Crushing the Rogue Prosecutor Movement

Americans expect their prosecutors to prosecute crimes. After all, it’s in their title. Unfortunately, that is no longer the norm around many of America’s once-great cities. An insidious new movement, funded by radical leftist George Soros, has bankrolled District Attorneys across the nation who have turned safe communities into war zones by refusing to bring criminals to justice.

Cully Stimson, a Senior Legal Fellow at Heritage, former Federal Prosecutor, and retired Navy JAG with 30 years of service to our nation, is the latest guest on The Kevin Roberts Show. Stimson is also the author of the new book “Rogue Prosecutors: How Radical Soros Lawyers Are Destroying America’s Communities.”

The goal of the rogue prosecutor movement is a simple one: to reverse engineer and dismantle the criminal justice system.

Cully Stimson: We’ve made a strong case for the fact that there’s probably an under incarceration problem when you consider half the murderers aren’t caught.

Kevin Roberts: It’s a really strong case for that.

Stimson: And 95% of rapists aren’t caught and aggravated assaulters and burglars aren’t caught, 95%. And I’m in that radical group that thinks a murderer should be in prison, a rapist should go to prison.

Roberts: Welcome back to the Kevin Roberts Show. Sometimes we cover topics that are somewhat fun. Other times we cover topics that are really serious. This is in the last category. But if you’re in the mood for fun, don’t tune us out because we’re also going to talk about some other things like our shared passion for fly-fishing. And so it’s a perfect opportunity now for me, not just to welcome you back, but to welcome my really good friend and colleague, Cully Stimson, who works here at our Meese Legal Center, one of our senior legal fellows, deputy director, almost the grand poobah, all around great guy, and he’s wearing his fly-fishing tie, most importantly.

Stimson: In your honor.

Roberts: That’s really kind of you.

Stimson: Thanks for having me.

Roberts: For those of you not familiar with The Heritage Foundation, this is what I require of Heritage colleagues, they have to wear fly-fishing ties.

Stimson: On the back side is the Heritage logo, but on the front is the fly-fishing logo.

Roberts: We’re going to talk about your recent fly-fishing success, success that I hope to emulate here in a couple weeks in the same great state of Wyoming. But before we get into your book, Cully, you’ve got a really interesting story. And by that I mean, you know because it’s required for annual performance review that Heritage colleagues listen to every minute of the Kevin Roberts Show, and you’ve really set that standard so you know well that we always start, first question is, how in the wide world of sports did you get to do what you’re doing today?

Stimson: Great parenting and the grace of God.

Roberts: Amen.

Stimson: My dad’s father told him that at some point in your life, I want you to teach and I want you to serve. And my dad’s dad was a Navy pilot in the ‘20s, and then my dad was born in ‘24 and he served in the Navy in the Pacific in World War II, and then like many in that generation went on the GI Bill and then didn’t really talk about their service, because they went on with their lives. And he said the same to me, “I want you, at some point in life, to give back by teaching and then to serve.” So I was a high school teacher and you know all about that, the fun and the joy and the challenges of that, and I did that before I went to law school. And then after law school, I joined the Navy because that was my service.

Roberts: And you recently retired from the Navy after 30 years.

Stimson: I did. I did a lot of reserve time and four tours on active duty, and I got to be a defense lawyer and a criminal prosecutor, got to serve and deploy with the SEALs, got to serve overseas after the East Africa Embassy bombings in ‘98, got to live and serve in Europe during the Bosnia War. Had a lot of neat jobs. I was a deputy chief trial judge at the Navy Marine Corps trial judiciary. I finished my career as a two time CO at the head of the preliminary hearing unit, which handled almost all preliminary hearings, felony trials across the entire globe for the Navy. So it was a real privilege to serve, I miss wearing the uniform. I like this one, don’t get me wrong, Kevin.

Roberts: No offense taken, my friend.

Stimson: But wearing the cloth of your nation’s country is a really humbling experience. And of course you know as a patriot, every time you hear the Star-Spangled Banner, you get a lump in your throat. And now I get a lump in my throat and I stand at attention. But you look around baseball stadiums and you can pick them out.

