Bock and Onek Gang Up on Gascón,
Vu Trinh Makes Refreshing Debut

Written by Harold Brown. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Published on August 04, 2011 with 4 Comments

In the race for San Francisco District Attorney, Alameda County Prosecutor Sharmin Bock, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, former Police Commissioner David Onek and former Orange County Public Defender Vu Trinh, squared off last eve in a candidates debate held at the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By h. Brown

Editor’s Note, 8/4/11, 9:37 pm: This article has been modified since its initial publication. A few factual errors have been corrected.

August 4, 2011

(Irony thick in Dukakis son-in-law attack)

Remember (you oldsters) when Michael Dukakis ran for president of the U.S. and was saddled with the Willie Horton case?

Horton was a prisoner pardoned by then Massachusetts Governor Dukakis (Democratic candidate Dukakis spent a total of 12 years as governor of that state) … Horton went out and raped a couple of women and George Bush Sr. won the 1988 election by essentially accusing Dukakis of holding the women down while Willie did his thing.

So, you’d think that David Onek as a long time member of that family would have more sense then to try and replay that page of history’s script. But, you’d be wrong.

Pretty much out of the gate at last nights SF District Attorney candidates debate at the Ella Hutch Center, Onek used a question on the 3 strikes law to condemn acting D.A. Gascón for trying to use that crummy friggin’ law to seek a life sentence for the sad ass petty thief who burgled (allegedly) Alex Trebek’s SF hotel room. Problem?

Problem is that Onek’s source was the SF Chronicle and they’re just a hair more accurate than me. You see, Gascón didn’t charge the lady under the 3 Strikes law. So, David Onek went George Bush a step worse and tried to hook Gascón to an action that did not even occur.

Former San Francisco Police Commissioner David Onek.

Then, candidate Sharmin Bock (who comes across as a really mean person) … then Bock tells the packed house (couple hundred at least) that since Gascón has been D.A. that the department’s conviction rate is down 20 percent. And, she offered no source for the data (which Gascón says is incorrect) and the mic of candidate Vu Trinh went live and he (dude’s a former public defender who attended SF State and then Hastings Law) … and Trinh says (paraphrasing), “Down 20 percent? That’s great news! We should be doing our best to keep people out of jail, not put them in jail. Obsessing on conviction rates is bad policy. I’ve seen D.A.’s do terrible things to get convictions.”

Alameda County Prosecutor Sharmin Bock.

Next question: Yes or no, have you been arrested and jailed?

Now that was an interesting question and coming from an audience packed with Onek and Bock supporters I assumed was planted based on opposition research. Again, to discredit Gascón who took a steady hammering from Onek and Bock all evening. Just call it an educated guess.

But the question went to newbie (to me – he entered in late June and doesn’t even have a web site complete yet) question went to Trinh first and he answered a simple, “Yes” with a smile. Then to Onek who boomed (he ‘boomed’ all night, and if loud won, he’d have had the thing in the bag) … Onek says, “No.” And Gascón (to the surprise of everyone except the anonymous person who wrote the question) says, “Yes” too. And, Bock says “No” too and we’re immediately dying to know what the hell Gascón went to jail for. While the audience tittered, the moderators moved to end our suspense, “Would you tell us in 30 seconds what you were arrested for?” Back to Trinh and he brought the house down.

(Paraphrased) “I was arrested for theft and there’s nothing worse in the world then being arrested and jailed for a crime you did not commit.”

Then he paused and dropped the bombshell:

(Paraphrased) “I was a thief my whole life growing up. That was the one time I wasn’t guilty (as the audience guffawed). I was raised in poverty (he’s a Vietnamese refugee) and we had to steal to stay alive. The charges were dismissed but it changed my life because before then I wanted to be a doctor but after that experience I decided to become a lawyer.”

Quite a tale. He then went on to graduate from Hastings Law School in San Francisco and passed the bar exam at the ripe old age of 24. This is one bright bright camper.

Former Orange County public defender Vu Trinh.

Gascón’s tale about being a young guy addicted to fast cars and piling up tickets in San Diego County until he got one too many and was sentenced to 3 days in jail (served one day and was sprung for good behavior) … Trinh’s story made Gascón’s anti-climactic.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.

A few more items:

All but Bock say they all think it’s fine for cops to carry Tasers (‘stun guns’ actually as ‘Taser’ is a trademarked name).     Trinh was last and after the others rambled on as to how they’d come to their decisions in agony, he said simply, “It’s better than shooting them.” House again cracked up. No matter who they came to see, this guy won all of their hearts.

