Candidate Op-Ed: ‘I Apologize For the Insensitivity of My Words in 2016.’

Editor's Note: Political candidates in Santa Clara County may submit op-ed pieces to San Jose Inside. Opinion pieces must be no more than 1,000 words, written and signed by the candidate and submitted to this publication only. Publication is up to the discretion of the editor, with special consideration given to fairness. Publication may be limited to one op-ed per candidate in each of the primary and general election periods.

In 2016, I wrote an op-ed for this publication on the high-profile sexual assault committed by Brock Turner, who was rightfully convicted in March 2016.

I wrote that judges should consider the humanity of everyone involved and aim for accountability and rehabilitation in sentencing. I also expressed concern that a large-scale ratcheting-up of sentences would disproportionately impact communities far less privileged than Mr. Turner, and ultimately result in excessive prison terms for poor people of color.

Five years later, I stand by those fundamental ideas. But I also acknowledge that I failed to step out of my role as a public defender and caused further pain by not considering the experiences of survivors on the other side of the courtroom. I apologize for the insensitivity of my words and I take full responsibility for them. I do not think or speak in the same terms today.

As a proponent of restorative justice, I know that taking responsibility means doing the work to learn and to grow from that experience. This is why I have built relationships and had meaningful discussions with all stakeholders in the criminal legal system, including survivors of sexual assault and other violent crimes. I have listened to countless testimonies and victim impact statements of survivors. I have learned from the national reckoning on sexual and gender based violence, the #MeToo movement, and private conversations with loved ones. And I have heard the experiences of retraumatization that our law enforcement agencies, criminal legal system, and school systems cause survivors of violence.

Through this journey of growth and reflection, I now hold a deeper understanding of the perspectives and needs of survivors and a broader view of the crossroads of sexual violence and mass incarceration.

Five things have become abundantly clear:

1) Survivors and their families want to be safe.

2) When they report harm, they want to be seen and heard.

3) They want the people who have caused the harm to be held accountable.

4) They want the person to never commit that harm again.

5) They want the opportunity to heal and move forward with their lives.

As an advocate for systemic reform that manifests true dignity, safety and justice for all people, I share these goals. I am also keenly aware of evidence-based research that tells us our criminal legal system all too often fails to achieve these outcomes. Less than one third of sexual assaults are reported, and even fewer end in justice for survivors and accountability for perpetrators.

We must do better.

No one should suffer in silence or alone. We know there are many systemic and cultural barriers that prevent survivors from disclosing sexual violence.

Survivors, if they do report, must repeatedly detail the harms inflicted upon them to often untrained law enforcement officers.

Once a case is over, we know that survivors are often left without continued services and support to ensure their long term healing and sustained safety. And too often, prosecutors treat survivors merely as a means to win convictions, rather than to secure justice and healing.

Yes, convictions for crimes committed are an important part of the criminal legal system, but I believe justice for survivors demands more than that. For too long, our legal system has sidestepped restorative justice practices and instead focused on punitive, lengthy sentences. The solely punitive framework of the status quo does little to eliminate future violence, support survivors, or hold those who commit harm truly accountable.

We discuss violence as a monolithic character trait rather than what it truly is – something that is born out of a series of circumstances like shame, fear, isolation, poverty, lack of opportunity, unaddressed trauma and mental health issues, or even toxic societal reinforcements.

And if we as a community declare that we want to reduce and even eliminate violence, we have to invest in addressing the underlying causes to reach our goal. It’s time for a more holistic and evidence-based approach to sexual violence in our community.

A truly survivor-centered response to violence would include the broad availability of mental health treatment, counseling, trauma-informed care, culturally rooted and relevant healing practices, and the the removal of barriers to reporting harms and accessing both community-based services and victims’ compensation.

As Santa Clara County District Attorney, I will work to foster a trauma-sensitive, safe community culture that encourages survivors to report the harms against them.

I will advocate to ensure that our county has designated trauma-informed professionals independent of the DA’s office to guarantee that survivors’ rights and preferences are being honored, that information about their case is readily available to them, and that they are empowered and dignified throughout the process.

