Elk Grove Citizen
January 27, 2023
Sacramento County’s new District Attorney (DA) Thien Ho spoke to the Citizen this week about his work in this high-profile position and his background that led to his election last June.
Ho, a San Jose native and the only Asian Pacific Islander district attorney in a major metropolitan city in California, was sworn into office on Jan. 3.
He succeeded former Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who ran an unsuccessful primary race to become the California attorney general.
As the county’s new DA, Ho leads an office consisting of 175 prosecutors and 432 employees. The office has a budget of more than $100 million, and ranks as the second largest district attorney’s office in Northern California, behind Santa Clara County.
Asked to speak about some of the local issues that are most important to him, Ho first addressed the homeless crisis.
“I think whether you’re in Elk Grove, whether you are in East Sac, whether you’re in South Sac, or along the (American River) Parkway, the river, that’s the No. 1 issue,” he said during his Jan. 24 interview with the Citizen. “I know you see it when you’re driving down (Highway) 99 on the freeway, you see it in other areas, and so one of the things that we have to deal with is the homeless crisis.”
In addition to his desire for more affordable housing, Ho is working to increase mental health and drug addiction assistance.
“That is a serious issue that really affects a subset of the homeless population that are chronically homeless, that are struggling with those issues,” he said.
Ho added that he supports a “care court” system that provides options for people with such addictions who have committed low-level crimes. That system allows such offenders to accept free care for their addictions in exchange for having their criminal cases dropped.
“What we’re doing is we’re having a carrot stick analysis,” he said. “We’re encouraging people to get the treatment, and the courts can require that treatment. And so, that is a program that has the potential to work.
“If we can set that up now, here in Sacramento, the next step would be to then go back to the governor and ask for funding at that point, and be a pilot program.”
He stressed that this program would not be available to those who commit such violent crimes as shootings and murders.
Gun violence is another issue that Ho mentioned that he is focusing on.
“We’re working right now with a community-based organization to create a gun violence prevention program in juvenile hall, where we are getting those juvenile kids and getting them into a gun prevention program,” he said.
“What happens when you shoot somebody, what happens when you get shot, what happens when you get prosecuted for gun possession or the use of a gun? You know, we need to get to these kids, these juveniles early on and show them that and try to prevent it.”
Additionally important to Ho is the issue of human trafficking, which he described as a “huge crisis” in Sacramento County.
“We have a huge human trafficking issue, and we’re talking about 14-, 13-, 16-year-old girls who are being trafficked on the streets,” he said. “And so, it isn’t a victimless crime. Those people, those children that are being trafficked are victims, and we have to get them off the streets.
“So, I’m working on a task force right now with the local law enforcement agencies to pour resources to really tackle this issue.”
Ho told the Citizen that he plans to meet with Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and the Elk Grove City Council, and Elk Grove Police Chief Bobby Davis to discuss public safety concerns in Elk Grove.
“I’ll be meeting with (them) in the coming weeks here to really talk about how we can address public safety in Elk Grove,” he said. “And that is a focus of mine, as well, because I know the area very well and I’ve worked well with all the elected leaders there.”
As for Ho’s background that led to his current role as the county’s district attorney, he completed his undergraduate work at the University of California, Davis in 1995, and he graduated from the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento three years later.
Following his studies at McGeorge, he spent two years working as a prosecutor in Contra Costa County. Ho next returned to San Jose and worked in the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor for two years.
In 2004, he was hired to work in the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.
Ho told the Citizen that his work in the capital city has been very diverse.
“I’ve prosecuted sex crimes for many years, child molestation, adult rapes, (and) then I’ve also prosecuted gang cases, as well,” he said. “So, I prosecuted gang shootings, gang homicides, hate crimes. And then after a stint on the gang team, I was then moved to the homicide team.”
His work prosecuting homicide cases for about five years included the Golden State Killer/East Area Rapist case.
That case ultimately resulted in the 2020 sentencing of Citrus Heights resident Joseph DeAngelo to 11 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole for 13 murders, and an additional life term for 13 kidnappings.
Altogether, Ho tried nearly 100 jury trials.
Ho was named Prosecutor of the Year by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office in 2017, and he has spent the past 16 years serving as an adjunct professor, teaching trial advocacy at the McGeorge School of Law.