Pubdate: Tue, 26 Oct 1999
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 1999 San Francisco Chronicle

You've got to give Terence Hallinan his rightful due: Anyone who can
continually punch himself in the head for so many years deserves a nice soft
spot on the canvas. 

And if there's any justice in this town -- and there hasn't been much since
Hallinan became district attorney -- that's exactly where "Kayo" will be
resting after election day. If there's one person who deserves to be carried
out of the political ring on a stretcher, it's the fighting fool of Frisco,
a man who has left the city prosecutor's office staggering due to his unique
combination of legal incompetence and ethical blindness. 

San Francisco has been known to be lenient to its intellectually challenged
leaders over the years, but allowing Hallinan even the slightest hope of
returning to office would be nothing short of criminal. His ineptitude has
caught even his harshest critics by surprise, since they only thought that
he was the worst district attorney in city history, not realizing that
Hallinan had his eye on a bigger prize. 

And it's clear now that he's achieved it: The only district attorney who has
managed to keep more people out of jail than the public defender's office. 

By every standard -- anecdotal, statistical and legal -- Hallinan has shown
himself to be an embarrassment to his profession and quite possibly the
lousiest chief prosecutor to ever enter a California courtroom. His office
has the lowest conviction rate for violent crimes in the state and his
overall conviction rate is less than half the state average. 

Yet in his short time in office, Hallinan has shown that justice is not only
blind, but stupid as well. He's fought with judges, lawyers, police,
reporters and even his own friends. He's ignored judicial orders, campaign
rules, and made a mockery of basic legal procedures. 

He has jeopardized several high- profile felony cases and shown that his
alleged tough stance on domestic violence cases is nothing but a sham. And
his biggest failing may be the dangerous criminals his office has failed to
prosecute because the district attorney seems to be under the curious
impression that lawbreakers don't belong in jail. 

So it's no surprise that Hallinan finds himself against the electoral ropes
these days, since even the voters of San Francisco now know the danger of
linking the words "liberal" and "district attorney" in the same sentence. 

There are several challengers trying to speed Hallinan's descent onto the
canvas next week, though only two, Bill Fazio and Steve Castleman, are
credible. The others, Matt Gonzalez and Mike Schaefer, are classic San
Francisco candidates happy to fill the void -- could there be a better way
to describe the district attorney's office under Hallinan? 

Gonzalez, incredibly enough, is running to the left of Hallinan, a position
that in another era would have placed him within the Socialist circle of
Eugene V. Debs, not exactly the candidate needed to undo the damage Hallinan
has done to a critical city office. 

And Schaefer, a grinning gadfly, has been a candidate for office in almost
every state between Maryland and Nevada, so much better to stay ahead of the
law that seems to always nipping at his heels. He has compiled quite a
record as a spousal abuser and slum landlord. He's a carpetbagger who pays
little attention to the law, until he has to respond to another bench
warrant for his arrest. 

Castleman has shown that he is seriously concerned about environmental
pollution cases and rehabilitation for drug offenders. Admirable stances, no
doubt, but his campaign has not shown that he is broad enough to deal with
the myriad problems and personnel changes that need to be addressed by the
new district attorney. 

Fazio, who won the endorsement of nearly every single voting member in the
Police Officers Association, clearly has the most experience in prosecuting
criminal cases, and the judges that I know and respect are all backing him
because they believe he would bring professionalism back to an office that
has been in chaos since the day Hallinan appeared. The law enforcement
community is desperate to bring a steadying hand back to the district
attorney's office and they are convinced that Fazio is the right person for
the job. 

Of all the sorry elected leaders that San Franciscans have voted for over
the years, I can't think of one who has brought more shame and done more
damage to their office than our free-swinging district attorney. If Hallinan
somehow holds onto his job for four more years, it will reveal a level of
cynicism that goes beyond just the muddled splintered interests of city
politics. It will show that a lot of people in this town simply don't care. 

I'm hoping that there are still enough voters out there who do, and that
next Tuesday, they will administer a roundhouse right to Hallinan, who has
shown nothing but disrespect for the laws he is sworn to uphold, as well as
for the citizens of San Francisco. 

Because this city has nothing if not compassion, and it will see to it that
Kayo has a nice pension to live on during his retirement, when he can regale
his fans with stories about his favorite fights. 

But just don't hit a bell when you're around him. Even punch- drunk
pugilists can still pack a wallop. 

You can reach Ken Garcia at (415) 777-7152, fax him at (415) 896-1107, or
send him an e-mail note at  (COL. 2 of GARCIA26 46303 )
(COL. 3 of GARCIA26 46303 ) 

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