You just know. So I did a few tours on active duty and then served in San Diego as a prosecutor where I met my bride who was a DA, and then came back here when we wanted to raise kids, to be near my folks. I grew up on a farm here in Maryland. And was a homicide prosecutor in Maryland, and then I got tired of the politics. And so I went to a Wall Street firm and I ran their private equity M&A practice here in their DC office. And then 9/11 happened and the first plane hit the first tower, hit my company, and we lost 295 people. And I got recalled back to active duty as the first wave of Navy JAGs to get called back to active duty and did my year in Florida. So it wasn’t like I had hardship duty, but I was a chief defense counsel for that area of the country.

And then I went to the US Attorney’s office here in DC where I handled homicides and major crimes because I realized it was going to be a long war. And when you’re in the private sector, in business, client service is everything. And you can’t be dipping your foot into your client services and then back into uniform and back into … it’s not fair to the company, it’s not fair to you as a career. And so I did that for several years and then I was fortunate enough to serve in the Bush administration as a deputy assistant defense secretary in charge of all the terrorist detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gitmo, and got to work with some amazing people like Secretary Don Rumsfeld and Secretary Gates and Pete Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, great Marine, other, just tremendous people, silent warriors who were out snapping and grabbing up bad guys.

And then I was going to go to big law. In fact, I was on my way to big law. And I had been Ed Feulner’s son’s prep school teacher in the ‘80s, and we did these things called writing letters.

Roberts: Imagine that.

Stimson: You have a pen and paper. So we stayed in touch all these many years and he was always very grateful and gracious to me and my family. And I was a couple weeks out from going to big law where I would’ve been living my life in six minute increments, and he said, “Hey, you ever think about coming to Heritage Foundation?” I said, “No.” He said, “Why don’t you come over and talk to Ed Meese?” And I mean, how can you turn that down?

Roberts: You can’t say that.

Stimson: And my wife wags her finger at me, she goes, “Do not come back here with a job. You’re going to big law, you’re going to cash in, you got a big retirement plan.” And I said, “No, don’t worry about that. I’m just going to talk to General Meese.” And so half an hour into the conversation with General Meese, I gave Laura the sheepish phone call, “I’ll be starting at Heritage on September 11th, 2007,” which I did. And I’ve had the privilege of serving here with tremendous people, of course, you as well. And got to serve on the eighth floor, as I like to say, I’m voluntold to come to the eighth floor to be the chief of staff three times.

Roberts: Which is a Heritage record, right?

Stimson: It’s a record I hope no one ever has to endure.

Roberts: Nor do you care to extend.

Stimson: If asked, I’ll serve.

Roberts: Yes, which is really good for someone like me to know.

Stimson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I’ve got to do a lot of things at Heritage, it’s the place I’ve worked the longest except for the Navy, and I work because I believe in our mission. I believe that if and where our policies are implemented, it makes everyone’s life better, regardless of color, creed, economic status, anything. And I truly believe that. And I knew as a conservative when I came here that I thought that, now I feel it. I know it. I’ve seen it. This book is just a natural outgrowth of seeing common sense policies that are ignored and the devastating impact. You learn a lot here. You learn that if you enforce immigration law, it helps the rest of the country. If you offer people choice in where their kids are going to be educated, it helps everyone. If you give people portability to take their retirement nuggets with them, it encourages flourishing.

I mean, so many of our policies just make sense when you get to the granular on the ground level. And so I’ve stayed because of that. I’ve also stayed because I love working for Mr. Meese. He’s the finest man I’ve ever met in my life, next to my father. Ed Feulner is like a father to me. You’ve been a fantastic president. Kay Coles James was a tremendous inspiration for me as a woman who grew up in the segregated South-

Roberts: Quite a life story.

Stimson: Group of kids who were bused across the city in Richmond, stabbed by young white boys with protractors. And yet she kept her chin up because her mom said, “You will not show any emotion.” And so it’s the people and it’s the policies, and it’s the belief that if we really lean in, to use your phrase, go on offense, and we stay on offense, no matter how many times we get tackled, just get up, America will be a better place. And we have to do it in a winsome way, and we have to do it in a positive way.

Roberts: Yeah, that’s really key. That may be, and I really mean this, that may be the best encapsulation by a guest of their story that I’ve heard. And of course you have to account for my bias, both professional and personal friendships with you. But the point is this, that’s the American story. And what you said about Heritage I think is so true, and I’ll just take that occasion to mention this. I think what is called for right now, but for us at Heritage and for American patriots all over, is tenacity. But too often we pair that tenacity with something other than winsomeness and something other than good cheer. And I’m guilty of this too because I get very frustrated, sometimes, as you know well, even angry about the state of the country and the ineptitude of the conservative movement to confront the realities of the day, and yet that’s not the way out. The way out, and the long term is exactly what you said.

