A San Francisco judge ordered detention Tuesday for a man who allegedly struck and killed two pedestrians with a stolen vehicle on New Year’s Eve while under the influence and on parole for robbery.
Troy McAlister, 45, will be held without bail while awaiting trial in connection with the deadly hit-and-run collision in the South of Market, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Darwin ruled at his arraignment.
“This was a violent felony,” Darwin said during the court hearing at the Hall of Justice. “There is clear and convincing evidence indicating that there would be serious bodily harm if he was released at this time.”
While Darwin is expected to revisit his decision to detain McAlister at a later date, the judge indicated that he was unlikely to release McAlister because of his violent past and the nature of the latest allegations against him.
McAlister was on parole last Thursday when he allegedly drove a stolen Honda through a red light and struck Hanako Abe, 27, and Elizabeth Platt, 60, in a South of Market crosswalk. McAlister allegedly stole the vehicle from a woman outside a burger joint in Daly City after meeting her on a dating app.
McAlister was out of custody despite having been arrested on multiple occasions after his release on parole last April.
The case has sparked sharp criticism of District Attorney Chesa Boudin, whose office did not file charges against McAlister over any of his earlier arrests and instead referred the cases to parole agents to consider returning McAlister to custody.
His office also reached a plea agreement to release McAlister on parole for second-degree robbery last April instead of sending him to prison for 25 years to life under California’s Three Strikes law, court records show.
McAlister was released on parole with credit for time served, having already spent five years in County Jail while awaiting trial for the robbery. He has prior strikes for serious or violent felonies dating back to a robbery in 1995.
“We reviewed the case carefully, including substantial mitigation presented, and resolved the case for a guilty plea to a robbery for the aggravated term of 5 years,” said Rachel Marshall, a spokesperson for Boudin.
Boudin has now filed numerous felony charges including two counts of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated against McAlister. His office also filed a motion to detain McAlister without bail and is opposed to releasing McAlister on electronic monitoring or any other alternative to incarceration.
“We are going to be opposing any form of release,” Assistant District Attorney Ryan Kao said in court. “The defendant does pose a clear and present danger to public safety.”
McAlister pleaded not guilty to the charges through his defense attorney with the Public Defender’s Office, Scott Grant. Grant asked to postpone arguments over McAlister’s detention to a later date but suggested his client could be safely released to a long-term residential treatment program. Speaking to reporters, Grant called the collision a “true tragedy.”
“There have been a lot of quick comments, accusations and attempts to point fingers and apportion blame,” Grant said. “Perhaps some folks are keen to use this tragedy to support a specific agenda. I suggest that there is enough blame and questions of accountability for many parts of the criminal justice system.”
San Francisco supervisors Catherine Stefani and Ahsha Safai have each called for hearings to diagnose the systemic failures that led to the deaths.
“The bottom line is this, Elizabeth Platt and Hanako Abe should be alive today and the system failed them,” Stefani said at the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “Now, five days later neither I nor the public has a clear view of what exactly went wrong in this case and we all deserve to know.”
McAlister is due back in court Jan. 20.
S.F. Examiner Staff Writer Joshua Sabatini contributed to this report.