Did Sacramento’s district attorney fib about Proposition 47?
Jan Scully claims more date rapes, gun crimes if initiative passes.
Standing before the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors last week, outgoing District Attorney Jan Scully didn’t exactly tell the truth and nothing but.
On October 7, Scully and Undersheriff Jamie Lewis convinced supervisors to join them in opposing Proposition 47. The initiative would remove the felony option for minor property and drug crimes, and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in projected savings into treating mental health and addiction, helping at-risk students and serving crime victims.
Support for the measure currently trends high in a state that finally seems sick of its morbidly obese penal system and school-to-prison pipeline. But much like it did in fighting three-strikes reform and prison realignment in recent years, law-enforcement brass claimed the initiative would mean more date rapes, gun crimes and overcrowded jails if approved this November.
Prop. 47 prevents theft and receiving stolen property crimes from being charged as felonies if the item taken is worth $950 or less, and as long as the accused hasn’t committed other serious or violent crimes. Since most guns aren’t worth that much, Scully said her office would be constrained from levying felony charges against people with illegal firearms.
“Stealing a gun now, except in a limited number of situations, will be a misdemeanor,” Scully told supervisors.
But that reflects an incomplete and—some argued—insincere reading of the law.
“The arguments brought forth by proponents of the resolution include allegations that simply are not true,” said Sacramento Area Congregations Together Executive Director Howard Lawrence, echoing many in the room. He was one of more than two-dozen faith, labor and neighborhood representatives who spoke in support of Prop. 47 and sharply criticized Scully and Lewis for pedaling scare tactics to make their case.
Stealing a gun from an inhabited dwelling or from a person through force and fear would still be felonies under Prop. 47. So would concealing a stolen firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm and an assortment of firearm-related offenses, all defined by the California Penal Code, according to Steve Lewis of the county Public Defender’s Office. Lewis described the stand-alone mandatory-misdemeanor gun cases that Scully claimed as “rare.”
As for her assertion that possessing date-rape drugs would become a simple misdemeanor, Aaron Edwards, an adult corrections analyst with the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, said it was technically true. “But it’s important to note that administering the date-rape drug would still be charged as a felony,” he added.
Others took the assertion more personally. “The implications, as a young woman, that this would make date rape legal?” said Anne Fox, lead organizer for Sacramento Area Congregations Together. It took Fox a few moments to gather her thoughts. Later, she told SN&R she found Scully’s argument “incredibly insulting.”
In its analysis, the LAO predicts that state prison and county jail populations will decline by the tens of thousands over the next few years if Prop. 47 passes. It also anticipates net savings “to the counties of several hundred million dollars annually.”
Despite criticism from three supervisors that the information Scully provided was light and one-sided, the board voted 4-0 in favor of opposing Prop. 47. Supervisor Phil Serna abstained.
Attendees met the result with stunned silence, followed by some angry shouts. Board Chairman Jimmie Yee beckoned security.
The Sacramento City Council was set to consider its own stance on Prop. 47 on Tuesday. The DA wasn’t scheduled to appear.