And in a very fitting way, this book that you wrote with our colleague, Zack Smith, who’s equally awesome, is a really important thing, really important book for anyone in the audience to read because yes, it swerves into some legal language, although not jargon, this is about common sense. I’d skimmed it when you first gave it to me a few weeks ago and then read it closely in preparation for this last night and this morning. And really, even if I didn’t know you, Cully, I would say this, I’m getting to the question, it’s just about common sense. And so those of you who are watching, not listening, can see the cover, this is about black and white, this is about good versus evil. Rogue Prosecutors is the name of the book, How Radical Soros Lawyers Are Destroying America’s Communities.

We were going to visit anyway, I told you early on I was going to have you as a guest, the occasion of your book makes it really helpful. All of that to say, to ask this question, what prompted you and Zack, of all the things that you could be doing, to say now is the time to write this book?

Stimson: Well, we had been writing about this topic since late 2019, 2020. We started a daily signal blog series on individual rogue prosecutors, and we came up with that name. I think it was Zack who actually came up with the name because we were going back and forth. We don’t want to use the language of the left because it’s typically projectionist or it’s just mislabeled or a misnomer. So we came up with Rogue Prosecutors and then we decided something’s going on here. Crime has been going down dramatically in our country since its last crime tsunami spike in 1992, as Raf Mangual and you talked about when you were visiting him at the Manhattan Institute.

And incarcerations, which trail crime rates, been going down dramatically since 2008, I mean, dramatically. And then we started seeing crime tick up, and this is pre-pandemic in 2016, 2017. And we started seeing some people writing about these progressive prosecutors and how great they were. And then we started reading some stories, oh, they don’t prosecute crimes, and the crime rates go down. I’m like, “Wait.”

Roberts: It’s impossible.

Stimson: That’s like saying to my kids, “Okay guys,” because a dad like me, “Okay, kids, we’re not going to enforce the rules this week. Do what you want.”

Roberts: There’d be bedlam in two hours.

Stimson: Maybe it might take that long for my best one. And we’re Catholics, and so we have some rules and we’re traditional people, like, brush your teeth, do your homework, eat a healthy meal, go to bed at a recent time, don’t watch social media. All that stuff would happen in droves if you did that. And so we applied our common sense, and as a criminal defense attorney in the JAG Corps, I defended my clients zealously and fiercely. I hate losing. I’m an athlete like you, I hate-

Roberts: That’s another thing about all of us at Heritage, we’re hyper-competitive.

Stimson: I hate losing. And so I like to say I won all my cases as a criminal defense attorney, you just define win a little bit differently on the defense.

Roberts: You all have a different set of standards sometimes.

Stimson: Well, yeah. But that just didn’t pass the smell test, to use an old expression, that dog didn’t hunt. It just didn’t work for us. So we started writing, we wrote a major paper in 2020 right before the pandemic came out, on the progressive prosecutor movement itself and some of the funding and their beliefs. And we read a lot of their scholarship, believe it or not there is some, if they call it scholarship, they have law review articles that they call a scholarship, and some books out there. And then we wrote a major paper on George Gascon in LA, because we have contacts there and people are civil service protected. So they started giving us stuff and we’re like, “Huh, this is interesting.”

And we started doing a daily email called our RP, Rogue Prosecutor email that we would send to discreet people, all BCC’d, around the country, left, right center, hundreds of people on this that get it every day. And we had our Heritage interns use a Google alert, and they would just give us stuff for a Rogue Prosecutor email every day Monday through Friday. And so when a publisher came to us and said, “Look, this is a real big deal now, and this movement is destroying some of the inner cities, they’re becoming dystopian like Mad Max inner cities.”

Roberts: Some of them are really that bad.

Stimson: They’re that bad. And read the chapter on Chicago, it’s more dangerous to be in parts of Chicago in certain districts than it was at the height of the surge in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is literally a war zone for those people who live there, unfortunately. And so we printed off every single one of those news articles. We then found out there were a lot more books, we read all the books, and this publisher said, “Look, pitch this to the center left audience, the people who were voting against their better interest, but they have the wool pulled over their eyes and they’re hearing about re-imagining prosecution, reform prosecution, and they’re buying it.” And then they realize a year or two later, oh my gosh, look what’s happening. I can’t even go to my local Walmart, my local convenience store’s closing, my car’s getting broken into, price of everything’s going up. I know a lot of people who get assaulted, these people are realizing it.

