Latecomer Fazio makes fourth run for DA
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Longtime attorney Bill Fazio entered the race to be San Francisco's district attorney months later than the other major candidates, but he feels his name recognition gives him a good shot.
Fazio, who entered the contest just before 5 p.m. on August 12, the filing deadline, was an assistant district attorney in San Francisco for 20 years and has followed that with almost 20 years as a defense attorney.
He has run for DA three times before.
Fazio, 63, said that he knows he has his work cut out for him.
"I don't think we'll have a problem with money," Fazio said. However, he added, "I know I have to get the message out. ... Experience is the difference."
In a Friday, August 26 interview in the Bay Area Reporter's offices, Fazio never clearly explained why he waited so long to enter the race. But he said he finally stepped in because he sees the other people running as "unqualified." He said there's "no question" he's "head and shoulders" above the others.
He said he's someone who knows the system and would take a balanced approach, and he knows "San Francisco values."
Fazio said that if he's elected to the DA post in November, he would "provide the leadership that office hasn't had" since former DA Kamala Harris took office in 2004.
Harris was elected as state attorney general last November. In January, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed George Gasc—n as DA just before Newsom was sworn in as the state's lieutenant governor. Gasc—n , who was the city's police chief, is running to hold onto the DA post.
The other candidates are Sharmin Bock, an assistant district attorney for Alameda County in charge of special operations and policy development; David Onek, a criminal justice expert and former San Francisco police commissioner; and Vu Vuong Trinh, a former deputy public defender.
On his Facebook page, Fazio says, "I believe in aggressive prosecution of violent criminals, zero tolerance of domestic violence and the diversion of non-violent offenders into treatment and rehabilitation."
He adds that he wants parents of juvenile offenders to become involved in sentencing and rehabilitation.
Among other achievements, he boasts of being an elected member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and a volunteer to Centro Latino and many local community based organizations.
Fazio indicated one thing that sets him apart from the other candidates is "I have some visions for that office."
He said he'd make juvenile justice, which has "always been relegated to the low end in this county," a priority.
Fazio also said he'd assign a district attorney to each of the city's police stations to act as ombudsmen. That way, when a station is having problems with a case, officers could contact the attorney assigned to them.
One top concern among law enforcement officials has been realignment. As part of efforts to close the state budget gap, Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law Assembly Bill 109, which aims to send some California prisoners to county jails.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision in May ordered California to release between 37,000 and 46,000 prisoners due to overcrowding.
Fazio said realignment is "probably more of a concern for the sheriff."
However, he said he wouldn't send people to prison just because of narcotics problems. He also expressed support for "decriminalizing all drugs" except for those as dangerous as PCP.
The death penalty has been another big topic among the candidates.
"My position on capital punishment is good," Fazio said.
Like Onek, he said he doesn't support it "under any circumstances." Gasc—n and Bock have also expressed opposition to the death penalty.
Fazio said he opposes capital punishment because "it promises the victim's family something that's never likely to happen." The appeals process in death penalty cases can take years.
Hate crime precursor
In the 1980s, Fazio handled a case that could be seen as a precursor to today's hate crimes prosecutions. The incident involved John Dennis O'Connell, a gay man who died after being attacked in San Francisco in 1984.
Fazio told the Los Angeles Times that O'Connell's death had been the result of his attackers' "homophobic rage."
"I tried not to make this a strict gay-straight issue," Fazio told the Times . "(The defendants) singled out an identifiable group of people and be the people homosexual, black, Jewish, some ethnic minority or something like that makes no difference. They singled him out and they assaulted him exclusively for that reason."
At the time there were no hate crimes laws. Fazio said he's proud of his trailblazing approach to the case.
Fazio's campaign is still taking shape; his late entry has cost him the endorsements of several local Democratic clubs and other organizations.
Gary Delagnes, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, said that while his group has officially endorsed Gasc—n, he has personally told Fazio, "he would make a fine district attorney."
"I've known Bill forever," Delagnes said, but he noted Fazio's last-minute entry into the race and said the association "just had to make some moves" on its endorsement.
His website was to be up by Wednesday, August 31.
Gary Gartner, Fazio's out gay campaign consultant, said during the interview last Friday, "It's being worked on."
Fazio openly chastised Gartner in front of B.A.R. staff, saying he'd do the website himself if Gartner wasn't going to do it, then apologized for raising his voice.