A Victim Asks Gascón: ‘How Dare You Make Me Do Your Job?’

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By Kathleen Cady

In 1991, when Jamie S. was 13 years old, she was kidnapped, raped and sodomized by Danny Brown while walking to her junior high school.  In 1991, Jamie S. and her family could rely on the governmental agencies responsible for investigating and prosecuting Brown. In 2022, that radically changed when Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon abandoned Jamie S. Although prosecutors in every other county attend parole hearings with victims, Gascon’s policy is that prosecutors in his office may not, so Jamie S. attended the parole hearing of her rapist without a prosecutor, where she had to advocate for herself and for public safety.

Brown kidnapped Jamie S. and two other middle school students and sexually assaulted them in 1991. The police did their job and investigated Brown’s crimes. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office did its job and prosecuted Brown.  A jury convicted the defendant because Jamie S. and the other victims bravely agreed to testify against Brown, trusting the DA’s office to seek justice and protect the public. Brown, who already had a prior record, was convicted by a jury of three counts of kidnap, nine counts of rape, one count of sodomy and one count of forcible sexual assault on a child under 14. Brown was sentenced to 107 years in prison. At the time of sentencing, the judge said the case was “a parent’s nightmare. They send their kid to school in the morning to go on the bus to school or to walk to school and the defendant who is obviously a sexual predator on children – takes them and assaults them. . . . [T]he events were planned and premeditated. They were not impulsive. There were threats to kill. . . . He had brought with him [duct] tape at least on one instance. . . . [The children] were violated in person, spirit, in addition to their bodies being violated.”

Victims have a Constitutional Right to justice and due process. California Constitution Article I, Section 28(b).  Los Angeles County District Attorney Gascón’s policies violate the Constitution and failed Jamie S. by deserting her when she needed protection most.

Jamie S. has a question for Gascón: “How dare you issue a policy that abandons me at the parole hearing of my rapist?” How dare you abandon your legal responsibility to be the sole representative for the People of the State of California at parole hearings? Penal Code section 3041.7. How dare you forbid trained and experienced prosecutors from reviewing the defendant’s prison record, asking clarifying questions and giving a recommendation about whether the defendant should be paroled? Cal. Code of Regs., title 15, Section 2030(d)(2). How dare you make me be responsible for the safety of myself and my family and other school age children? 

About one month before the parole hearing, Jamie S. received a letter from the prison notifying her of the parole hearing which started her reliving the nightmare all over again. Her 13-year-old self-resurfaced. All of the things she had suppressed came back with a vengeance. She thought he would never get out of prison.  She could not believe that the man who had been sentenced to 107 years in prison for violently sexually assaulting 3 young girls was eligible for parole after only 31 years in prison. 

At the parole hearing when Jamie S. saw the man who kidnapped and raped her when she was 13, she started crying, ran out of the room and threw up. Despite this, she chose to continue on at the parole hearing so that the parole commissioners and the defendant would hear her voice and know how the defendant’s actions affected her life. Jamie is a survivor and wanted the Parole Board to know that Brown should never be released from prison. 

Victims have a right to attend and speak at parole hearings of their offender. Penal Code Sections 3043(b)(1) and 3043.6. Victims have a right to have their safety and the safety of the general public considered before the defendant can be paroled. California Constitution Article I, Section 28(b)(15) and (16).  Victims also are entitled to victim services. Penal Code Section 13835.5. Although Jamie S. did have the assistance of a victim advocate, victim advocates aren’t prosecutors. Victim advocates do not have access to the defendant’s prison record, nor does the advocate have the legal authority to oppose parole, leaving Jamie S. alone in opposing parole. 

During the parole hearing Jamie S. heard the defendant as he recounted his crimes. “The first [kidnap and rape], it was by chance. . . I wanted her to hurt, pain. I looked around and I said, I can get away with it. And that’s how I tapped the first one . . . (“tapped” is urban slang for having sex). The first one, it was exciting. I was in control and empowered and it was a tension release. It did feel good. And I wanted to catch that high again, that feeling again. And since I got away with it for the first time because of the way I was thinking, I said I could get away with it a second time. It would be easy. I went back to the same area. This time looking, planning to do this.” He attempted to excuse his actions saying that young girls in his neighborhood were “aggressive” as if that made it ok to kidnap and rape young girls on their way to junior high school.

