Alameda County prosecutor seeks his boss’ job as D.A.’s race heats up | #College. | #Students



A veteran prosecutor at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday that he’s running to lead the agency in 2022, potentially setting up a clash with his current boss, Nancy O’Malley.

Deputy District Attorney and former union plumber Jimmie Wilson, 60, will campaign on a promise of nuanced, data-driven prosecution and a vow to hold both violent and small-time offenders accountable for their actions.

Wilson, a Democrat, called himself a “different kind of progressive,” and sought to distance himself from traditional “tough-on-crime” prosecutors as well as the state’s reformer district attorneys like San Francisco’s Chesa Boudin or George Gascón in Los Angeles.

He’s struck a moderate-left approach to California’s hot-button issues like the death penalty, cash bail and charging juveniles as adults — stopping short of a vow to eliminate them entirely. Instead, Wilson said he will prioritize tackling violent crime, collecting crime and prosecution data, and expanding the office’s diversion opportunities and role in violence-prevention programs.

“If you really want to reduce crime, you have to hold people accountable,” Wilson said in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle. “What do you do with someone after they’ve been charged with a crime? That’s something totally different.”

O’Malley, who has served as the county’s top prosecutor since 2009, has not announced whether she plans to run for a fourth term, and declined to comment for this story. Wilson said he will run regardless of her decision.

Wilson declined to comment on O’Malley directly, but took aim at some of the office’s policies that he said are in need of an overhaul. He vowed to create diversion programs that do more than forcing a defendant to pay and watch a video, and to create a system of data collection that tracks and publishes statistics like plea deals, charging decisions and demographics.

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Jimmie Wilson is running for District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s seat.

Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

Wilson said he does not support the death penalty “in its current form,” and will welcome petitions to retroactively test DNA for those sentenced to death. He said he supports sending some juveniles 16 and older to adult court, “when the crime and criminal history demand it,” and vowed to invest in creative solutions to reform cash bail.

His approach, Wilson said, doesn’t favor any single philosophy.

“I don’t have all the answers — no one has all the answers,” he said. “To make this work, we have to be open and honest about the things that we excelled at … and the things that we need to improve.”

A Black man born and raised in San Francisco’s violence-plagued Bayview neighborhood, Wilson said he grew up watching both his parents work to improve conditions in their community in lieu of opportunities to move elsewhere.

His mother, Ernestine, earned her college degree while raising three children and later went on to become a public school teacher and founder of the community’s first girls’ club. His father, Jimmie Wilson Jr., made a career building low-income apartments, and in his spare time helped ex-felons secure jobs with the city.

While playing football at San Jose State University, Wilson suffered a career-ending back injury and dropped out to become a union plumber. A second back injury on the job prompted the husband and father of three to enroll in night school at Laney College in Oakland and later to UC Berkeley, where he won a scholarship and, at 40, graduated with his undergraduate degree in 2000.

Four years later, Wilson earned his law degree from UC Hastings College of the Law.

Over the last 16 years at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, Wilson has risen through the ranks as a line prosecutor to leading prosecutions in gang, sex assault and homicide cases.

Running on the campaign slogan “Safety is a Civil Right,” Wilson said his history makes him uniquely qualified to tackle crime in a place like Oakland, where low-income communities of color disproportionately fall victim to violence. The office additionally covers cities including Alameda, Berkeley, San Leandro and Fremont.





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