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June 5, 2018 — California Primary Election
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County

Marin CountyCandidate for District Attorney

Photo of A.J. Brady

A.J. Brady

Deputy District Attorney
14,879 votes (20.32%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Aligning our mental health system with our criminal justice system
  • Greater emphasis on treatment over incarceration for substance abuse related crimes
  • Breaking the cycle of domestic violence

Experience

Experience

Profession:Deputy District Attorney
Deputy District Attorney, County of Marin (2004–current)
Board of Trustee, Reed Union School District — Elected position (2013–current)
Vice President, Marin County School Boards Association — Appointed position (2015–current)
Board Member, Belvedere-Tiburon Joint Recreation Committee — Appointed position (2014–2015)

Education

UC Hastings College of the Law Juris Doctor (J.D.), Law (2004)
University of California San Diego Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Political Science/Public Policy (2000)

Biography

A.J. Brady is a Bay Area native with more than a decade of experience keeping the community safe, working for the Marin County District Attorney’s Office prosecuting violent offenders and implementing innovative best practices and programs.

Born in San Francisco, A.J. is the oldest of three siblings and thirteen cousins. During his early years, A.J. lived in the Outer Sunset where he spent his afterschool hours in the dry-cleaning business run by his first-generation Chinese-American grandparents. In sixth grade, A.J. moved with his mother to San Rafael and later attended high school at Saint Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco. He then received a B.A. in Political Science/Public Policy from University of California San Diego, where he met his wife Jenna, and later graduated cum laude from University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

 

After law school, A.J. joined the Marin County District Attorney’s Office in the misdemeanor unit, where he cut his teeth making Marin safer by prosecuting DUI, battery, and drunk and disorderly cases. Soon afterward, A.J. was designated the misdemeanor expediter for the office, responsible for all misdemeanor plea negotiations.  In that position, A.J. collaborated with defense attorneys, law enforcement, mental health professionals and non-profits to craft alternate sentencing for the community’s low level, but repeat offenders, with mental health or addiction issues.

 

Throughout his 13 years with the DA’s Office, A.J. has kept violent offenders off the streets by prosecuting cases of all types and severity from elder abuse to domestic violence to murder cases. In recent years A.J. obtained convictions in People v. Chet Turner, a murder-suicide pact case in Sausalito; in People v. Frank Souza, a prison murder that occurred in San Quentin; and in several recent vehicular manslaughter cases. During his tenure, A.J. has led the misdemeanor trial team, vertical DUI prosecution team, and felony trial prosecution teams. A.J. has also worked as the mental health deputy providing appropriate alternatives for those whose criminal actions are the result of serious mental illness. He is currently assigned to the Special Victims Unit, where his practice focuses on intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and gang prosecutions.

 

With a commitment to reshaping justice in Marin County through innovative best practices, A.J. has spearheaded several progressive policy projects including the Chronic Alcoholics with Justice Involvement (CAJI) pilot, which provides housing in lieu of incarceration to chronic alcoholics in San Rafael, and the Restorative Justice Diversionary Program, one of the first of its kind in the United States to use restorative justice for adult defendants. A.J. is deeply committed to collaborative justice and alternative approaches to traditional criminal prosecution that keep the community safe, improve victim satisfaction, and reduce instances of defendants reoffending.

 

A.J. lives in Corte Madera with his wife and two daughters, where he serves as President of the Reed Union School Board of Trustees and Vice-President of the Marin County School Board Association. As an elected official working to improve education in Marin County, A.J. helps oversee a $20 million budget and over 160 district employees. On the school board, he has consulted on strategic planning, employment, and litigation issues, and is working to increase fiscal responsibility in schools while maintaining excellent education standards for all students.

Who supports this candidate?

