Public Defenders

Prosecutor vows to file whistleblower complaint against public defender for bias blog posts

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A California district attorney has vowed to file a whistleblower complaint against a public defender who criticized prosecutors’ role in perpetuating racial bias.

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen told his staff in an email that he considered the blog posts to be threatening, and he hoped that his whistleblower complaint would lead to an investigation, the Washington Post reports.

Sajid Khan, a deputy alternate public defender in the county, had written the blog posts several weeks ago. He wrote that people protesting the death of George Floyd should consider prosecutors’ role in perpetuating bias.

“In this moment, we appropriately unleash our anger and frustration at police departments across the country for their continued brutality, violence and harassment imposed upon Black people,” Khan wrote in one blog post. “But to best honor George Floyd, we should fire our very righteous outrage, fury and ire at district attorney’s offices, too.”

Khan said prosecutors shield police officers who use excessive force and prosecute victims of police violence on trumped up crimes.

“If George Floyd had somehow survived Derek Chauvin squeezing the life out of him, the local DA’s office surely would’ve prosecuted Mr. Floyd for resisting arrest and likely for assaulting the cop,” Khan said. “So be mad at the police, but be even madder at the DA’s offices that perpetuate and protect them.”

Khan included a map of a planned protest past the DA’s office.

In a different post, Khan said he is tired of promises for reform that don’t materialize. “No more trying to repair the irreparable,” he wrote, “We need to tear and shut this s- - - down and start over.”

Rosen told staff members in his email that the posts “endangered the safety of everyone.”

In a statement provided to the Washington Post, Rosen said that “exhorting people during mass protests to ‘tear this $&&@ down by any means necessary’ and other similar language accompanied by a map may encourage spirited debate, but it also has serious safety implications for county employees and others. To anyone who wants peaceful and powerful change—we agree. We have been reforming the system from within for years.”

Khan told the Washington Post that he isn’t afraid to speak out, but he does fear potential retaliation against his clients in the form of harsher charges or less favorable plea bargains. He also said he doesn’t think any reasonable person would think he is calling for violence. “The language was metaphorical,” he said.

Khan’s lawyer, Charles Gerstein, told the Washington Post that Rosen’s apparent initiation of a process that could lead to job consequences for Khan amounted to retaliation in violation of the First Amendment.

Hat tip to the Marshall Project.

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