Gascón and Bock mealy-mouthed their way around the question of whether they’d push for the City to follow the lead of the great states of Illinois, Massachusetts and New York and ‘Opt Out’ of the feds ‘Secure Communities’ law which requires that everyone arrested and jailed be reported to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) for possible deportation even if they have not been convicted of anything (hey, with 500,000 illegals in the greater Bay area this is important stuff).

Onek and Bock said they’d support an ‘Opt Out’ and Trinh looked at them like they were crazy cause he’d be back in Viet Nam if that law had been in existence when he was a kid.

Same thing on the death penalty. Gascón played cutesy and said that he “opposes” the death penalty while not saying that he wouldn’t seek it in the case of some ‘heinous’ crime as he’s said often before. Bock did much the same.

Trinh said that it was a non-starter for him because he believed the death penalty was unconstitutional as it violated the 8th amendment which outlawed ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment.

Onek boomed that he was the ONLY candidate on the stage who was completely and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty while Trinh, who was sitting right next to Onek, looked at him like Onek was deaf or crazy.

Onek did the same thing to Trinh as I mentioned on the ‘Opt Out’ of S-Comm, saying that he was the ONLY candidate who wanted to opt out. It was like he wasn’t even listening to the defense attorney. Or, Bock, the prosecutor.

Gascón will prosecute Sit/Lie offenders. Onek said “it depends.” Bock and Trinh will not.

It was a good show and I didn’t expect that. I saw the same troupe sans Trinh at the LGBT Center a couple of weeks ago and it was boring as hell. In my opinion, Trinh’s the best candidate now in the race. If Buzz Fazio enters the race, Trinh will still be the best candidate. Buzz, a word aside, ‘four’ is not a charm.

If you enter this thing you’ll instantly be in last place and remain there. That’s just a word of advice from someone who voted for you twice.

You know, when Matt Gonzalez ran for D.A. from his post as an assistant public defender in 1999 (against Hallinan and Fazio and someone else whose name I forget but was a one trick pony who dressed great) … I saw the 4 of them debate at a local Democratic club and thought that Matt was the best of the candidates by far. But I didn’t vote for him because I thought he had no chance.

IRV changes all of that. Right now my D.A. ballot is Trinh, Gascón and Onek, in that order with a sincere, “Thanks and excused” to Ms. Bock and her 95 percent conviction rate.

Harold Brown

h. brown is a 62 year-old keeper of, an eclectic site featuring a half dozen City Hall denizens. h is a former sailor, firefighter, teacher, nightclub owner, and a hard-living satirical muckraker. His other FCJ articles can be found here. here.

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Comments for Bock and Onek Gang Up on Gascón,
Vu Trinh Makes Refreshing Debut
are now closed.

  1. Thanks David,

    I’m gonna spend the next hour trying to track Trinh down. And, Miyamoto. It’s good to see you enjoying your work in the front lines. Send us links to your work if you want. I’d love to see the shots you’re getting and you write well.

    Jonathan Sanchez back on mound tonite!

    Salon noon to 3pm


  2. Good article h. and good photos Luke.

    This is the 3rd DA debate I’ve attended and in many ways was the most informative and entertaining. I still don’t know how to interpret Vu Trinh’s disclosure about his previous life of crime. It certainly makes for one juicy story, however.

    I found it amusing that Gascón would criticize Onek for not having enough experience when Gascón himself has never tried a case in a courtroom.

    All three have experience and skills, although in different areas.

    If it were critically important to have on-the-job management experience before leading an organization, Obama would have never been elected. Clearly other skills, abilities and resources matter more.

  3. Thanks generic,

    Changes made. Appreciate your attention. And, incidentally, I have a Friday salon at Daly’s (1688 Market) every Friday (like today) from noon til 3pm (some stay til closing time) and Chris sells us pints of $2 PBR and $2 baskets heaping w/fries. Toss in the free darts and pool and it’s a good afternoon. Hope to see you there.

    I’m always glad to see the Stearns team in the bar. We needed a watering hole like this for all us local media and political types.

    How do you think Trinh’s entry affects your candidate?

    Giants lose and still in first place.


  4. This article is incorrect.

    Sharmin Bock opposes the Sit/Lie law, and said so loudly and unequivocally, both at that debate and in many public forums.

    In fact, I specifically had a conversation with you at Buck Tavern later that evening about why you were supporting Gascon, an architect of Sit/Lie, and not Bock, an opponent of the measure.

    I *specifically* brought up that issue with you, h, along with increased foot patrols and greater community policing, both of which Bock supports and Gascon opposes.

    Please correct the record.