting and larceny under $250.
The Boston Herald reported in May 2019 that an attempted shoplifter was shocked when he was arrested for allegedly pilfering more than $100 worth of goods from a local store. The man didn’t realize until after his arrest that he was in neighboring Norfolk County, outside Rollins’s jurisdiction of Suffolk County, the Herald reported.
The alleged thief “made unsolicited comments during fingerprinting referencing the Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins and how he believed she no longer prosecuted shoplifting charges,” the police report stated, according to the Herald.
“When there are low-level, non-violent cases, sometimes using diversion, restitution, or treating the underlying issue presents better outcomes than prosecution might. To be clear, we will always look at each case individually to try and determine the best possible outcome for the victim and the community,” Rollins told the DCNF in an emailed statement responding to the Herald story.
“There are times when the best outcome is prosecution, and other times when it isn’t,” Rollins continued.
“We actually have lots of real and very serious crimes in Suffolk County, compared to Norfolk County or the Cape and Islands. In those counties, shoplifting is likely considered a very serious crime,” Rollins added in her statement. “Here, we have homicides and rapes and armed assaults with intent to murder happening routinely.”
During an interview with a local radio station in June, Rollins said her soft-on-crime approach was vindicated by the fact that police departments around in the country scaled back operations during the coronavirus pandemic.
“When COVID-19 hit, my list of 15 crimes that in the first instance we don’t prosecute, every police department in the nation used my list of 15,” Rollins told WBUR.
“None of them were arresting for low-level nonviolent crimes out of fear of contracting COVID-19,” Rollins continued. “What they did was either not arrest or issue a summons. And that’s exactly what I said we should do. It just took a global pandemic for people to recognize that I was right.”
Massachusetts campaign finance reports don’t reveal any donations from Soros-affiliated PACs to Rollins’s campaign, a DCNF review found, but Rollins wasn’t without national help. Prominent left-wing activist Shaun King boosted her campaign by organizing an online fundraising drive, the Bay State Banner reported.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is a former defense attorney who had never prosecuted a case before becoming Philadelphia’s top prosecutor. Soros put $1.45 million into a super PAC that backed Krasner in the Democratic primary in May 2017, allowing him to sail to an easy victory.
Krasner is open about his belief in a soft-on-crime approach. He said in an NBC News podcast interview last month that law enforcement agencies point to repeat offenders as evidence of the need for harsher sentences, but that he rejects that view.
“They’ll list all of the arrests that they’ve had, all the contacts they’ve had as if what they’re doing is they’re explaining that these are people of terrible character and that explains this phenomenon. ‘And we’ll all be safe if we just lock up these people of terrible character forever,’” Krasner said.
“But what they’re not saying is this system has engaged this person, arrested this person 15 times, convicted them seven times, put them in jail four times, and nothing worked. It all failed. They’re not owning that,” he added. “So it is obvious to me that we have needed to go a different direction for a very long time. It ain’t working.”
Krasner diverted a significant number of gun-related charges away from prosecution and into rehabilitative programs in his first year in office, The Trace reported in January.
Krasner diverted seven times as many charges of illegal gun possession over his first year as his Democratic predecessors had in the previous two years combined, The Trace reported. In April, the city’s mayor and police commissioner called on Krasner to be more aggressive in prosecuting gun crimes amid a spike in violence.
In June, Krasner announced that his office would work more closely with police to crack down on gun violence. City data show that homicides so far this year are up 30% compared to the same time period last year. When pressed on the still-high rates of gun violence during the NBC News podcast interview, Krasner blamed poverty and the criminal justice system.
“You know, the truth is that poverty equals bullets. And poverty has always equaled bullets. The truth is we haven’t dealt with poverty. You know, we haven’t dealt with all kinds of things. And in many ways, the criminal justice system has caused this problem,” he said.
Krasner also faced criticism last month from residents who said he had allowed drug trafficking to harm their neighborhoods by not prosecuting enough cases.
Krasner, whose office didn’t return an email seeking comment, said in the podcast interview that his proudest accomplishment is slashing incarceration and probation levels.