Featured Endorsements

  • Marin County Prosecutors Association
  • Katie Rice, Marin County Supervisor
  • Steve Kinsey, Marin County Supervisor (fmr)

Organizations (9)

  • SEIU Local 1021
  • Reed District Teachers Association
  • National Asian Pacific Islander Prosecutors Association
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 856, 665, 314
  • Tiburon Police Officers Association
  • North Bay Labor Council AFL-CIO
  • UA Local 38, Plumbers & Pipefitters
  • Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1575
  • SMART, SMW Local Union No. 104

Elected Officials (18)

  • Tom Cooper, School Board President, Novato Unified School District
  • Joshua Barrow, School Board President, Sausalito Marin City School District
  • David Chiu, State Assemblymember, 17th District
  • Laura Anderson, School Board President, Tamalpais Union High School District
  • Brad Honsberger, School Board President, Dixie School District
  • John Wright, Mayor, San Anselmo Town Council
  • Nate Siedman, School Board President, Bolinas-Stinson Union School District
  • Justin Derby, Commissioner, Novato City Planning Commission
  • Mary Sylla, Treasurer, Ross Valley Sanitary District
  • Marnie Glickman, School Board Vice-President, Dixie School District
  • Rachel Kertz, School Board President, San Rafael City Schools District
  • Bill Shea, Marinwood Community Services District
  • Jim Fraser, Mayor, Tiburon Town Council
  • Pam Drew, Council Member, Novato City Council
  • Hon. Randolph Heubach, Commissioner, Marin Superior Court (ret.)
  • Hon. James R. Ritchie, Judge, Marin Superior Court (ret.)
  • Hon. Richard H. Breiner, Judge, Marin Superior Court (ret.)
  • Hon. William Hochman, Commissioner, Marin Superior Court (ret.)

Individuals (1)

  • For a complete list of endorsements, please visit www.ajbrady.com - thank you!

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

Although I am running for a non-partisan office, I am guided by my Democratic values. I am a lifelong member of the Democratic party because I believe in diversity, inclusion, and civil justice. As a Deputy District Attorney, I have spent more than a decade working to keep our community safe while advocating for “smart on crime” policies to help at-risk residents and promoting innovative practices that encourage rehabilitation and lower recidivism.

I believe that changes need to be made within the District Attorney’s office to continue to keep the community safe in a manner consistent with the progressive values of our community. Our justice system must ensure the equitability of people’s safety and I am committed to holding the District Attorney’s office accountable to ensure that safety services are provided to ALL people, defendants and victims alike.

Position Papers

All Alone on the Death Penalty

Summary

The death penalty can end, county by county, if voters elect District Attorneys who do not equivocate and commit to not seek the death penalty.

District Attorneys cannot equivocate on the number one issue in criminal justice reform: the death penalty. A District Attorney should not express a strong personal reservation or opposition to the death penalty while justifying the punishment as ‘unfortunately, the law’.

To imply that elected District Attorneys must passively ‘follow the law’ on the death penalty obscures the true discretion of District Attorneys in California. There is no law in California that requires a District Attorney to seek the death penalty. The death penalty is only available for first-degree murder convictions, where the prosecutor affirmatively requests findings of “special circumstances.” There is no law that requires a District Attorney to plead and request “special circumstances.” If “special circumstances” are filed, the District Attorney can inform the court that they won’t be seeking death, thus converting the maximum penalty to Life Without Parole (LWOP). In other words, a jury cannot impose the death penalty without express, intentional, and fully discretionary steps taken by the District Attorney. Phrases like ‘we must follow the law’ and ‘we will leave it to a jury’ shift responsibility for the imposition of the death penalty from the elected District Attorney, accountable to voters, to anonymous jurors.

One must wonder if a District Attorneys, publicly professing strong personal reservations about the death penalty, yet refusing to say they won’t seek it, equivocate for political reasons — catering to one segment of voters while fearful of alienating another. All sides of the electorate have a right to know what a District Attorney will do if elected. If you are personally opposed to the death penalty, but are willing to pursue it as an organization, you are effectively for the death penalty.

In addition, death penalty prosecutions require jurors who will carry out the potential punishment — in a capital case, those who steadfastly oppose the death penalty are excused from serving on the jury. In Marin County, this can mean hundreds, if not thousands, of people are summoned for jury duty, just to find 12 jurors who are able to serve and willing to impose the death penalty.

Being equivocal on the death penalty has significant immediate ramifications in a criminal prosecution. With the charge of “special circumstances” and a possible death penalty, a criminal defendant is entitled to not one, but two court-appointed attorneys, at the public’s expense. In Marin, we dedicate one to two of our top deputy district attorneys to work solely on each of these cases, monopolizing a tremendous percentage of our workforce, and forcing the reorganization of office personnel around each potential death penalty case.

