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More crime, less punishment

Bankrolled by activist billionaires, progressive prosecutors upend the justice system and unravel the rule of law


People protest outside a courthouse in New York City. Michael Nigro / Sipa USA via AP

More crime, less punishment
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ON THE AFTERNOON of March 21, 2022, Linda Frickey left her office and walked the few yards to where her late model Nissan Kicks was parked on the street. Sliding into the driver’s seat, she automatically reached for the seat belt. Click. Frickey had her sights set on using the half day still left to visit a customer. Without that preoccupation—and spring scenting the New Orleans air like a foreign elixir—she might have noticed the kids on the corner. Or maybe she did. Either way, the longtime insurance agent didn’t move to lock her door.

Linda Frickey

Linda Frickey Handout

Instead, a lithe figure in a white hoodie made his move. He played point man as three females from the corner fanned out, two strolling past Frickey and one hanging back as a lookout. They were smooth, these teenagers, barely craning their necks as they darted here and gestured there, casing the car. Traffic, meanwhile, continued as usual. A father and child skirted past the lookout and crossed the street.

But at some command, the three young women went for the Nissan’s passenger doors while the point man went for Frickey. He maced her, kicked her, and punched her, then jumped in and hit the accelerator. As the car took off, 73-year-old Frickey hung by her seatbelt out the driver’s side door, her body pounding against the pavement, her screams reaching through walls to residents inside their homes. Pedestrians, meanwhile, watched the unbelievable scene in horror. Frickey’s boss, who’d heard a commotion and got up to look through the agency’s window, darted outside and ran after the car in vain. It took a swerve into a guy-wire and the severing of Frickey’s right arm to finally free her.

Surveillance cameras capture the moment when carjackers attacked Linda Frickey in her car.

Surveillance cameras capture the moment when carjackers attacked Linda Frickey in her car. Surveillance video screen grab from YouTube

Technically, Frickey died on a side street as frantic onlookers covered her body—dragged to the point of nakedness—with a borrowed sheet and the words of the Lord’s Prayer. But a block of oak-lined Bienville Avenue, that’s where the main damage was done. In the broad daylight of a common Monday.

Standing beside the guy-wire two years later, Frickey’s sister Jinnylynn Griffin calls this spot the “point of dislocation.” She’s a practiced teller of her sister’s story, one that includes more than her murder. Frickey was a vibrant wife, mother, and grandmother. She loved shopping at Burke’s Outlet, and on Thursday nights she drank coffee with four, sometimes five, of her sisters.

“Linda had a brawler that cooked the best turkeys,” Griffin remembers, her Louisiana accent swaying the syllables. Ah, a broiler.

New Orleans police quickly arrested the four teenagers involved in Frickey’s violent carjacking death. The oldest, at 17, had at least seven prior arrests on 25 charges. Such numbers—the teen’s age, not his record—are sticking points in the era of “progressive” prosecution. In short, that’s a legal approach that seeks to end mass incarceration and bring fairness to the legal system. What’s not to like? A lot, actually.

In Orleans Parish, where Frickey’s murder took place, Jason Williams is the district attorney—and part of an exclusive American club. He’s one of some 70 sitting prosecutors with campaign coffers bankrolled by left-wing billionaire George Soros.

Williams rode into office at the start of 2021 on a magic carpet of proposed reforms, including a pledge not to prosecute juveniles as adults. Juveniles like the ones responsible for Frickey’s death.

That’s a common push among the Soros set. Nearly a decade has passed since the first Soros-backed candidates took office, and statistics show their radical policies indeed generate less punishment, but also more crime, all while leaving a nagging question: Can the rule of law survive without DAs who’ll enforce it?

New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams (center) speaks outside Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.

New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams (center) speaks outside Orleans Parish Criminal District Court. Gerald Herbert/AP

PROSECUTORS HOLD a lot of power. They determine criminal charges, recommend bail and sentences, accept or reject plea deals. Their actions, or inaction, affect millions of Americans each year.