And so that was the animus for writing the book. I had no intention of writing a book ever when I came to Heritage. In fact, I remember the Feulner story, which I’m sure you heard many times of the reason Heritage came into being is because AEI comes out with a book the week after a bill was passed.

Roberts: It’s the classic.

Stimson: How you are impactful if you’re writing a book about something that already got a vote on. Well, we didn’t want to influence the legislation. Yeah, you do, at least you want to influence the thinking. And so here we are. I wish it had come out six months earlier. There’s a paper shortage in the publishing industry, so we probably would’ve gotten more traction if we’d come out six months earlier. But it’s doing fine, it’s only been out a week.

Roberts: It’s selling really well.

Stimson: It’s doing great. I mean, it’s number one on Amazon in law enforcement, number one in criminal law on Amazon. Now that’s a weekend. We went to the National Sheriff’s Association annual conference last week in Grand Rapids, and the sheriffs ate it up because they’re on the front lines. They’re seeing the impact of defunding the police, demoralization of the police. Prosecutors are saying, “Nah, I’m not going to take those cases.”

Roberts: And I’ll say, because I always try to, with a guest who’s written a book, convey to the audience the value of the book for them. Keeping in mind as a liberal arts guy, there’s just intrinsic worth in reading any book. But beyond that, because of the travel I do around the country, I hear from friends, other supporters of Heritage where they say, “Kevin, if there could just be a single volume that isn’t that long, that catalogs all of the problems with the rogue prosecutors,” this is the answer to that request. It really is. If I didn’t know you, I would say that. The book is really good.

Stimson: Well, thanks.

Roberts: And we’re going to get into this topic in a little bit about so-called conservative criminal justice reform, which I’ve been a part of, and you have as well, become a lot more circumspect, in fact, entirely skeptical of the whole project. But all of that to say there are a lot of people on the center left who would appreciate this book, there are people in the center who would, and there are people on the center right who would appreciate the book. There aren’t a whole lot of books like that anymore. So you did a really nice job. But I just want to delve a little more deeply, I’m tempted to talk about some of these specific cities, but a little more deeply. What would you say, of all the research you Zack did, remains the most troubling example of the problem of rogue prosecutors? Is it a particular city, is there a particular district attorney?

Stimson: It is the mentality. It’s the underlying belief which animates this entire movement, that our country is forever stained by the institution of slavery, that we have a intrinsically racist criminal justice system, and that the only way to change it is to reverse engineer and dismantle it. Those are their words. And what we didn’t know until we had to do the deep research for this book, and that’s why there’s 1,200 footnotes, and most of the footnotes are lefties and leftist scholarship, because we didn’t want to be accused by the left of making stuff up. It’s that there is a vibrant, small, wacky, but vibrant prison abolitionist movement in our country. Angela Davis wrote, Are Prisons Obsolete? I didn’t realize until I read our colleague Mike Gonzalez’s book about BLM, that it goes back to this Marxist inspired, anticapitalist, anti-western value movement, which has been around for a long time.

The SDS, Herbert Marcuse, and this is one of the many tap roots that grows out of that prison abolitionist anticapitalist movement. And they’re not shy about it. We just didn’t realize how brazen they were, but their stuff is just not really picked up by the mainstream media. So when you hear these rogue prosecutors speak, they don’t talk about abolishing all prisons because they know that won’t sell. They talk about re-imagining prosecution and the carceral state and mass incarceration, none of which exists, by the way, they’re all myths. In fact, I think we’ve made a strong case for the fact that there’s probably an under incarceration problem when you consider half the murderers aren’t caught.

Roberts: It’s a really strong case for that.

Stimson: And 95% of rapists aren’t caught and aggravated assaulters and burglars aren’t caught, 95%. And I’m in that radical group that thinks a murderer should be in prison, a rapist should go to prison. I’ve defended rapists in the military, I’ve prosecuted rapists, and I’ve been a judge in rape trials, and if you’re convicted beyond a reasonable doubt for rape, you should go to prison. It’s a horrible crime, next to murder it’s, I think, the worst one out there, or maybe child abuse too. And so it’s the belief system, and there are some real true believers in this book. Larry Krasner’s, probably the worst of the worst, he’s the smartest of all of them. He’s very well-read.

