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Thursday, September 24, 2009

And Stay Out: 9th Circuit Upholds Man's Banishment From San Francisco

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge's ruling banishing a convicted felon from entering San Francisco city limits without the permission of his probation officer
  • The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge's ruling banishing a convicted felon from entering San Francisco city limits without the permission of his probation officer
The term "oldies but goodies" has apparently expanded to encompass more than everyone's favorite Doo-Wop hits. Who could have predicted that the early 21st century would feature legal and ethical debates about a modified version of the sorts of dunking procedures used to ferret out clandestine witchcraft during the Dark Ages?

Banishment is more benevolent a punishment than trial by ordeal, but the term is still fettered with Medieval connotations. And yet, just yesterday, San Francisco's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a prior ruling by San Francisco Federal Judge William Alsup in which he declared that convicted carjacker Deandre Watson is effectively banished from this city as a condition of his plea agreement.

While Watson made the "you never said that before I signed the dotted line!" argument and further claimed this violated his "constitutional rights to travel and move," the 9th Circuit panel essentially returned with the sentiments "good luck in Oakland or Marin."

Following his arrest in 2007 along with Maurice Bibbs for carjacking a pregnant woman in San Francisco at gunpoint, Watson was apprehended and signed a plea agreement calling for 72 months imprisonment, three years of supervised release (with "conditions to be fixed by the Court"), and "to give up my right to appeal my conviction(s), the judgment, and orders of the court." Watson was later warned by the San Francisco District Court that his pending supervised release would require him to "report and live under certain strict conditions."

Watson's criminal and gang-affiliated background led Alsup to insist he stay out of the city during a 2008 sentencing hearing:

I've seen this time and time again. Somebody comes out of prison. They go back to San Francisco. Within a week, they're back with the old guys and the old gang, and they are back in trouble. They got a gun. And then eventually, they get caught. Now, living in Oakland may not be much better, but at least they make new friends. Maybe some of
those are law-abiding friends.

And so I want to try this. I want you to be thinking about who he could live with over there that's a law-abiding relative -- or it could be San Jose. I don't care where it is, as long as it's not the city and county of San Francisco.

Watson's attorney, Scott Sugarman, called this ruling "overbroad" and said it would keep his client from, say, visiting his hospitalized mother. Alsup replied that Watson could simply call up his probation officer and get permission to enter the city for that specific purpose. The judge then added, "I promise, in the long run, he'll be thanking me for this." Addressing Watson directly, he noted, "Now, you got a great lawyer. Maybe he'll find a way to get an appeal out of this and declare that unconstitutional. And, you know, that will be great; but until then this is going to be the deal, because I think it's for your own good." 

In that eventual appeal, the Court of Appeals found, for starters, that the fact the above debate between Sugarman and Alsup took place nixed the argument of "insufficient notice" of the sentencing conditions.

And while the Court of Appeals found the restriction of Watson from an entire city to be a bit unusual, it was hardly illegal: "[Alsup] was persuaded that the only way to prevent Watson from returning to a life of further misconduct was to force him to make a new life elsewhere," reads the 9th Circuit ruling, noting Watson's affiliation with the "Eddy Rock" gang and "poor support he has received" from his family and others in this city. "Separating a convicted felon from negative influences in his prior life ... is a common purpose of supervised release."

In the end, the Court of Appeals dismissed all of Watson's claims -- meaning Alsup's hope that Watson make "law-abiding friends" in Oakland or elsewhere seems to be his best bet.

"You know, I do see people in your very position that come back in here four or five years later and they've got an honest job," Alsup told Watson during that 2008 sentencing hearing. "They're paying tax. They haven't committed anymore crimes. They're off drugs. It can happen. It can happen.

"That's what I want to see happen for you."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


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