But until fairly recently, elections for the more than 2,300 DA offices across the country were low-profile, down-ballot affairs. Candidates worked the radio circuit and hammered signs on street corners. They ran ads and shook hands. But campaigns started to change in 2015 when outside money poured into the Red River bottom lands of Caddo Parish, La., the spot George Soros selected for a test run of his new philanthropic plan. Soros’ beneficiary? Democrat James Stewart, a former judge running for district attorney. On the surface, Soros’ decision to funnel more than $400,000 into Stewart’s campaign, a contest with no statewide significance, seemed strange, but it was really quite strategic. Caddo Parish is known for a high number of death penalty convictions. Soros wanted to get an anti–death ­penalty DA into office. Prosecutors, after all, decide what charges to pursue and broker plea deals.

The gamble paid off, and Stewart’s win spawned a movement. Soros and other liberal backers realized a relatively small amount of money, in terms of campaign expenditures, could elevate cherry-picked candidates to the top of the heap. What began as a quest to unseat pro–death penalty prosecutors quickly morphed into a much larger objective: revolutionizing a justice system “progressives” maintain is warped by racism and needless imprisonment.

Back in 2019, author Zack Smith was scanning a local newspaper when he noticed an article about a new prosecutor in Northern Virginia named Steve Descano. Descano pledged not to seek the death penalty for offenders and promised he wouldn’t oppose release for most criminal offenders. Smith took note. “It wasn’t long before I started hearing stories from victims’ families who were very upset with his policies,” the Heritage Foundation legal fellow remembers.

Steve Descano speaks at a 2019 event at the Center for American Progress about Virginia’s newly elected progressive prosecutors.

Steve Descano speaks at a 2019 event at the Center for American Progress about Virginia’s newly elected progressive prosecutors. Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

They were upset for good reason. Descano’s campaign received $659,000 from Soros-backed entities, and he was making good on their investment. Among the crimes Descano determined not to prosecute? Assaulting a school teacher, setting off a smoke bomb, committing prostitution, participating in a riot, resisting arrest, falsifying a police report, aiding in the escape of a prisoner, possessing and redistributing certain drugs, and stealing goods ­valued at up to $1,000.

As Smith heard similar accounts coming out of cities like Chicago and St. Louis, he began connecting the dots. He found the progressive push spread nationwide, even though it had an under-the-radar, grassroots look. Smith traces its ideology to a 1970s-era prison abolition movement. “Most people don’t understand that connection, because the premise seems absurd, to actually think that no one should go to prison, regardless of what crime they commit,” Smith acknowledges. “But many of the goals the prison abolition movement supports have been accomplished through this current radical movement.”

According to the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, at least 1 in 5 Americans is under the rule of what Smith calls “rogue prosecutors,” the title of a book he co-authored with Charles Stimson.

In an effort to lower incarceration rates, many rogue prosecutors refuse to prosecute entire classes of crime—things like trespassing, shoplifting, drug possession, and resisting arrest. Instead, they push for services and resources to help rehabilitate. They also aim to eliminate cash bail, which progressives say criminalizes poverty and disproportionately affects communities of color. But in New York, for example, attempts at bail reform had immediate fallout. Twenty percent of defendants busted for burglary or theft in 2021 committed a felony within 60 days of their release.

Clockwise from top left: Chesa Boudin, Kim Foxx, George Gascón, Larry Krasner, and Marilyn Mosby.

Clockwise from top left: Chesa Boudin, Kim Foxx, George Gascón, Larry Krasner, and Marilyn Mosby. Boudin: Gabrielle Lurie/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images; Foxx: Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP; Gascón: Mark J. Terrill, Krasner: Matt Rourke/AP, Mosby: Julio Cortez/AP

Progressive policies have had a similar effect across the country. Think San Francisco and District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Before a midterm recall, his city’s smash-and-grab crimes went viral.

In Los Angeles, it’s George Gascón, a white-haired former chief of police. Gang members like his policies so much one vowed to get “Gascón” tattooed on his face.

For Chicago, it was Kim Foxx, known for her mishandling of fraudster Jussie Smollett’s case. Less reported was the low morale in her office that led to the resignations of more than 235 staff members.

Violent crime was also a problem for Foxx’s Windy City. Ditto for Marilyn Mosby’s Baltimore. For Mosby, though, crime was an issue all around. In November, a jury convicted her on federal charges of perjury. She may never practice law again.

