LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A second veteran prosecutor in as many days is suing Los Angeles County, alleging she has suffered a backlash by being transferred to a less prestigious job for complaining about directives set forth after the November election of District Attorney George Gascon.
Deputy District Attorney Lesley Klein Sonnenberg’s lawsuit was brought Wednesday, a day after a similar complaint was filed by Deputy District Attorney Shawn Randolph. Both Los Angeles Superior Court suits seek unspecified damages.
A spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office said after the Randolph filing that the agency could not comment on pending litigation.
At the time of Gascon’s election, Sonnenberg was the assistant head prosecutor in charge of the District Attorney’s Office’s Family Violence Division, according to her suit.
After Gascon was sworn into office on Dec. 7, he released a directives requiring prosecutors in the Family Violence Division to stop filing sentencing enhancement strikes against rapists and violent domestic abuse suspects, even though they are required to be brought under the state Penal Code, the Sonnenberg suit states.
In late December, Sonnenberg prepared a document entitled “Justification for Filing Strikes” in which she explained why she refused to adhere to Gascon’s policies and disclosed to him that she would continue to file strikes against repeat offenders, the Sonnenberg suit states.
In January, Sonnenberg sent Gascon an email stating that he was relying on faulty statistics to support his belief that long prison terms created higher recidivism rates and she provided him with multiple studies that contradicted his “unlawful approach to prosecution,” according to the Sonnenberg suit.
Sonnenberg believes her complaints to Gascon resulted in her not being selected for a promotion to acting head deputy of the Family Violence Division in January and later to the permanent head prosecutor position in April, which was instead given to someone less qualified, according to the Sonnenberg suit.
Sonnenberg was transferred to Consumer Protections Division, a “dead-end position” for her because she has no experience in civil law or in the civil courts, the Sonnenberg suit states.
“Plaintiff was transferred into a position in which she was literally a duck out of water,” the Sonnenberg suit states. “After decades of learning criminal law and procedure, and close to retirement, plaintiff is now in a position that she does not fully understand and at which she will certainly not excel.”