I will establish channels to connect survivors with holistic resources, streamline processes to ensure access to justice, and provide survivors the wide ranging support, including financial services, that they need to feel safe and to heal. These services and resources will be available to survivors regardless of whether they participate in prosecution and regardless of the outcome of a case.

I will fight to employ trauma-informed deputy district attorneys and staff members who hold space for those who have been harmed, ask them what they need, and respond with empathy, sensitivity and care.

I will seek evidence-based sentences and interventions that honor and respect survivors, provide trauma-informed care, hold offenders accountable, and stop future harms while ensuring due process and dignity for all.

This will include the use of restorative justice programs that center survivors, require the person who caused harm to take responsibility for their actions, and manifest outcomes that will both repair the harm to the extent possible and reduce the likelihood of re-offense through mental health services, anger management counseling, substance dependency treatment, or any other service necessary to address underlying cause of the harmful behavior.

And I will always listen to the voices of survivors, continue to learn from their lived experiences, and seek their collaboration towards the healing and safety of all people in Santa Clara County.

Sajid A. Khan is a public defender in San Jose and 2022 candidate for Santa Clara County District Attorney.


  1. Mr. Defund the Police making a 180 turn…

    The highest priority HAS TO GO to law abiding citizens.

    Fairness to the accused is required, the atrocious and unsafe conditions the STATE (progressive mecca that is California) funded prisons subject American Citizens to must be held to account, but victims of crime must be the first and foremost priority along with law abiding citizens.

    Mr. Khan, without your “Defund the police, No Bail, Catch and Release, Criminal’s First” platform, you have none.

    Pack it up and let a real candidate take out this politically conniving two-face Rosen.

    You cannot.

  2. The wolf is trying on sheep’s clothing?

    Sajid Khan has been a public defender in Santa Clara County for 13 years.
    Beware his Pro-Crime stances. We need a DA not a Public Defender with a Soft-on Crime agenda
    – LA & SF already learned that lesson the hard way.
    Out of control, crime, drug use, and vagrancy…
    (see SF DA Boudin – recall,
    and LA DA Gascon – recall)

    We do NOT Need another Soros puppet progressive DA in CA…

  3. This is my first visit to your web journal! We are a group of volunteers and new activities in the same specialty. Website gave us helpful data to work.

  4. “This will include the use of restorative justice programs that center survivors” “employ trauma-informed deputy district attorneys” “We discuss violence as a monolithic character trait rather than what it truly is – something that is born out of a series of circumstances like shame, fear, isolation, poverty, lack of opportunity, unaddressed trauma and mental health issues, or even toxic societal reinforcements.”

    I’m sorry but I have no idea what this guy is talking about or what his message is. To me, this article seems to be a really good justification for the federal government to start enforcing federal drug laws again.

  5. @Joe Smith, The message is Soft-On-Crime – explained as….
    More Criminals released back into the community to Re-Offend before Police can even do the Paperwork on them.

    $0 Bails, Revolving Door Jails… That is Sajid Khan.

    “CA has a particular problem: not only is cash bail being removed,
    but the state is governed by Proposition 47 of 2014,
    which makes retail thefts of up to $950 misdemeanors instead of felonies,
    meaning that few criminals are ever fully prosecuted.”

    “Sean Pritchard, president of the San Jose Police Officers Association,
    (said) the policy is
    “an absolute assault on the safety of San Jose residents,”
    after it allowed for the release of 2 HOMICIDE Suspects who police believe are connected to a Halloween Murder.”

    “The (No Bail) policy also allowed a (San Jose) Car-Theft Suspect to
    be arrested 13x in 12 weeks after repeated releases….”

    Dec 3rd, 2021: —– 14 Looting Suspects Released on CA’s ‘$0.00 Bail’ Rule —–

    —— L.A. Arrests 14 for ‘Mass Looting,’ but Lets All of Them Go ——–

    LA Police chief Michel Moore … faulted California’s “zero bail” policy with returning
    14 suspected “smash & grab” Looters back to the streets.

    “All the suspects taken into custody are out of custody….” some were Repeat Looters.