But perhaps Philadelphia’s Larry Krasner is the most recognizable progressive prosecutor. He starred in his own PBS documentary series. Pundits lauded Philly D.A. as one of the best shows of 2021, even though the homicide rate in Philadelphia hit a historic high of 562 killings—double prior years—after Krasner took office.

George Soros

George Soros Gordon Welters/LAIF/Redux

It’s estimated that George Soros alone has spent more than $40 million getting rogue prosecutors elected all over the country, but he’s not the only such patron. Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife pour millions into races through their Open Philanthropy Project. Its website makes clear their philosophy: Better to spend money on individual players than working for specific reforms. “System actors are able to quickly adapt and push different policies that may have the same effort, and [this approach] avoids the danger of signaling too clearly to anti-change forces what the intended target is.”

In New Orleans, Soros forked over at least $220,000 when Jason Williams’ campaign needed a final-hours television ad boost. It worked, and Williams got the job. But eight months into his tenure, the city’s nonpartisan, nonprofit Metropolitan Crime Commission crunched some numbers: Williams’ office was refusing more felony cases than it accepted. Only 17 percent ended with a felony conviction.

The headlines might have pleased Soros, but they spelled trouble for the defense attorney-turned-prosecutor. The commission called it a “particularly damning portrait of a DA’s office that lost or swept out nearly all of the city’s most experienced prosecutors after Williams took office.”

Staff purges are standard operating procedure for progressives.

It’s estimated that George Soros alone has spent more than $40 million getting rogue prosecutors elected all over the country.

IN ANY COUNTRY, the cornerstone of justice is the rule of law—the belief that all citizens are equally accountable to the same laws. It’s why we can sleep easy in the United States, while citizens in a despotic nation cannot. And though it’s not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, rule of law is a central tenet in our government, as American as apple pie, thanks to forefathers who knew a thing or two about life under monarchies. Even Thomas Paine’s Colonial Common Sense stressed “in America, law is king.”

Before Paine, Scottish Presbyterian minister Samuel Rutherford challenged the “Divine Right of Kings” in his book Lex, Rex. The Latin title simply means “The Law Is King.” When it was published in 1644, the idea that everyone, including the king, was subject to law was radical. Lex, Rex went on to provide heat at several book burnings, but Rutherford’s argument that rule of law is what’s best would not be extinguished.

Ancient thinkers also wrote of the principle of rule of law, if not the phrase itself. Here’s Aristotle on the subject: “It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.”

But Heritage’s Zack Smith says too many guardians have become saboteurs.

“Their job is to seek justice,” he says of rogue prosecutors. “Sometimes that means dismissing charges or pleading down the case. That’s prosecutorial discretion. But these DAs are engaging in something different—prosecutorial nullification. They’re saying, ‘There are certain laws we don’t like, and we’re not going to prosecute them. We think we know better than our state’s elected representatives.’”

The year of Linda Frickey’s murder, 75 percent of respondents in a survey of New Orleans residents said they viewed their city as unsafe, and police reports proved them right. Homicides had nearly doubled in three years. Carjackings had tripled. A city councilman even suggested it might be time to call in the National Guard.

That was the New Orleans Linda Frickey commuted to each workday. Her sister remembers a conversation they shared the month before she died. It was February, and Frickey had arrived for a crawfish boil. The talk turned to carjackings and how bad they were getting. “And I said, ‘Linda, if they want to carjack you, what are you going to do?’ She said they could have the car. She had insurance.”

Williams isn’t the only one of Soros’ prosecutors facing heat for soft-on-crime policies. Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey filed a lawsuit last February seeking St. Louis prosecutor Kim Gardner’s ouster. That came on the heels of public outcry over a tragic accident involving Janae Edmonson, a 17-year-old volleyball player from Tennessee. Edmonson lost both her legs when a speeding car struck her in downtown St. Louis. The driver, 21-year-old Daniel Riley, was out on bond on a robbery charge despite nearly 100 bond violations, including letting the battery of his GPS monitor die and breaking the terms of his house arrest. Critics pointed fingers at dysfunction in Gardner’s office. They questioned why Riley was free.

