From Defendant to Top Prosecutor: Texas DA Part of New Wave in Criminal-Justice Reform

November 20, 2018

By Justin Jouvenal

Mark Gonzalez was speeding across the South Texas plains last year when a police officer pulled him over, he said. He had a routine for such stops.

Gonzalez cut the engine and stretched his tattoo-covered arms out the window to show he wasn’t a threat. He knew that when the officer ran his information through a law enforcement database, he would pop up as a member of a motorcycle club that police consider a gang, though members call it a social club.

“I’m the newly elected district attorney of Nueces County, and I’m going to come back as a gang member,” Gonzalez recalls telling the officer.

The officer let him go.

The improbable ascent of the self-styled “Mexican biker lawyer” to a top law enforcement job two years ago speaks to the profound change sweeping dozens of local prosecutors offices across the country. From deep on the Gulf Coast to Denver, Chicago and Philadelphia, voters in recent years have been turning to a new wave of district attorneys pushing a boldly liberal agenda.

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