Roberts: For our audience, tell us about him.

Stimson: Larry Krasner, whose nickname is Uncle Larry by the criminal element in Philadelphia, was the bought and paid for rogue prosecutor in Philadelphia. He got over a million dollars from Soros PACs in 2018, which he had been a criminal defense attorney his whole career, distinguished career, very successful career, and no one ever thought of him as a prosecutor. When he got elected, the night he got elected, he called himself a public defender with power in his press conference. That lets you in, Kevin, to the mindset of the way he operates. He all fired 31 of his top DAs the second he got in, he didn’t even have the cojones to do it himself, he had his number two summarily dismiss them, and perp walked them out the building.

Roberts: He wasted no time implementing the agenda.

Stimson: In fact, he’s so dismissive of prosecutors and the police that when he was advising Rachel Rollins, who eventually became the DA in Boston, about what she should do once she takes office, he said, “You need to fire the ticks quicker.” Ticks referring to deputy district attorneys. He said, “I should have fired more of the ticks earlier.” We tell a lot of stories in this book, as you know, this is not a nerdy Heritage white paper on steroids. We did not want to do that. I can write those all day long and four people can read it, and that’s three editors and my wife and maybe your chief of staff who reads a lot of stuff too.

Roberts: And our government relations guys, [inaudible 00:22:27] that white paper into good legislature.

Stimson: Right, right. This is, I like to describe it as sort of a Patricia Cornwell, John Grisham crime novel.

Roberts: That’s a great explanation.

Stimson: With real crime stories at the beginning of every chapter, some are not told anywhere else. And then we back it up with the policies from that particular office that we got from all sorts of sources. You would not believe all the sources that came to us, Kevin.

Roberts: Just voluntarily?

Stimson: Judges, sheriffs, public defenders, criminal defense lawyers. Of course, prosecutors all over the place. But I mean, they would just email us, text us, find us through LinkedIn, “Hey, you want this? You want that? I can give you that.” Then of course, we double checked and triple checked the stuff we got from them.

Roberts: But there’s just such a frustration out there.

Stimson: I mean, you see a lot of quotes from defense attorneys in here who are saying, “She’s not doing the job of the prosecutor.” Now you would think the defense attorneys are like, “This is great. My clients are getting off.” No, they’re saying, “This is not the way our adversarial criminal justice system is supposed to work. We’re supposed to pit a hard charging, ethical, fair, but firm prosecutor against a hard charging, creative, fair, hard-nosed criminal defense attorney and put them in front of a neutral detached judge, in front of a jury of their peers.” That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Roberts: It relies on two excellent, if possible, attorneys, obviously one on each side, both of them objective and fair and honest. I mean, this is, when we talk about the Anglo-American custom of the rule of law, it’s predicated upon that.

Stimson: I mean, why are people crossing the border illegally and people coming in here on visas and want to stay in America forever? They want a better way of life, and that depends on the application of the rule of law, because in many of the countries they came from, there is no fair application for the rule of law. And so one of the reasons that our seven priorities is obviously border control and crime, is because if you don’t have a border, you don’t have a sovereign country. And if you have out of control crime, you don’t have a society worth living in. You don’t have a strong economic base for jobs. You don’t have businesses who want to stay there. You don’t want to have families who want to raise their loved ones and educate them there because they’re terrified that something bad’s going to happen to them.

So this is inextricably intertwined in the belief that the American dream is still alive, and you can live the American dream if you lean in and work hard and live by the rules. But there got to be rules and there got to be enforcement of the rules.

Roberts: And we’ll talk about some solutions that you and Zack have proposed, but I want to read what I think is a particularly poignant paragraph. This is what you and Zack right, good summary of the situation, “The rogue prosecutor movement, whose goal is to fundamentally reverse engineer and dismantle,” what you said earlier, “The criminal justice system, counts, in part, on newly elected prosecutors hiring criminal defense attorneys who perpetuate their roles as a criminal defense attorney while in the office of the prosecutor. Their mindset, actions and policies benefit criminals, their old clients. They see the criminal justice system as racist, rigged, and retrograde, and one where past, present and future prosecutions are tainted and must be fixed or made right.” That is not the rule of law.