    “… 14 suspects arrested in connection with 11 robberies between late last month that cost businesses some $338,000 in stolen merchandise and more than $40,000 in property damage.”
    “Meanwhile, LA County DA George Gascón’s office vowed to hold robbers accountable

    ….despite DA Gascon’s support for Ending Bail ..”
    and pushing Pro-Crime initiatives resulting in Voter RECALL Efforts.

  6. What a weasel.

    Save us the time and cost of a recall— Don’t vote for this guy.

    He is a public defender with a mindset that criminals should be let go and that society is to blame for everything. The only reason he is issuing this “apology” is because he knows in the current climate he cannot win if the voters find out what he’s really like. He is an anti-police Marxist.

  7. Voters Need to Learn Who is behind “Pro-Crime” DA’s – like candidate Sajid Khan
    – another “Progressive” Mistake waiting to happen.

    Three DA’s in CA are under RECALL now,
    as their districts become less safe and Havens for Crime due to their policies.

    “4 major counties in CA now have progressive prosecutors,
    Contra Costa, San Joaquin, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.”

    “…so far, in EVERY city & county where Progressive DAs have taken office,
    Crime is Rising, with entire neighborhoods awash in Filth, Chaos, and Lawlessness.”

    In “…dozens of cities & counties with DAs that are enforcing massive shifts in prosecutorial conduct. While, some reforms were needed.
    But so far, they have been a Disaster.” for Victims and law abiding residents.

    “SanFran DA, Chesa Boudin is under a RECALL supported by SF Mayor London Breed.

    NBC News described George Soros funded Boudin in a headline:
    “Parents Guilty of Murder & Raised by Radicals, Chesa Boudin is SF’s next DA.”

    After a career criminal, Troy McAlister, repeatedly released by the DA killed 2 pedestrians,
    Mayor Breed said:
    “This is “Restorative Justice” at work in America’s cities.

    Mayor Breed went on to say
    “the criminal justice system in our city has failed.”

    “…the most visible source of funding for these DA candidates is the notorious George Soros…

    If George Soros and the progressive movement he represents have done one Good Thing,
    it’s that they’ve removed DA elections from the backwoods of political theater.

    These elections, which Soros and a handful of other major donors were able to quietly dominate for the last few years, picking off city after city, are no longer obscure.

    Candidates, and the Philosophy they Intend to Bring to the office of DA,
    are finally getting the scrutiny they deserve.”

    Too Close to Home:
    2 “Progressive” Anti-Law & Order DA’s under RECALL.

    1. SF DA Chesa Boudin. A progressive prosecutor, child of Weather Underground Domestic Terrorists,
    Boudin faces criticism for policies (like $0 Bail) driving San Francisco into Lawlessness.
    – Burglaries & car thefts Dramatically Increased under Boudin, a trend that soared in 2021.
    – SF’s burglary surge FAR Outpaces other cities. ..crime statistics across several American cities shows that SF saw a larger increase in burglaries in 2020 than other major cities in the country.

    2. LA DA George Gascón (formerly of SF) facing a recall campaign over progressive policies.
    “LA Just Elected a Liberal D.A. He’s Already Facing a Recall Effort.” (LAtimes)

    George Gascón is facing an intense backlash for enacting radical policies like the “DEFUND Police” and “Pro-Criminal” sentencing.
    – A review of some 20,000 prison sentences, many for Violent Crimes like murder, for Early Release.
    “We have multiple incidences of convicted murderers who are very aware of Gascón’s directives and are trying to take advantage,”

  8. Proof that a hyper-focus on identity politics and basing everything on race backfires 100% of the time. Anyone who commits sexual assault/rape and is convicted should have a sentence that fits the crime (recently a child molester’s prison conversation included bragging about light sentences) regardless of color. And, victims, regardless of color, should all be treated with the same respect and compassion. It’s a delusion systems are actively not doing this – and this woke politician is just another who doesn’t focus on root causes, while constantly virtue signaling about things that ultimately sound good, but are false narratives that don’t create better outcomes.

  9. These Progressive Policies sound good ‘on paper’ with the right amount of SPIN, but when the rubber hits the road – it is the Victims of Crime that end up taking the Hit.

