By Eric Siddall
George Gascón’s campaign has embraced those who victimize the innocent. In a recent campaign stop, Gascón took a photo flanked by state prisoners. There was no mention of the people victimized by those inmates. This disregard of victims is consistent with his history in San Francisco. As San Francisco residents saw a rise in property and quality of life crimes, Gascón ignored their concerns. He developed no mental health treatment program to deal with the rise of homelessness. Meanwhile, when victims died because of his experiments with the criminal justice system, he exhibited a brutish behavior that should be a warning to all of us who care about Los Angeles. His interactions with one particular San Francisco family are particularly illustrative.
On July 16, 2017, Edward French was murdered by Lamonte Mims in San Francisco. The tragedy of this murder was compounded by the fact that Mims had been in custody on a gun charge but was released by a San Francisco judge just five days before the murder. If that judge had not released Mims, Edward French would still be alive today.
The judge released Mims based upon an algorithm used to determine Mims’ risk of flight and his dangerousness. This algorithm, or risk assessment tool, was being used by the San Francisco courts as an alternative to the bail system. It was an experiment supported by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.
There was a problem with the tool’s assessment regarding Mims’ pre-trial custody status. The clerk responsible for entering the data inadvertently omitted parts of Mims’ criminal history. As a result, Mims was given a low score by the algorithm. The judge who decided that Mims should be released relied entirely on this score, rather than also examining Mims’ criminal record. Understandably, French’s family felt that the criminal justice system let them down.
In a meeting, Lorraine French, the victim’s sister, questioned Gascón about his support of the risk assessment tool that resulted in Mims being released. According to both Lorraine and Edward French’s partner, Brian Higginbotham, Gascón became visibly angry and hostile towards Lorraine. Gascón lectured her about how Cuba, which did not have a bail system, was perfectly safe, ergo Mims’s release was not the problem. Notwithstanding the false comparison between the American criminal justice system and Cuba’s authoritarian regime, Gascón, according to those present, exhibited a total lack of empathy towards them. This family had just lost their loved one because of a failed experiment he helped put in place, and rather than listen and empathize, he immediately lost control and started lecturing them about the Cuban criminal justice system.
This interaction with the French family is emblematic of a larger issue with George Gascón. He shows no concern about the rise in property crime. There is never a word about racial disparity of victims. There is a denial that we have a gang problem in this county. Rather, his policies and his rhetoric are focused on experimenting with the criminal justice system for the benefit of those who victimize rather than those who are victimized.
Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.