Meanwhile, the court essentially schedules two trials – one for the factual determination of the murder, and another for the penalty phase. This penalty phase can be as long, if not longer, than the criminal trial as the defense presents mitigating factors to convince the jury to reject a death sentence. All these local costs occur before the endless appeals associated with the death penalty.

Even more than the financial costs, equivocating on the death penalty by ‘opposing it, except in the most egregious of situations’, contributes to an unarguable criticism of the death penalty – its arbitrariness.

When faced with a horrific crime, and every potential “special circumstances” case is a horrific crime, death penalty equivocation requires a District Attorney to rely on gut instinct about the victim, the defendant, and the facts of the case, when deciding if it’s ‘egregious enough’ to be worthy of the ultimate punishment. Over time, it is these gut-decisions that result in inconsistent, arbitrary and often racially-suspect outcomes about who will receive a death-eligible jury trial and who will have LWOP as their maximum punishment.

Many clamor for the mantle of “progressive prosecutor.” However, one cannot credibly claim to be a progressive prosecutor and equivocate on the death penalty, which has been the central point of reform agendas for decades. One cannot credibly talk about fiscal responsibility in the justice system and equivocate on the death penalty, which costs Californians an estimated $184 million annually, and an estimated $4 billion since 1978. And, one cannot credibly profess concern about equity in the justice system and be equivocal on the death penalty, which is disproportionately imposed on defendants of color.

This is not to minimize the most serious crimes worthy of a “special circumstance” designation. Multiple murders, murders committed by gangs, and yes, murders of children are undeniably heinous crimes and individuals convicted of them deserve to be punished. Pursuit of the death penalty in California is a gesture of consolation to victims’ families, a promise to pursue the harshest, most severe punishment as a measure of justice for their inconsolable loss.

However, it is time for District Attorneys to acknowledge that Life Without Parole is the harshest, most severe punishment that the state can credibly impose. Pursuit of the death penalty in California is a false promise to victims’ families that the punishment will occur and bring closure to their lives; and it’s an expensive, ineffective policy decision borne by taxpayers. In the last 40 years, there have been only 13 executions in California, and none in the past 12 years.

Marin County voters have spoken – twice showing their strong opposition to the death penalty and a desire to join 19 other states, the District of Columbia, and almost every other first-world country in opposing this practice. While the debate is often focused at the state and national levels, pursuit of the death penalty is fundamentally a local decision, reflecting local values and local criminal justice priorities. The death penalty can end, county by county, if voters elect District Attorneys who do not equivocate and commit to not seek the death penalty.

Unexpectedly, in progressive Marin County, California, I stand alone to unequivocally make this commitment.

A.J. Brady

www.ajbrady.com

The Case for Restorative Justice

Summary

Restorative Justice should play an even larger role in our criminal justice system. Marin County can better serve its communities by providing peace of mind to victims while reducing recidivism through a robust criminal justice system that embraces restorative justice and provides progressive public safety consistent with our local values.

The case for restorative justice is best exemplified in one of the more common crimes prosecutors face – residential burglary. Simply defined, it is the breaking into an inhabited dwelling with the intent to commit a felony, usually theft – in short, someone breaks into your house.

The impact on a victim of a residential burglary is incredibly complex. Nearly uniformly, victims feel a loss of security — someone has been in their home. This initial insecurity grows over time – they wonder, Were we targeted? How did the thieves know when we weren’t going to be home? They must have watched us; and if they were watching then, are they watching now? Will they come back? All of these thoughts lead to a perpetual fear of being retargeted.

The current criminal justice system does not alleviate these feelings. Once arrested, a defendant is afforded a defense attorney at public expense. Victims often ask, Why don’t I receive a paid attorney? The defense attorney can make a vigorous defense case by hiring investigators to talk to witnesses, visit the crime scene or subpoena the victim, often resulting in victims feeling re-victimized by the defense attorney and investigator. If a conviction is obtained and sentencing proceeds, the victim may choose to make an impact statement, but because defendants are advised to keep their eyes forward, the victim’s statement is addressed to the back of the defendant’s head.

On numerous occasions, I have had victims ask me something along the lines of, When do I get in the room with that ‘whipper-snapper’? and for years I’ve had to respond … We don’t do that.