    Today’s media is mainly the advocacy & spin arm to gaslight the public into accepting these harmful policies.
    San Fran Voters revolted and kicked out the School Board members that tried to ‘woke’ indoctrinate the children, all the while neglecting to Focus on Education.

    Case studies and student/ teacher surveys show more Negative Responses to / Impacts of
    this so-called ‘restorative justice’ experiment.

    —– Restorative Justice Isn’t Working, but that’s not what the media is reporting (Jan2019 Fordham) ——-

    “the first randomized control trial study of “restorative justice” in a major urban district, Pittsburgh Public Schools..”

    Found that:
    “…students ..thought their teachers’ classroom management deteriorated, and
    that students in class were less respectful and supportive of each other;
    at a lower confidence interval, they reported Bullying and more instructional time lost to Disruption.

    “…although Restorative Justice is billed as a way to fight the “school-to-prison pipeline,” it had NO Impact on Student Arrests.”

    “The most troubling thing: There were significant & substantial Negative effects on MATH Achievement for middle school students, Black Students, and students in predominantly black schools. ”

    “What are we to make of these results?
    For education journalists like U.S. News & World Report’s Lauren Camera, there’s an easy solution: Don’t report the negative findings when writing an article. ”
    when asked why the negative findings were left out of her article
    “Camera said that it “wasn’t intentional,” explaining that “it wasn’t meant to be a deep dive into the study. ”

    “It is very sad that the so-called “Evidence-Based Policymaking” community has rendered itself immune to the intellectual breakthrough that enabled the scientific revolution:
    accepting the falsification of a hypothesis.
    When it comes to studies of ideologically-preferred policies like restorative justice,
    the logic all too often is:
    “Heads, I win. Tails, I would have won if it were implemented correctly.”

    “Restorative justice is frequently presented to teachers as “evidence-based” and on the cutting edge of “social justice” as something that works if they embrace it.
    Man’s Capacity for Self-Deception cannot be discounted, and if teachers think they’re doing better
    even as students think things are getting worse,
    that would be consistent with the policy drama that has played out writ large over the last two years:”

    “In the face of Increasingly Overwhelming NEGATIVE Evidence,
    Social Justice Education Reformers have only grown More Vociferous in their insistence that discipline reform works.”

  10. An eight year old girl explained restorative justice to me.

    Two boys in her elementary school class took her things, pulled her hair, and otherwise targeted her.

    Their punishment was to apologize to her. She then forgave them.

    Then they immediately resumed abusing and bullying her. The restorative justice cycle repeated almost daily until her mother removed her from that school and enrolled her at one that had a more “traditional” approach to discipline.

    Her hair did grow back.

  11. Chesa Boudin, on confronting the situation of a violent felon, was not overly interested in serious prosecution, and instead went on a rap about how horrible, humiliating, and embarrassing it was for his parents when he visited them in prison which somehow led to his having “empathy” for violent felons.

    I will note that Chesa could visit his parents and talk with them. This was not the case for them their parents gang murdered during a violent robbery allegedly for the revolution. Those children could only go and visit their fathers’ graves.

    I think if anyone with more brains than a polecat ferret had read about Chesa’s background and beliefs they would never, ever have voted for him. He is a son of socially elite parents who faced minimal penalties for the deaths of others. He truly identifies with criminals and elites, not with victims who aren’t in the one percent.

  12. As a survivor of 2 sexual assaults and someone who has a loved one accused of a sex crime, I believe it’s long past time to address this kind of violence in a different way. Thousands of perpetrators are sitting in prisons across the state, some even in civil commitment where there are gross civil rights violations occurring daily, and yet there were approximately 14,799 rapes in California last year and these are the reported rapes. Some of the highest numbers were in counties with college campuses. Punishment alone won’t stop the problem. Also, many of the comments above don’t seem to understand restorative justice, and how difficult that can actually be for the perpetrator of ANY crime. In Florida, a family of a woman who was brutally murdered wanted to engage in a restorative process with the perpetrator that would have greatly reduced his sentence, but the perpetrator was too ashamed to speak with the family, to admit all the details of his crime, to face them. It was easier to just serve the time.

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