The man about to become San Francisco's new district attorney is the son of Weather Underground radicals convicted of murder

acollman@businessinsider.com (Ashley Collman)
chesa boudin

Chesa Boudin for San Francisco District Attorney/Facebook

  • Chesa Boudin, 39, is set to be sworn in as San Francisco's new district attorney in just a few weeks' time, NBC News reported Monday.
  • He is the son of Weather Underground radicals who were convicted of murder in a bank heist gone wrong in 1981, when Boudin was just 14 months old.
  • Boudin was raised by Weather Underground founder Bill Ayers and his wife in Chicago, studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and worked as a translator for then-Venezuela President Hugo Chavez.
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San Francisco's incoming district attorney has a unique personal story that has given him a lifetime of experience in the criminal justice system.

Chesa Boudin, 39, is the son of Weather Underground radicals Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, who were convicted of murder in a botched 1981 bank robbery that resulted in the deaths of two police officers and a security guard, NBC News' Allan Smith reported Monday.

The Weather Underground was a leftist group that turned to "crime as a way to protest the Vietnam War, racism, and other left-wing aims," according to the FBI. They were also behind multiple bombings across the country during this era.

Boudin's parents acted as getaway drivers in the so-called Brink's Heist, with the actual killings being committed by members of the Black Liberation Army who paired for the group for the robbery, according to NBC News.

Boudin was 14 months old at the time, and put in the care of a babysitter while his parents took part in the heist. He was raised by Weather Underground founder Bill Ayers when his parents were ultimately convicted of their crimes.

katherine boudin

Handschuh/AP

(Ayers became a hot topic during the 2008 presidential campaign for his supposed friendship with then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, who insisted that they were not close.)

Kathy Boudin pleaded guilty to murder and robbery and was released in 2003 after spending 22 years in prison, WNYC reported at the time.

Boudin's father was convicted of murder and robbery and is still serving his sentence. Gilbert isn't up for parole until 2056, according New York State records.

Boudin said his parents' sentences were an example of how 'arbitrary' the criminal justice system can be

Boudin didn't shy away from his family history during the campaign. Running on a criminal justice reform platform, he said his parents' case is an example of how "arbitrary" sentences can be.

"I think one thing we notice in their case that kind of stands out is how, in some ways, arbitrary the outcomes in the criminal justice system can be. And they did basically the same thing, identical thing," Boudin told NBC News. "Certainly, one lesson I learned is how ... punitive it can be when your dad, arguably, was given an extra 55 years' minimum sentence than your mother."

Boudin went on to study at Yale and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He also worked as a translator for then-Venezuela President Hugo Chavez during a decade he spent traveling South America, NBC News reported.

Before winning November's election to become the new district attorney of San Francisco, he worked as a public defender. He has never prosecuted a case, which is perhaps unusual as the city's next top prosecutor.

Boudin says he wants to "restore a sense of compassion" to the district attorney's office.

"That's just a true, motivating fact that we do have compassion for victims, compassion for the community ... compassion for the family members of people who are accused of committing crimes and compassion for the people who, themselves, have caused harm," he told NBC News. "We need to hold them accountable in a way that is serious."

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