Legal Options

Voters to decide prosecutor’s priorities

By Howard Schmidt
May 2022

With incumbent District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert vacating her office to run for state attorney general, voters in June will make a choice on the direction of law enforcement prosecutions in Sacramento County.

The contest is between current Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Thien Ho and Alana Matthews, a former member of the district attorney’s office who now works for Prosecutors Alliance of California.

The winner will determine whether Sacramento County retains its reputation for law and order or embarks on a journey toward progressive criminal justice reform.

Ho served as Schubert’s chief prosecutor on the Golden State Killer case. He has her endorsement, along with support from law enforcement. Matthews has support from criminal justice progressives.

The Prosecutors Alliance is committed to criminal justice reform and has endorsed Matthews. The group’s advisory board includes San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his Los Angeles counterpart George Gascon.

Boudin implemented a progressive platform that essentially reduced criminal prosecutions. He faces a recall election in June. Gascon is another self-described progressive. The union representing deputy district attorneys in L.A. County sued Gascon over his directive to stop sentencing enhancements. A recall petition is being pursued.

Ho and Matthews are both Democrats and graduates of McGeorge School of Law. Ho fled Vietnam as child refugee with his family. He attended UC Davis and has been a prosecutor for 20 years.

Matthews attended Spelman College in Atlanta, one of the nation’s historic Black universities. After eight years with the district attorney’s office, she worked for the California Energy Commission and state Legislature before embarking on criminal justice reform.

The candidates would take different approaches as district attorney.

Matthews says, “From the time of arrest through charging and sentencing, the criminal justice system is plagued by systemic racism.” Ho disagrees and says he “has never encountered a prosecutor who made decisions based on race.”

Ho says the district attorney’s office makes decisions based on facts and law. He calls Matthews’ campaign insinuation about the office’s policies and procedures a “political statement.”

Matthews says if elected she would not pursue the death penalty. Ho believes death is an appropriate remedy that should not be abandoned in certain rare situations. The state’s death penalty requires a thorough review for each applicable case, Ho says. The issue is moot for now as Gov. Gavin Newsom suspended the state’s death penalty in 2019.

Ho supports a bail policy that is equitable to all communities. He explains bail shouldn’t be based on one’s bank account but stresses it must be assessed on risk to public safety. Progressives advocate a no-bail approach based upon social equity, increasing the odds for offenders to repeat criminal acts as they revolve through the system.

The Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff’s Association endorsed Ho. Other endorsements come from Crime Victims United, former District Attorney Jan Scully, and former sheriffs Lou Blanas and John McGinness.

Ho has the backing of the Sacramento Police Officers Association and California Association of Highway Patrolmen, plus Sacramento County Supervisor Rich Desmond of Carmichael, a retired CHP officer.

Matthews’ endorsements include the California Legislative Black Caucus and Indivisible Sacramento, a grassroots organization “working to oppose the Trump agenda,” plus the Wellstone Progressive Democrats of Sacramento.

Additional supporters for Matthews are Mayor Darrell Steinberg and progressive City Council members Katie Valenzuela and Mai Vang.

Basically, the contest comes down to retaining current prosecutorial values or diverting to a progressive social justice agenda as practiced in San Francisco and Los Angeles counties.

Howard Schmidt worked on federal, state and local levels of government, including 16 years for Sacramento County. He can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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