Stimson: Sounds like something Zack wrote.

Roberts: I was going to say it’s really beautiful prose, which might be that it’s Zack’s.

Stimson: Thanks. We went back and forth on every chapter. He took four of the prosecutor’s chapters, I took four, and then we divided up the rest of it. But that is the encapsulation of what this problem is, and it’s incredibly well funded as you know, $40 million in direct funding from Soros and Soros 527 PACs, about a billion, with a B, dollars indirect spending through various educational organizations. Now, we didn’t suggest, nor am I suggesting today, that any of that spending’s illegal. In fact, it’s, from what we can tell, entirely legal. Not transparent, in fact, deliberately designed not to be transparent. But then last summer, George Soros himself took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal op-ed page and said, “This is why I support reform-minded prosecutors.” And now his 37-year-old son who says he’s even more political than daddy, he’s going to be sitting on a $25 billion slush fund and he spends over a billion dollars in the country.

Now, a lot of that goes to straight political candidates and not just DAs, but they’re not stopping and they have suffered some big losses. [inaudible 00:27:07] is out of office in San Francisco. Kim Foxx, the first bought and paid for one in Chicago in 2016 announced she’s not going to rerun for election next year. So I mean, she’s going to be in office for 18 more, 17 more months. I think it’s because the Democratic National Convention is going to be in Chicago and they don’t want to repeat a ‘68.

Roberts: It could be that bad.

Stimson: Yeah, it’s that bad. Well, they don’t want crime to be on the top of their agenda, and they think if they exit her stage left, then crime will be not on. But the criminals don’t check in with Kim Foxx every day. Marilyn Mosby up the street in Baltimore, she lost her primary. Rachel Rollins resigned a disgrace because she was a unethical person, and DOJ kicked her out as the US attorney. It’s actually very poignant and fitting that we’re sitting here today because one of the stories that our team here put together in a wonderful short video, it’s called An Unavoidable Tragedy, which we’ll probably put in the show notes I’m sure.

Roberts: We will.

Stimson: Is a story out of Baltimore of the murder of Deputy Sheriff Glenn Hilliard from the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office. A career criminal and a major career criminal named Austin Davidson, who had been convicted of armed robbery with a loaded handgun in Baltimore. Marilyn Mosby gave him probation before judgment. He had over 20 contacts of law enforcement before that conviction. He goes out and commits many more felonies in various counties in Maryland. Every time he commits a felony, they notify Marilyn Mosby’s office, “Hey, you can violate his probation here and yank him in and have the judge sentence him,” doesn’t do it.

And then a year ago, almost a year ago, to this day in late June, he’s seen in Wicomico County, Sheriff’s Deputy Glenn Hilliard, a very handsome African American honorable servant, sees him, tells him to stop. Davidson, turns around, shoots and kills him. Left a wife and three beautiful, beautiful children. He’s gone. And he was convicted last month and today, a few hours ago, he was sentenced to life without parole plus 66 years. Now, that doesn’t bring Glenn Hilliard back, but it’s one of the major stories we tell in the Baltimore section here. So there is justice, but what I’ve learned in the criminal justice system is you can never put the person back in the place they were in before the horrible crime happened. And every single one of these crimes that we tell about was avoidable.

Roberts: That’s the thing. It’s like this really moving example.

Stimson: Every single one, every policy that they have is pro criminal, anti victim, but for their policies, none of the crimes we told in this book would’ve happened. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Roberts: There’s no good news for Glenn Hilliard’s widow and children. He’s not coming back. There is however justice being served finally. And in addition to that, American voters in a lot of cities, you’ve pointed out some, appear as if they recognize what the game is and they’re voting in favor of public safety, even if on every other issue, they’re very left of center. I think for example, my adopted hometown of Austin, Texas, last year there was a mayoral election, and so obviously not the DA race, but the mayor’s race, which turned, in a lot of respects on public safety, because the mayor who is more left of center than the average Austin voter, which is saying something, had gone too far. And the Austin voters returned to office, a very centrist, moderate Democrat friend of mine, named Kirk Watson who’s going to do a great job.

