A Preventable Murder

By Kathleen Cady

On Jan. 8, 41-year-old Alejandro Garcia was working the drive-through at Taco Bell in South Los Angeles. Mr. Garcia was shot to death by Jonathan Madden after Madden tried to pay with a counterfeit $20 bill. Mr. Garcia is survived by his wife and three children.

The tragedy of Mr. Garcia’s murder is compounded by the fact that it was entirely preventable. If we had an elected district attorney who enforced the law, Madden would have been in custody. Not only did Madden have a long criminal history — he had two open felony cases. He should have been in jail.

George Gascón’s bail policy ensured that Madden was on the street on that horrific day. This is because Gascón will not seek pretrial detention unless the current offense is either a “serious” or “violent” offense. There are no exceptions.

Madden’s criminal record demonstrates the absurdity of this policy. He had multiple felony convictions and has been to prison three times. He is the definition of “recidivist.” His first felony conviction was in 2001 for robbery (a violent felony), for which he was given a second chance and put on probation. He then picked up a 2002 burglary and grand theft conviction, a 2006 robbery conviction, a 2009 conviction for possessing drugs while in prison, and a 2018 conviction for felon in possession of ammunition and possessing cocaine for sale. The only reason Madden was out of custody while having two open felony cases pending against him is because of Gascón’s unlawful policy which did not allow allegations to be filed, combined with his blanket policy which does not allow prosecutors to ask for pretrial bail.

First Open Case

On Feb. 4, 2021, Madden was charged with being a felon in possession of a gun (Penal Code 29800(a)(1)). With his record, this charge is a red flag indicating that he is a danger to public safety. The law requires prosecutors to file prior violent/serious felony convictions (PC 667(a) and 1170.12). From Dec. 7, 2020, until Feb. 8, 2021, when a judge gave injunctive relief due to a lawsuit filed by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, Gascón’s policies prohibited prosecutors from following this law. See ADDA v. Gascón, 20STCP04250 (L.A. Super Ct., filed Dec. 30, 2020). Unfortunately, Madden’s felony gun charge was filed during this two-month window. Further, Gascón’s policies prohibited prosecutors from asking for bail when a defendant is charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a gun. Had the prior convictions been alleged, the bail schedule would have allowed bail to be set at at least $160,000. Without the prior convictions, Madden’s bail was set at $30,000. That amount may seem high to a person unfamiliar with bail, but by paying a bail bondsman less than 10% of that amount — the fee can be charged to a credit card — Madden was able to bail out, only to commit another felony.

Second Open Case

On May 5, 2021, Madden was arrested and charged with felony sales of narcotics. When a person is bailed out on a felony offense and commits a new felony, the law allows an “out-on-bail” enhancement allegation to be charged. Gascón’s policies, however, do not allow for enhancements. The law and bail schedule should have set Madden’s bail at at least $190,000. Because of Gascón, Madden bailed out on only $100,000 bail. Gascón’s policies resulted in Madden being out of custody, where he was able to illegally obtain another gun, attempt to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at Taco Bell on Jan. 8, 2022, and shoot and kill Mr. Garcia.

The Purpose of Bail Is to Protect Public Safety

When a five-time felon who has been to prison three times unlawfully possesses a gun, he is dangerous to public safety. The law states, “In setting, reducing, or denying bail, a judge or magistrate shall take into consideration the protection of the public, the seriousness of the offense charged, the previous criminal record of the defendant, and the probability of his or her appearing at trial or at a hearing of the case. The public safety shall be the primary consideration.” PC 1275(a)(1); Cal. Const. Art. I, Sec. 28(f)(3).

The courts have a bail schedule which sets presumptive bail for each crime and allegation. The bail schedule takes into account the enhancement allegations for additional facts of the crime such as the infliction of great bodily injury (PC 12022.7), use of a deadly weapon (PC 12022(b)(1)), use of a gun (PC 12022.53), or when the crime was committed at the direction of a gang (PC 186.22). The bail schedule also takes into account enhancement allegations based on prior criminal convictions of recidivist offenders. The law requires a judge to consider the following when setting bail: the defendant’s prior record including convictions for serious or violent felonies (PC 667(a)(1) and 1170.12(a)-(d)); prior prison commitments; and the commission of new felony crimes committed while out on bail (PC 12022.1).