Seeing this void of disconnect between the crime and the victim’s desire to meet face-to-face with the offender is what led to my interest and research in Restorative Justice. At its core, Restorative Justice is a mindset that seeks to define a harm or problem, determine the cause, and repair the damage done to the victim or community. Often in Restorative Justice programs, victims and offenders participate in a victim-offender dialogue – a facilitated meeting where victims attempt to understand why a crime happened and offenders attempt to understand how the crime impacted the victim and potentially, the broader community. At the conclusion, the victim, offender, and community members may reach an agreement as to how an offender can potentially repair the damage caused by their crime.

Restorative Justice is broadly used in our school systems as an alternative to suspension and expulsions; and in the juvenile delinquency system, as an alternative approach to youthful offenses. However, in the American adult court system its use is rare. In comparison, Restorative Justice programs are widely used in Canada, the UK, Germany, and New Zealand, and have been the subject of research to measure the efficacy of restorative justice versus solely traditional justice approaches.

Broadly speaking, researchers studied three main areas of potential impact: recidivism, satisfaction with the justice system, and effect on restitution. They found that compared to a solely traditional justice approach, the use of restorative justice lowered recidivism, uniformly increased victims’ feelings of satisfaction with the overall justice system and increased the likelihood that a defendant will pay restitution.

In 2015, I partnered with the Marin County Probation Department to bring restorative justice to the Marin County adult court system. Through this partnership, the Probation Department started offering restorative justice in post-judgment probation cases and the District Attorney’s office created a misdemeanor diversion program. This pilot program is still in its infancy, but the results are encouraging. Recently, upon learning of a defendant’s background during a face-to-face meeting, a victim agreed to forgive a large 5-figure restitution after the defendant completed substance abuse treatment. To this victim, assurances about future harm were more important than the monetary loss.

So where does Marin County go from here? If we accept the ample evidence that restorative justice can provide victims with a greater sense of satisfaction and that offenders are more invested and accountable through this process, then the answer is felonies.

In Canada, restorative justice exists as a parallel sentencing process. If a person is convicted, the case is referred to both a traditional probation department for a pre-sentence report and a Restorative Justice coordinator for recommendations to the Judge. The Restorative Justice coordinator determines if the victim and offender wish to engage in a restorative process. If the victim and offender meet, and reach an agreement, those non-binding terms, along with a probation department report detailing the background and prospects of the defendant, are forwarded to the Judge for consideration at sentencing.

Such a process is remarkably more informed than current felony sentencing in the United States. Unfortunately, in an attempt to determine whether a defendant is remorseful, Judicial officers and District Attorneys often grasp at sentences from a probation report or rely on in-court demeanor. With an additional restorative report that includes input from the victim, a Judicial officer can be confident that the victim has been heard. While parties must argue for their clients’ best interests, and the Judge has a duty to ensure some level of consistency in sentencing, restorative sentencing reports reflect a confident justice system, and one that is responsive to the persons most profoundly affected by the results.

This face-to-face accountability is what our modern criminal justice system lacks. It is only the ‘whipper-snappers’ who can truly alleviate burglary victims’ feelings of insecurity. Only the ‘whipper-snappers’ can tell the victim that they were not targeted, that the neighborhood was chosen because it was affluent and had a pattern of leaving doors or windows open. Only the ‘whipper-snapper’ can explain that no one was watching the victim, they walked up and down the street, ringing doorbells until they found one where no one was home and then tried the door or a rear slider. Lastly, only the ‘whipper-snapper’ themselves can truly explain to a victim that they are more than a ‘whipper snapper’, that they are a complicated individual, perhaps down on their luck or struggling with sobriety, and that they are deeply remorseful for all the pain they have caused.

In future years, Restorative Justice should play an even larger role in our criminal justice system. Marin County can better serve its communities by providing peace of mind to victims while reducing recidivism through a robust criminal justice system that embraces restorative justice and provides progressive public safety consistent with our local values.

A.J. Brady

www.ajbrady.com

Videos (4)

— May 9, 2018 COSTMarin – Coalition of Sensible Tax Payers
— May 9, 2018 League of Women Voters of Marin County
— May 9, 2018 A.J. Brady for District Attorney 2018, FPPC #139466
Peter B. Collins In Conversation with A.J. Brady — May 10, 2018 Community Media Center of Marin

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