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Soon Millstein found his academic niche in the history department. "I liked to study the impact individuals had on history, and personalities, and how that can shape things. How that was, and still is, important."
He graduated cum laude and gained admission to Boalt Hall.
After signing up as an entry-level prosecutor in S.F., he quickly found others questioning his "intellectual maturity" too, and learned first hand the influence of personality on destiny.
In 1981, when Millstein came under the tutelage of Assistant District Attorney Gerald Koelling, the relationship was doomed from the start.
Former prosecutors -- mostly members of a group of 14 assistant district attorneys fired shortly after Hallinan's election -- counter Millstein's story of how he found himself out of the DA's Office after 14 months on the job. According to these former prosecutors, Koelling has kept a file on Millstein from those days, and it documents the young prosecutor's shortcomings -- including a failure to subpoena witnesses to trial and one time calling in to the office after lunch to say he was too drunk to return.
According to Millstein's recollection, it was a different case of drunkenness that led to his departure, and it was of his own volition.
Millstein maintains he resigned as a matter of principle the week that then-DA Arlo Smith's chief assistant, Don Jacobson, accompanied by Smith, was stopped by police after climbing into a car following heavy drinking over lunch in North Beach one Friday afternoon. Assigned a drunken driving caseload at the time, Millstein says he felt "enormously hypocritical," because "defense lawyers would come up to me and ask why I wasn't prosecuting Arlo."
Whether Millstein quit or was pushed, his treatment of Koelling 14 years later is what's revealing today. It is a Rorschach test for gauging opinion on the new chief assistant, and it has had consequences far beyond the lives of the principals.
To backers of Millstein, the move was just part and parcel of the necessary housecleaning after 16 years of Arlo Smith; Koelling's politics are antithetical to Hallinan's, and the new administration has the right to populate the office with supportive prosecutors. "He is not as hesitant to make necessary changes in the office," says Breall, comparing Millstein to his departed predecessor, Marla Miller. "He seems able to implement a lot better Terence's ideas."
Conversely, Millstein's detractors say the incident demonstrates how his ego hurts Hallinan. "He is drunk with power. Drunk," according to one departed member of the office.
Several prosecutors cite Koelling's case as reason for their unwillingness to air criticism with a reporter -- even on a promise of confidentiality. Koelling himself declined to return telephone messages seeking comment.
If the fallout is manifest anywhere, it is at the S.F. Police Department, where the 55-year-old Koelling was well-liked.
"Officers have a lot of trust in Gerry, and the treatment of him sends a message," says one knowledgeable Police Department source. "[Millstein] tends to overreact. ... His first tendency is to shoot."
Even the "no comment" of one member of the department's top brass is telling. "We are struggling with this relationship here, and to comment on it at this time wouldn't help."
That struggle, complicated by Millstein's presence, has implications worth keeping in mind.
Consider again the enormous power of the District Attorney's Office. At its disposal are: 118 prosecutors; various criminal and civil codes that seem to grow with each convening of the state Legislature; and several dozen investigators to assist or lead criminal probes. However, like muscle and bone, the DA is implicitly tied to the Police Department, and they generally can't function effectively without the other.
Millstein insists police relations are no worse than when the new administration took office, and efforts are under way to bridge differences between the two agencies.
"The problem has always been there," he says. "It takes the form of petty rivalry, turf battles, finger pointing, and an overall lack of the cooperation you would expect to see by two parties on the same side of the law."
Millstein's view is backed somewhat by a report in June by the S.F. civil grand jury. It reviewed the DA-PD relationship over a nine-month period, and found a "unique" climate of "mutual mistrust" -- which contributes to "revolving door discharges, jail overcrowding, a flawed re-booking process and built-in conflicts of interest."
To bridge the difficulties, Millstein says he and other members of Hallinan's front office participate in fortnightly meetings with police top brass. "If we have enough meetings, we will smooth out these things," he says.
But the Hallinan administration, and Millstein in particular, didn't get on the wrong side of police overnight. Grand jury reports and regular meetings aside, the venom just keeps flowing.
Last month, Breall, the domestic violence prosecutor, acting on Millstein's expressed approval, dropped two charges of lewd and lascivious against a 30-year-old Iraqi. The charges had been filed against Mohammed Alsreafi in June after S.F. police inspectors were told Alsreafi had sex with an 11-year-old Iraqi girl. The girl's parents had reportedly arranged for her to marry Alsreafi.