He’s already doing a great job in public safety, being more pro business, that’s really the future. I mention that example because that kind of thing is happening all over this country, not just with DA races, but with mayors races, with county judge races. The American people have had enough. For those of us at Heritage and groups like ours, it’s incumbent on us not just, and you and Zack are doing this, not just to talk about the policy solutions, but to help us message this, frame this in a way that center of left voters can say, “This is about a district attorney’s race. This is about a mayor’s race. I’m just voting on public safety,” because if that happens, we’re going to be able to return order to the streets.

Stimson: Yeah, and you nailed it. I mean, that’s exactly right. And we’ve been working-

Roberts: See, I read the book.

Stimson: I know you did, because a scholar and a gentleman and a fisherman. We’ve been working on our messaging because the best themes that I found in trial work, in my many decades of trial work comes, it’s so obvious that oftentimes you overlook it.

Roberts: It’s true.

Stimson: It comes directly from the facts. It happens to be here. It’s not there. It’s not over there. It’s right here.

Roberts: Right in front of us.

Stimson: And so we say, this is not a left or right issue or a blue or red state issue. This is a law and order versus chaos issue. And we say that every single person in this country deserves his or her public safety privilege. That’s it.

Roberts: It’s that simple.

Stimson: It’s that simple. And there is no criminal justice system in this country, there are systems. We’re a democratic republic. We have 50 states. We have 3,143 counties, we have 18,000 police departments. And the ingenious part, the devilish part of this movement is they realize there’s 2,300 elected DAs around the country, these are low visibility, low dollar races, and for pittance, politically speaking, you can buy a DA. And that’s what they’ve been doing. And just like we learned the hard way during the pandemic, that who you vote for for your school board directly impacts the quality of education or lack of quality education your kid’s getting, who you elect, who you vote for for DA directly impacts your public safety privilege and your ability to thrive under the rule of law.

And there are great Democrats who are district attorneys. Jackie Lacey in Los Angeles, the first one who was knocked off out of office, Anita Alvarez, first Hispanic DA state’s attorney in Chicago. She was doing a good job, but why’d they take her out, why they kneecap her, why’d they primary her? Because she didn’t bend a knee to BLM, and she didn’t prosecute the murder of Laquan McDonald quickly enough. That’s it.

Roberts: Yeah. That’s the analysis.

Stimson: Yeah.

Roberts: So let’s use the book as a means to pivot toward a related but discrete issue, and that’s the aforementioned conservative criminal justice reform. This is something Heritage has been part of, the Meese Center, of course, has been part of, got a lot of press during President Trump’s administration because of his advocacy for it. Sort of a two-part question, what’s the state of that? And embedded in that question is what you and I both know, which is that conservative voters are pretty tired of it. They don’t think that that’s worked. And is that fair? Another way of asking that question. And then B, presuming that there’s going to be a different occupant in the White House January 20, 2025, which is to say someone more conservative, is there going to be any more federal legislation?

Stimson: So if I was a judge, I would object to that question as compound.

Roberts: I’m a historian, I can do that. You could still object counselor.

Stimson: I’ll not do that, I think you sign my paycheck. No, it’s a really good question, and it requires you to dissect and understand one thing, and that is typically when you’re hearing people ask questions about criminal justice reform and you hear them talking about Washington, this is federal criminal justice reform. The first step back, which was historic when it was passed, it was bipartisan, Heritage certainly had played a big part in that. We were joined with the ACLU and other groups. It was sort of an island of misfit toys, Star Wars bar scene, where you have different types fighting for the same thing. But this is the tip of the criminal justice’s pyramids.

And so you have a few hundred thousand, 150,000 people in the federal pen, in the states where they have the police power, fortunately, the federal government doesn’t have the police power, they handle the vast majority of prosecutions. You got over a million people in federal and state, I’m sorry, in state prisons and state jails. And so you can hear the rumblings, and you and I both hear it, about this dude or that dude who took advantage of the reduced time when the First Step Act came out, got out of federal prison early and killed somebody, or did some horrible crime. There’s always going to be a recidivism rate, there’s no such thing as a zero recidivism rate.

I’m a states guy, 50 laboratories of democracy. The false flag, the lie, underlying lie of this rogue prosecutor movement is that time stopped at some point a few decades ago, none of the states have been reforming their criminal justice systems ever. And so they are the savior, they’re going to reform it for you, and they’re going to just eviscerate the adversarial nature and plop in a Larry Krasner. That’s just bull, I’m sorry. The systems have been … I mean, how many counties are there in Texas?