Gascón’s blanket policies ignore the law and public safety. Gascón’s elimination of cash bail policy states: “The presumption shall be to release individuals pretrial. All individuals shall receive a presumption of own recognizance release without conditions. … DDAs shall not request cash bail for any misdemeanor, non-serious felony, or nonviolent felony offense.”

Literally, within moments of taking office and an oath to uphold the law, Gascón issued blanket policies that violate the law and the will of the voters. In 2020, California voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 25 which would have replaced current bail laws requiring monetary bail by establishing a risk assessment tool designed to ensure the public is protected. Gascón’s policy permits neither. Prosecutors are prohibited from asking for monetary bail. Nor have they been provided with any tool to conduct a meaningful risk assessment to ensure the public is protected.

In the Madden case, but for Gascón’s policies, prosecutors would have filed allegations for Madden’s prior cases and asked for appropriate bail to ensure public safety by keeping Madden in custody. Instead, Madden bailed out on a felon with a gun charge, committed new felony offenses, bailed out again, illegally obtained another gun and, tragically murdered Mr. Garcia.

Madden should have been in custody. Had Madden been in jail. Mr. Garcia would not have been murdered. Mr. Garcia’s wife would still have her husband and his children would still have their father. Instead, Gascón’s policies are responsible for Madden being out of custody which allowed him to again illegally obtain a gun and murder Mr. Garcia.

Kathleen Cady is one of several former prosecutors who are providing pro bono assistance to crime victims in response to Gascón’s policies.

Gascón Admits His ‘Youth Justice’ Policy Was a Mistake

By Kathleen Cady

Los Angeles County District Attorney Gascón is in damage control mode.

On February 20, 2022, in an effort to get ahead of horrific recordings of Hannah Tubbs, a former minor who was prosecuted in juvenile court on Gascón’s orders, Gascón issued the following Press Release: “[O]ur juvenile system in its current iteration does not provide adequate support to help [a former minor]…except through the adult system…The complex issues and facts of [this] particular case were unusual, and I should have treated them that way.”

Gascón’s epiphany that his blanket Youth Justice Policy was a mistake is little solace to the families of murder victims whose cases have been negatively impacted over the last 16 months.

On December 8, 2021, District Attorney Gascón highlighted several “accomplishments” from his first year in office which included: withdrawing 77 previously filed Motions to Transfer, recalling and resentencing 25 defendants who were previously convicted in criminal court and additional cases in which the office did not seek to transfer the minor to criminal court.

Most crimes committed by minors, even violent ones, are not eligible for prosecution in criminal court because the justice system favors rehabilitation for minors. (Welfare and Institutions Code 202).

The law, however, recognizes that the juvenile justice system is not the appropriate place for some 16- and 17-year-olds who commit exceptionally heinous and brutal crimes. This legal procedure for a minor to be prosecuted in criminal court is triggered by the prosecution filing a transfer motion. (Welfare and Institutions Code 707). This procedure provides a judicial safeguard to ensure that only those minors who can’t be rehabilitated in the juvenile system are transferred to criminal jurisdiction.

When Gascón took office he mandated that all transfer motions be withdrawn in cases that had been previously evaluated by experienced prosecutors. One of those horrific cases involved the murders of Jose Flores and Alfredo Carrera.

Gang members, including 16-year-old Dameon E., and 17-year-old Shanice D., gunned down Jose Flores — an astrophysics PhD candidate at UCI who had accepted a job with NASA, and his childhood best-friend, Alfredo Carrera, who was about to become a father for the first time.

The gang members were “doing work” for the gang – hunting for people in a rival gang’s territory. The families of Alfredo and Jose would vehemently disagree with Gascón’s word choice of “accomplishment,” when his policy ensured that the minors who executed their loved ones won’t serve more than 7 years in custody.

“Catastrophe,” “heartbreak” and “abandonment” more appropriately describe Gascon’s actions.

Gascón also boasted of 25 cases in which former minors serving prison sentences for violent crimes they committed were resentenced as juveniles. These former minors, all of whom are now in their 20s or 30s, were charged, convicted and sentenced in criminal court. But due to the change in the law they were sent back to juvenile court by the Court of Appeal, with directions to hold a retroactive transfer hearing. Gascón refused to conduct the hearing ordered by the Court of Appeal. The result is that at least 25 former minors who were convicted of gang murders, sometimes of multiple murders, were released back into our communities having served only a few years in custody. In all of these cases, the former minors were released into our communities without any assurances that they received rehabilitative services, nor any evaluation as to their current dangerousness. Some of these former minors had subsequent convictions for crimes of violence they committed while in custody – a fact known and ignored by District Attorney Gascon.

