"Imma tell 'em you beat my ass!"

Not wanting to deal with the hassle, Dorton went and picked her up. She exploded on him as soon as she got into his car, he says, furiously cursing at him for nearly leaving her stranded.

"Fuck this," Dorton seethed. He stopped the car and ordered her out.

Angel Garcia, unable to pay the $450,000 bail, sat in jail for six months before he was acquitted at trial. His family lost their apartment and his kids became ill.
Michael Short
Angel Garcia, unable to pay the $450,000 bail, sat in jail for six months before he was acquitted at trial. His family lost their apartment and his kids became ill.

"Fuck you!" the woman shouted.

She looked into the back seat, grabbed a fork from the floor, and began stabbing the seat cushions, he says. Dorton, panicking, jumped out of the car, ran around the front, opened the passenger side door, and grabbed the woman's arm, pulling her onto the sidewalk. She screamed incoherently as he raced back to the driver's seat and gassed it.

The next day, the woman called Dorton and apologized. She said she'd give him some money — to fix his car or for his hospitality, he assumed. He didn't know that the woman made the call from the police station, and that he was being set up for an arrest.

The police report stated that the accuser had entered the police station that morning "hysterical, distraught, and had visible cuts on her legs." It claimed that Dorton "dragged [the accuser] out of the vehicle by her hair and started punching and kicking [her] in the head and stating that he was 'not going to leave any marks' so [she] could not prove anything." There were no witnesses. He went to jail.

Dorton soon learned the nuances of the American justice system. The string of hearings: arraignments, status checks, motions, pretrial testimonies. For a felony case, the court process takes at least three months before the trial begins. Dorton wanted to get to trial as soon as possible, but his public defender, Qiana Washington, suggested he waive his right to a speedy trial. He was facing 12 years, she stressed, and it was important that they take the time to build a solid case, taking nothing for granted. Building a defense can take months, particularly for those represented by a public defender. Washington had to balance Dorton's case with the two dozen others on her desk.

The weeks slogged on. "If they could keep me in here this long for nothing," Dorton wondered, "Why couldn't they keep me in here for 12 years?" He pushed the thought out of his mind, occupying himself with reading, writing, and push-ups. But at night, when he closed his eyes, those 12 years hammered at his mind.

He'd think about his childhood, growing up with his grandmother in the Sunnydale housing projects — mom on drugs, dad not ready to be a father. Dorton's half-brother lived in foster care. A teenage Dorton told his brother, who was five years younger, that he'd pull him out and get them their own place one day.

While some of his friends turned to drug-dealing, Dorton knew he'd need a clean record to get a real job. So he hustled his own way. He bought candies wholesale and sold them to classmates. He hawked bootleg DVDs, repaired cars and TVs.

His grandma died when he was 17, leaving him homeless. Fresh out of high school, he took on two jobs. In the mornings, he says he'd install cable for AT&T, then take a quick nap in the car before clocking in as the night watchman for a security company. Then he'd take another nap before starting the cycle again. After two years, he'd saved up enough for an apartment and an '80s model BMW.

On some of those nights in jail, the shouts of guards would jolt Dorton awake. A couple of inmates in the 45-person dormitory had been caught talking after lights out. The guards would rush in and corral the whole group into a small room, with no beds or chairs, just bright lights. The prisoners would sit there, drowsy and shell-shocked on the cold concrete, for what felt like hours.

Jail can be too much for some people, and that's an advantage for prosecutors, who leverage it for a plea bargain.

It was too much for Clyde Frazier. The way he tells it, one night he saw a drunk couple stumbling out of a bar. The woman was having trouble leading the man into a cab. So Frazier helped guide the man across the sidewalk. The man did not take kindly to this and, according to Frazier, punched him in the face. Frazier swung back, sending the man tumbling, his head smacking the taxi. The man ended his night in the hospital and Frazier was charged with assault.

Witnesses to the incident had only seen the second punch — Frazier's. He wanted to go to trial, confident the jury would believe his side. After 104 days in jail and still no trial date, he didn't feel that way anymore. He'd had enough. Prosecutors offered him a deal: misdemeanor assault and time served. He could walk out of jail that day if he pleaded guilty. So he did.

Dorton didn't even consider it. The DA's offer required him to register as a sex offender because of the pimping charge. No way, he said. The decision paid off. The accuser proved to be unreliable, her stories shifting and her testimony self-damning. It didn't help that her Facebook page listed her employment as "PIMPIN SINCE PIMPIN BEEN PIMPIN ... HEAD PIMPTRESS IN CHARGE" and her education as "Advanced Pimpin ... keepin hoes in LINE!!!" Worse, the defense team revealed that the accuser had continued working as a prostitute through myredbook.com even as the city paid for her hotel accommodations during the court proceedings. Media outlets noted that the DA's office spent over $2,000 of taxpayer money on her.