Gardner resigned less than three months later, and she wasn’t walking alone. Twelve Soros-backed DAs left their posts in 2022, some by election defeats, but most by way of resignation or removal.

In 2017, tough-on-trafficking superstar Summer Stephan took the reins as San Diego DA by way of appointment. She had a 28-year career as deputy DA and experience trying more than 100 jury cases, but she still faced an uphill climb as she geared up for an election campaign the next year. Her opponent, a San Diego deputy public defender, was Soros-supported, with at least $1.5 million in political action committee funds to spend on the race.

Stephan’s team knew they couldn’t outraise Soros, but they did secure enough money to broadcast the truth about the progressive prosecutor movement. Relentlessly. She finished the race with 64 percent of the vote, becoming the only elected DA in a big city that’s won against a Soros-backed opponent. Furthermore, she retained her seat for a second term unopposed. No wonder. San Diego County is one of the safest large jurisdictions in the nation.

A memorial marks the spot where Linda Frickey’s body was found after she was carjacked and dragged to her death.

A memorial marks the spot where Linda Frickey’s body was found after she was carjacked and dragged to her death. Max Becherer/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP

SEVERAL OF SOROS’ rogue prosecutors thought better of their campaign promises once in office. James Stewart of Caddo Parish turned out not to be progressive enough, at least when it comes to the death penalty. Once in office, Soros’ initial sponsoree continued to defend predecessors’ cases with capital punishment potential. Soros contributions were notably absent during Stewart’s 2020 run for reelection.

Further south, Orleans Parish DA Jason Williams hasn’t exactly toed the line, either. Last year, his office began employing Louisiana’s habitual offender law, which can lead to stiffer sentences for defendants with prior felonies. Progressives say the law fuels mass incarceration, particularly of black men.

Williams also reneged on his vow never to try juveniles in adult court. In 2021, his office charged two 15-year-olds as adults for the murder of Anita Irvin-LeViege, a woman shot in her car while delivering food to family members. Williams’ turnaround surprised not only his Soros backers but also his former opponents. During the campaign for DA, they said they would “rarely” try juveniles as adults. Williams’ firm “never” had set him apart from the pack.

That’s why cameras were rolling when Williams told reporters the teens who dragged Linda Frickey to death would be charged as adults. “Four or five years is just not enough,” Williams admitted. “The juvenile sentencing limits would be inadequate to ensure that these young people are appropriately held accountable for taking a life.”

In November, the three girls accused in Frickey’s carjacking pleaded guilty to manslaughter, a conviction that carries a sentence of 20 years in prison. The primary assailant, John Honore, chose to go to trial. A jury convicted the now-18-year-old of second-­degree murder, which could mean life in prison for the young serial offender.

In an ironic twist, Williams and his 78-year-old mother recently became carjacking victims. They were in New Orleans’ historic Lower Garden District when armed assailants ordered them out of Williams’ SUV. Neither the DA nor his mother was hurt.

Two juveniles accused in that crime are expected to stand trial in the adult court system. If convicted, the cousins, both 16, could face decades in prison. A judge set bail at $300,000 each. Not exactly the progressive modus operandi.

On a sidewalk back on Bienville Avenue, Linda Frickey’s sister, Jinnylynn Griffin, shrugs her shoulders at the news. She’s learned a lot in recent months about courts and pleas, and way too much about carjackings. “Maybe now he understands,” she says of Williams. “Maybe now he gets why we fought so hard to get justice for Linda.”

Why they fought so hard for—and believed in—the rule of law.

Even as Griffin stands there, quiet, someone comes out of a duplex and boldly steals a metal street sign. A few feet away, a pile of human waste pollutes an alley. No one seems to notice either. This is a safe part of the city, after all, with bike paths and a Mercedes coupe parked a stone’s throw from where Frickey’s carjacking started.

“It’s not quite the same,” Griffin finally admits, her words hanging as heavy as July humidity. She’s referring to the Williams carjacking, not her surroundings. “He knows the feeling, but his mom didn’t die. He and his mom walked away.”


Kim Henderson

Kim is a World Journalism Institute graduate and senior writer for WORLD. During her career as a homeschool mom, she worked as a freelance writer. Kim resides in Mississippi with her family.

@kimhenderson319

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