Roberts: 254.

Stimson: Yeah, I guarantee you there’s 254 different systems. There’s 54 counties in California, as I last recall. And what happens in San Diego County where I was a prosecutor, happens a little differently up the road in Riverside County and over Orange County and Los Angeles County. Yeah, t’s all the state law of that state and the state criminal justice code and the evidence code, but don’t buy that hype. I mean, the real progressives, the real reformers, and I consider myself one of them, realized 25, 30 years ago you can’t prosecute your way out of the crime tsunami and you can’t incarcerate your way out of it. We have to have a different, more sophisticated, nuanced systems of system.

And so that’s why they created drug courts. That’s why they created domestic violence courts. That’s why they created veterans courts. That’s why they created family justice centers. You don’t see any of those around here, do you? That’s because the East Coast is really behind the times, decades behind the times in terms of taking a bite out of the reform in a different way, because we believe as a Judeo-Christian society that most people are capable of being rehabilitated and reformed. And that you have to have a carrot and stick approach, especially for low level offenders, to get them on the right path, to incentivize them to do the right thing so they can become productive members of society. We want that, we need that as a civil society. And yes, for the worst of the worst, they need to go to prison for long periods of time and some for life.

And so how should conservatives think about it? The same way anyone should think about it, what makes sense? What gives people who make mistakes of a criminal nature, but a low level, the resources and services with a carrot and stick approach so that they can go through the hard process of learning how they made the mistake, not to make it again and then become productive members of society? Do you know that people who graduate, literally graduate from domestic violence court or graduate from drug court have a two to 5% recidivism rate? And people who don’t go to those types of programs, like around here because they don’t have them, they have an 80% recidivism rate.

Roberts: It says it all right there.

Stimson: Right there. And so be invested in your community, get to know your sheriff, get to know your local police, get to know your prosecutor, the public defender, they’re doing important service, all of them, they’re all stakeholders, local judges. But reform happens in your community where you support people who have been previously incarcerated, who are deserving of it. You use members, you use the tools of civil society like churches and other things to allow them to see the error of their ways. So when I hear criminal justice reform, I know in Washington they’re just talking about the First Step Act and what additional laws we can pass over here. I don’t think we need any more laws, we just need to enforce the laws we have, just like in the immigration context.

Roberts: It’s a novel concept.

Stimson: I know it’s a newbie, for some people in Washington that’s a real head scratcher, not in this building. And so the reason we ended with the chapter we did on a hopeful note, is because we believe the American people still care about this country, regardless of your political ideology, regardless of where you are, that every single person, unless somebody’s a little off, they want their kids to have a better life than them. They want their kids to get a good education. They want their kids to be safe. They want to be able to shop and travel without being victims of crime. They want a good job. They want to be rewarded for their hard work. They want to be able to exercise their 1st Amendment rights without being molested by the government, or the free exercise in terms of their religion. And enforcing the rule of law is inextricably intertwined with that American dream.

And so when you distort and pervert the system, which is what they’re doing, you make that not possible. And that’s the impossibility that some of these people are living in in these bad neighborhoods in these cities because they’re trapped in a lot of different ways, and now they’re being punished because of the zip code where they live.

Roberts: There’s a lot of that going on, that is zip code discrimination in criminal justice systems as well as school systems. But I have to say, you did a wonderful job of preempting what you knew would be the last question, which is why we should be hopeful, and so we’ll leave it there for today. But I look forward over the years to having you back. You don’t have to write another book, Cully, in order to come back on the show, but maybe we can visit what it looks like at the federal level, we’re taking, shall we say, a more common sense path, and maybe that’s influencing some folks at the state and local level do the same. But let me say to you, Cully Stimson, thanks for your great work here at Heritage and for this country.

Stimson: Thank you for your leadership and your friendship. Thanks for highlighting our book and love your show. Thanks for having me on.

Roberts: Yeah, you bet. It was a real treat. Thanks a lot. So once again, the book is Rogue Prosecutors, by my friend and colleague, Cully Stimson and Zack Smith. Thanks for joining this conversation. You probably could tell that I enjoyed it quite a bit, I hope you did as well. Until next time, take care.

The Kevin Roberts Show is brought to you by more than half a million members of The Heritage Foundation. The producer is Philip Reynolds. Sound design by Lauren EvansMark Guiney, and Tim Kennedy

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