Pubdate: Fri, 08 Oct 1999
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 1999 San Francisco Chronicle
Author: John Wildermuth, Chronicle Staff Writer


D.A. Challengers Go To Battle At Forum

San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan had to sit back and take it
yesterday as the challengers for his job blasted his performance at a forum
sponsored by the city's Criminal Trial Lawyers Association.

Hallinan paid little heed to the brickbats, touting his record and ignoring
his opponents.

"He's the target for everyone," said Bill Fazio, who lost to Hallinan four
years ago and is running again. "It's not done on a personal basis."

Personal or not, the challengers had plenty to say about the way Hallinan
has run the district attorney's office.

"Over and over again, he's demonstrated that he's temperamentally unsuited
to be district attorney," Fazio said. "People have said that he's more
concerned with criminals' rights than victims' rights, and that's not the
way it should be."

Fazio, a former assistant district attorney who was fired in 1995 just
before jumping into the race against incumbent District Attorney Arlo Smith,
complained that he is being unfairly portrayed as the conservative candidate
in this campaign. But he also touted his endorsements from the Police
Officers Association, the Deputy Sheriffs Association and the local bar
association and said he would be tougher on crime than Hallinan.

"I'll come down hard on violence and on weapons," he said. "I've already
shown I have the respect of the people most involved in the criminal justice

Steve Castleman is a former assistant district attorney who quit in 1996 as
a consultant to Hallinan on environmental crimes. Most of his work has
involved white-collar and environmental prosecution.

"I've never been a defense attorney," he said in a dig at the other
candidates, who all have spent time defending criminals. "It's not that
everyone doesn't deserve a competent defense, but that's not who I am."

Castleman, now an adviser to Sonoma County's district attorney, pledged to
be tougher on people carrying guns and argued that Hallinan has been too
lenient on criminal cases.

"When the public defender argues that the district attorney's office is too
soft on crime, . . . you've got a problem," he said.

Public Defender Jeff Brown was quoted in The Chronicle last month as saying,
"This jurisdiction has just become a big plea-bargaining mill."

Castleman also called for moving mentally ill prisoners and nonviolent drug
addicts from the county jail to treatment centers "to open up cells for the
violent criminals and gun toters."

Matt Gonzalez, a public defender, attacked Hallinan from the left, saying he
had been too tough on young people selling small amounts of marijuana and
not harsh enough on police brutality and illegal evictions.

The district attorney's office "spends far too much resources on marijuana
cases," he said. "We have to realize that there are responsible pot smokers
and that giving a felony conviction to young marijuana sellers is in no
one's interest."

Gonzalez said he is opposed to the death penalty in all cases and would put
tighter limits on "three strikes" prosecutions, limiting them only to the
most serious and violent crimes.

"(Hallinan) says that he's the most progressive candidate, but he's been a
tremendous disappointment," Gonzalez said. "We don't have the type of
district attorney we should have."

When Hallinan had his chance to speak, he virtually ignored his opponents
and focused on his accomplishments in office.

"When I first threw my helmet into the ring (four years ago), political
pundits said it was impossible that I would be elected," he said. "After I
was elected, those same pundits all predicted disaster for public safety in
the city."

Since 1995, Hallinan said, violent crime in the city has dropped by 40
percent while juvenile crime is down 35 percent. In 1995, there were 135
homicides in the city, a figure that dropped to 62 last year.

"I'm kind of a unique politician," he said. "I'm doing what I said I would."

He also pushed aside complaints that he has been too soft on drug dealers.

"We're trying to treat drugs as more than a criminal law problem," he said.
While some people who sell drugs are violent criminals and terrible people,
"mostly it's people who have bad behavior, who have chosen the wrong way or
who need money," Hallinan said.

By putting those people into treatment programs, "they're no longer going to
be breaking into cars and burglarizing houses," he said.

The fifth candidate in the race, public interest attorney Mike Schaefer, did
not appear at the forum.


BAYTV: The candidates for San Francisco district attorney will take part in
a debate today at noon, sponsored by the Golden Gate University School of
Law. The 90-minute event will be shown live on Bay-TV, cable Channel 35, and
replayed Saturday at 2 p.m. It will be held at Golden Gate University, 565
Mission St. in San Francisco, and will be open to the public.

(c)1999 San Francisco Chronicle Page A21

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