“We have cut future years of incarceration coming out of Philly as compared to the administration before us about 50%,” he said. “And we have cut future supervision [probation] about 60-75%.”
Boudin’s parents were members of the Weather Underground terrorist group. He was raised by the group’s leaders after his parents went to prison on murder charges.
“We will not prosecute cases involving quality-of-life crimes. Crimes such as public camping, offering or soliciting sex, public urination, blocking a sidewalk, etc., should not and will not be prosecuted,” Boudin promised in response to an American Civil Liberties Union questionnaire.
“Many of these crimes are still being prosecuted, we have a long way to go to decriminalize poverty and homelessness,” he added.
Boudin said in a July 2019 interview that he would “challenge the legitimacy of laws” by not bringing certain charges.
“A District Attorney has the authority to make charging decisions. This means that a District Attorney can challenge the legitimacy of laws by declining to bring charges in certain cases,” he explained in the interview.
“The types of charges a District Attorney declines to bring has a ripple effect and change the culture of a community,” he added, citing prostitution as an example of a crime he wouldn’t prosecute.
Boudin won his election in November 2019 and took office in January. San Francisco campaign finance reports don’t show any donations from Soros-linked PACs to Boudin’s campaign, a DCNF review found.
Boudin ignited a feud with the city’s police union soon after taking office in January by withdrawing charges against a man who was shot by officers after allegedly trying to attack them with a bottle, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Boudin announced in February that his office would no longer prosecute contraband charges that originated as minor traffic infractions. He also pledged to stop using gang affiliation status in sentencing enhancements.
“Pretextual stops and sentencing enhancements based on who you know rather than what you did are relics of the tough-on-crime era that failed to make us safer,” Boudin said at the time.
“Instead, they led to mass incarceration, targeted innocent black and brown drivers, and increased recidivism. They stand in the way of fairness and justice,” he added.
In March, Boudin withdrew charges against a 20-year-old man allegedly involved in an attack on an elderly man that went viral on social media, the Chronicle reported, noting that the suspect was already on probation for battery at the time of the attack.
“We’ve been in conversation with the victim who expressed interest in a restorative justice outcome in this case,” Boudin spokesman Alex Bastian told the paper at the time.
“Specifically, against the young person who videoed the incident. We respect victims and their desires and we will explore a restorative justice outcome,” Bastian added.
Rachel Marshall, a Boudin spokeswoman, declined to say whether Boudin regrets his soft-on-crime approach in light of San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) data that show the homicide rate is up significantly this year.
“I will just make clear that homicide rates are still low overall after a significant drop in recent years (last year was the lowest homicide rate in 56 years). Violent crime like gun violence and crime rates overall have both been down recently as well, and car break-ins (a campaign issue of the DA’s) are down significantly,” Marshall wrote in an email to the DCNF.
While the rates of some crimes in San Francisco, such as rape (down 53%) and robbery (down 14%), have decreased this year, others have seen significant increases. Compared to the same time period last year, homicides in the city are up 25%, burglary is up 42%, motor vehicle theft is up 31% and arson is up 45%, according to SFPD data.
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot won his seat in 2019 with the help of Soros cash, he acknowledged in a November 2019 interview with D Magazine following his victory.
“Yes, I did,” he said, when asked if his campaign received national funding. “Through Soros.”
Creuzot drew criticism from Republicans when he announced in April 2019 that he would no longer prosecute the theft of “personal items” valued under $750 if they were considered “necessary items.”
“Personal items are limited to necessary items,” Creuzot wrote in a letter explaining the decision. “Personal items would include items such as necessary food, diapers and baby formula.”
Murders in Dallas reached the highest levels in over a decade last year and are on pace to remain at similarly high levels this year as well, the Dallas Morning News’s editorial board noted in an Aug. 6 column.
“In his short tenure, Creuzot has lost or dropped 20% more felony cases than his predecessors and attained a significantly lower conviction rate for violent and serious crimes as well,” the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund’s report found.