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Paul the Cab Driver
Paul the Cab Driver

Dorton was charged with pimping, which is arranging sexual liaisons for money.  It is totally asinine that this is even a crime.  As George Carlin once pointed out, it is not illegal to have sex with someone, and it is not illegal to give them money; so why is it illegal to give someone sex for money?

He was also charged with assault, with absolutely no witnesses to what happened.  

The woman charging him was a completely disreputable liar whose testimony fell completely apart on the witness stand.  

This brings up a number of questions:  Why was this man charged with anything at all?  Why did the prosecutors office not see that this case was a complete tissue of lies from the beginning? why did the judge not just throw this whole case out completely?  Why is it that the woman was not charged (as far as we know) with filing a false report?  And lastly, and most important of all, why do we citizens allow prosecutors to get away with this kind of nastiness with absolutely zero consequences whatsoever?

It's high time we stop these massive injustices in our system.  The prosecutor in this case should be forced to resign, and prosecuted himself!


One of the major components of the American Legislative Exchange Council is their "public safety task force" - a lobby of representatives of private prison and bail bonds corporations that writes laws and pays state legislators to pass them. Some of their successful efforts have been "tough on crime" laws like mandatory minimum sentencing, bail stacking and pretrial detention. They also attack funding for diversion programs and public defenders, leading to high case loads, inadequate defenses, more (and more draconian) plea deals and long prison terms based on poverty.

Whatever the verdict, the bail bonds corporations make out like bandits for essentially no work, since people show up for their court dates 91% of the time even when no bond is posted. Once a convict is sentenced, the private prisons rob us both ways by charging full price for goods and services made with prison labor paid at the Bangladesh-worthy rate of twenty cents an hour, all the while collecting subsidies and tax breaks in the guise of vocational training.

For more info:


Follow the money.

nancytung like.author.displayName 1 Like

If you are poor you get a free lawyer.

If you are rich, you have to pay for the lawyer and you dont get your bond back if you are found NOT guilty.

Is that fair?

patfan34 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@nancytung Your lack of understanding of the judicial system is shocking. Everyone has a right to an attorney meaning if you can't afford one then you are provided one. So you believe poor people are less deserving of a professional defense than rich people who can afford it? Also, nobody, rich or poor, gets their bond back. Maybe if you read a little closer you would have caught that...

albert like.author.displayName 1 Like

You know an article is unfairly biased against the commercial bail industry when it buries the following comment on the last page:


"While the risk assessment wouldn't necessarily set guys like Dorton free, it could ensure them a fair shot based on facts."


This whole anti-bail article is based around Dorton's anecdotal case and it turns out that even if a risk assessment OR program was in place, Dorton may not have qualified because of the seriousness of the charges against him.


Guess what, high conviction rates clearly show that most defendants are guilty of the crimes they are charged with.  The presumption of innocence does not mean that society has to be stupid and release mass number of defendants on OR so they can dodge court and punishment for their crimes.  

patfan34 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@albert Or if you read the article closely at all you could surmise that the litany of charges that prosecutors throw at defendants helps trump up that number. Trumped up charges to pressure the charged into pleading guilty = high conviction rates = district attorneys keeping their jobs when they trumpet those numbers in elections.

hplovecraft topcommenter

Reading this article ; I thought I'd picked up an issue

of SFBayGuardian , by mistake....

sfwtrail like.author.displayName 1 Like

Excellent and important article. Thanks for the work that went into this.

I couldn't help notice that it was Judge Susan Breall who set the bail at $450,000, in effect sentencing a man not convicted of any crime to jail for months on end (10 months in this case) with scant reason to do so.

Judge Breall was also the judge who handed down the ruling that forced Sheriff Mirkarimi to move out of his homw, cost his family their income, and separated them for months on end.

She also has failed to publicly disclose (although she may have in documents filed at court but not posted online) that she is the Board member of a nonprofit that seeks to provide legal advice to attorneys representing purported victims of violence at home. 


barryeisenberg like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @sfwtrail I also noticed the bias that seems to surround Judge Breall. She must be quite a piece of work.


As with any long-entrenched and privileged group, ethics in the insular judicial branch is a dicey matter indeed. I learned this firsthand back in the 70's when my family underwent its tragically life-altering experience with the family court bureaucracy. It seems like only the names of the players have changed in all this time. The SF Superior Court, as this excellent article depicts, continues blundering along in its highly destructive ways and heaven help anyone forced into contact with it.  

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