Also listed as an “accomplishment” were an additional 100 recent cases that were not transferred to criminal court as a result of Gascón’s blanket Youth Justice policy. Five of these 100 cases include the following egregious examples of a 16- or 17-year-old committing crimes that have been or are being prosecuted in juvenile court:

  • On December 1, 2020, 28-year-old mother Ky Alicia Thomas was shot and killed in Venice. One of the assailants is 17.
  • On February 17, 2021, 32-year-old Monique Munoz was killed by a 17-year-old son of wealthy entrepreneur who was driving a Lamborghini on a suspended license at speeds up to 106 mph.  He had been cited for speeding twice in 2020, including once for driving 72 miles per hour on surface streets.
  •  On May 26, 17-year-old Kenia Rivera was shot and killed by two juvenile gang members as she was walking down the street with her twin sister.
  • On August 12, 2021, 26-year-old Jayren Bradford was shot and killed outside the Shoe Palace by a 16-year-old. The entire shooting was caught on tape.
  •  On November 15, 2021, 19-year-old Cody Wilson was shot and killed by a 17-year-old in Pico Rivera.
Gascón’s “updated” Youth Justice Policy acknowledges that in exceptional circumstances and egregious cases, criminal jurisdiction may be appropriate for youth offenders. No kidding. This is exactly what the law says (Welfare and Institutions Code 707). Experienced prosecutors have been telling him that since the day he took office. Each case deserves to have the facts and circumstances evaluated independently.
Gascón’s updated policy established a “panel” to evaluate juvenile cases. Unfortunately for victims and the public, this panel includes Alisa Blair, Gascón’s handpicked surrogate who transferred over from the public defender’s office. Blair assisted in developing Gascón’s initial Youth Justice Policy, which was written while she was still a deputy public defender.

Blair clearly doesn’t understand a prosecutor’s solemn obligation to uphold the law. On May 29, 2020, Blair tweeted “Burn that shit down. We must destroy in order to rebuild” during the civil unrest after the killing of George Floyd, potentially emboldening rioters and inciting violence. Even as a prosecutor, Blair appears to continue representing the interests of criminal defendants, while ignoring the rights of victims (California Constitution Article I, Section 28(b) and Penal Code 679).

The law clearly states that prosecutors are precluded from assisting in the defense of any person accused of a crime. (Government Code 26540 and 24100). Despite this, Blair had contact with the mother of convicted murderer Andrew Cachu’s. Cachu was just two months shy of his 18th birthday when he shot and killed 41-year-old Louis Amela outside a Palmdale restaurant in March of 2015. Although Cachu was convicted and sentenced in criminal court as the law at that time allowed, he is included in the number of cases that were back for resentencing in juvenile court. During a May 10, 2021 recorded jail phone call between the defendant and his mother, Cachu’s mother tells him, “Hi Mijo. You know who that was? …That’s Gascón’s special advisor…She’s the one I’ve been emailing back and forth… She looked at me like ‘Girl – I got you.”

In keeping with Gascón’s policies that she helped write, Blair requested to keep Cachu in the juvenile system. At the disposition hearing (similar to a criminal sentencing hearing), Blair declined to put on any evidence even after invited to do so by the judge. The court stated he believed Blair’s conduct was intentional, not negligent or inadvertent. Cachu was released after having served only 6 years in jail for a gang motivated armed robbery and murder because of Blair’s deliberate actions.

It was also Blair who was in the middle of the case where former minor Tubbs, represented by the public defender’s office, was sentenced to a juvenile facility for child molestation despite a substantial criminal history and very disturbing jail calls.

The reality of whether Gascón will allow any minors to be prosecuted in criminal court remains to be seen, especially with Blair’s continued involvement. For murder victims families who have personally experienced Gascón’s complete disregard for victims and their rights, his updated policies are too little, too late.

Kathleen Cady is one of several former prosecutors who are providing pro bono assistance to crime victims in response to Gascón’s policies.

Heads in the (Silicon) Sand

Heads in the (Silicon) Sand

Ignoring Frontline Employee Concerns Backfired for Elizabeth Holmes. How is it Working for America’s Most Notorious Progressive Prosecutor?

By Eric Siddall

Elizabeth Holmes convinced wealthy Silicon Valley investors, two former secretaries of state, one former bank CEO, and one former four-star general that she was revolutionizing the entire healthcare industry. She promised that with one drop of blood, her invention could run hundreds of tests. Because of her grandiose promises, she received hundreds of millions of dollars in investments from these celebrated individuals. Some would also serve on her board and repeatedly vouch for her. But there was one problem. She was a fraud.

Notably, it wasn’t any of the rich or powerful who blew the whistle on Holmes. It was frontline lab techs. They saw that the wunderkind’s product was an abysmal, fraudulent failure. When they raised the issue in an email directly to Holmes, she brushed it aside — and forwarded it to the COO. The COO responded to the techs’ valid concerns by belittling their grasp of math and science. Ironically, it was these lab techs who worked with a journalist to expose Holmes. It was these same lab techs who would be vindicated when Holmes was convicted of fraud in federal court.

Like Holmes, George Gascón cultivated support for his campaign for district attorney of Los Angeles with grandiose promises. He claimed that his innovative policies would drastically reduce prison populations, reduce government waste, improve the environment, reduce racial inequality, and make our communities safer. Like Holmes, Gascón’s vision of an industry-wide sea change drew support from celebrated individuals: wealthy Silicon Valley investors, renowned professors, and Hollywood celebrities. However, like the lab techs, frontline prosecutors have been raising serious concerns.

On his first day as district attorney, Gascón reduced the possible consequences for nearly every single criminal offense in the county of Los Angeles, from theft to murder. Shooting victims, rape victims and stalking victims saw their assailants’ possible sentences plummet by dozens of years. Parents of murdered children saw their perpetrators sentences drop from life without parole to parole within 15 years.

To be sure, it wasn’t Gascón or his advisers who saw the immediate devastating impact of these policies. The people who have seen the impact of his policies are his frontline prosecutors. These 800 civil servants, who have dedicated their careers to public safety, are now forced by Gascón’s directives to undermine it. As a result of these directives, they have seen people convicted of heinous crimes released with minimal consequence, they have seen others released without the support they need to successfully reintegrate, and they have seen it time and time again.

Frontline prosecutors in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office are frustrated and alarmed. They’re frustrated because they’re told by Gascón that their concerns are “anti-science,” much in the same way that the Holmes’ COO dismissed the lab techs. They are alarmed because, in the face of skyrocketing murders and shootings, it appears as though Gascón is locking up the tools to address the problem and throwing away the key.

These feelings aren’t limited to L.A. County prosecutors. Others who work in the justice system – including court reporters, judges, and yes, even defense attorneys – are alarmed by the negative impact of these policies. Like the prosecutors, they are horrified not just at Gascón’s aversion to meaningful accountability, but also his inaction in the face of a desperate need for a major course-correction.

It is this collective frustration and fear that compelled the frontline prosecutors of the LADA’s Office to take the extraordinary step of voting to support the recall and removal from office of George Gascón. In the final vote, 97.9 percent supported his removal. A mere twelve voted against supporting the recall. This vote was not taken lightly. It was taken over a year into Gascón’s tenure in office. Prior to the vote, Gascón was invited to meet with frontline prosecutors to address their concerns. Like Holmes, Gascón brushed off and belittled the request.

Perhaps Gascón should heed the words of the Holmes’ prosecutor – Jina Choi, director of the SEC’s San Francisco regional office. When announcing charges against Holmes, Choi underscored the danger of visionary promises, reminding us, “[i]nnovators who seek to revolutionize and disrupt an industry must tell investors the truth about what their technology can do today, not just what they hope it might do someday.”

Perhaps Gascón should stop talking about how he might make us safer in the future, listen to his frontline deputies, and talk how he can make us safer today.

Eric W. 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.

KCAL: Inside LA County Justice

\Suzie Suh takes a look at LA County’s top prosecutor, District Attorney George Gascón. Winning his seat by more than 53% a year ago, the controversial DA has received votes of “no confidence” by more than 30 cities and almost 98% of prosecutors in his own office support a second recall effort.