So why was the defendant who had been sentenced to 107 years in prison up for parole after only 31 years? Because in 2017 legislators in Sacramento passed Elder Parole (Penal Code 3055) which guaranteed every person over 60 years old who had served over 25 years in prison a parole hearing. Apparently that wasn’t good enough, because in 2020, AB 3234 (Ting) amended Penal Code section 3055 and allowed every person who is over 50 years old who has served more than 20 years in prison to get a parole hearing. So, serial child molesters, serial rapists, serial murders who are over 50 years old get a parole hearing after only 20 years in custody. Brown is now 57 years old, so he qualified. Jamie S. has something to say to California legislators: “What were you thinking? What made you think that a serial sexual predator should get a parole hearing before serving his full sentence?” 

On October 6, 2022, the Parole Board denied Brown parole for 5 years. He’ll be eligible for another hearing in 2027. Before that, however, he can petition to have his parole hearing advanced.

In addition to the unspeakable trauma from the inmate’s sexual assault, the circumstances of the parole hearing caused Jamie S. untold anxiety because of the absence of a prosecutor. After the parole hearing she had nightmares about Brown, just like she had years ago. This has not deterred her, however. She is determined to assert her Constitutional right to attend Brown’s future parole hearings and speak against his being released because she believes he will harm other young girls. She just hopes that at the next parole hearing a prosecutor will be there to do their job: represent the People and protect the public.

Jamie S. has chosen to share her story to highlight the injustice and dangerousness of Gascón’s policies.

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

Dealing with ‘Internal Terrorists’

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By Eric Siddall

“Internal terrorist” is an old LAPD management term used for those who don’t “get with the program.” Much has changed within LAPD, but not for some of its alums.

One in particular, George Gascón—former LAPD brass—used the antiquated term during his campaign for district attorney. When asked how he would work within civil service rules to implement his agenda, he was not concerned. “I know certainly how to deal” with “internal terrorists.” He wasn’t lying.

Since Gascón took office on December 7, 2020, those who question his policies are deemed internal terrorists. “To deal” with them or their views, he has employed methods that violate California’s criminal and labor laws. Yet, even when a court has ruled against him, there is little consequence to these actions. For every lawsuit responding to his actions, for every complaint, for every hearing, there is an unlimited litigation budget paid for by L.A. County taxpayers. This enables him to ignore the law, while fighting it off with high-priced, taxpayer-subsidized lawyers.

In December 2020, the Association of Deputy District Attorneys sued Gascón to enjoin him from violating state criminal statutes. Gascón spared no taxpayer dollar to defend his novel position that the executive branch has the power to ignore the other two branches of government. After the superior court judge ruled against him, Gascón hired the nation’s most expensive litigator. We still don’t know how much this case cost the taxpayers.

Meanwhile, because of a byzantine labor system, Gascón has played a game of siege warfare. He wantonly flouts civil service rules, violations pile up against him, but, because he has access to unlimited taxpayer money, a lawful remedy for these violations can be held at bay by using litigation tactics that cause endless delays. Normally, delay tactics cost money, but when you never see the bill, it doesn’t matter.

This is how you deal with “internal terrorists.” You hold the system hostage with endless delays. These delays make a mockery of our civil service system and the county charter which were designed in response to the graft and political cronyism that infected many eastern cities in the nineteenth century. Abuses like the Tammany Hall ring that used government jobs and taxpayer money to reward political patronage in New York inspired many of our current good government policies. In one instance, “Boss” Tweed and the Tammany machine pocketed the equivalent of half a billion dollars (adjusted for inflation) on one county courthouse project.

Our current system—for all of its flaws—was designed to protect against graft and cronyism while ensuring that political leaders could still carry out their mandates. The elected leaders just have to act within the parameters of the law.

The L.A. Times editorial board—knowing these rules—advised Gascón accordingly: “To implement his agenda successfully, he will have to win over his office with the power of persuasion and an appeal to his prosecutors’ professionalism.” They were right, under the civil service rules, persuasion and professionalism were the right vehicle for change, not fiat.

But rules are inconvenient. They require negotiation, patience, and consensus building. So, rather than working within the rules, Gascón, a veteran of the old Daryl Gates LAPD school of management, manipulated and sometimes even ignored them. He rewarded political allies who helped him in the campaign. He dismissed criminal charges against a political ally. Backroom deals were cut. He retaliated against those who questioned his orders. He refused to comply with California’s Public Records Act. His first retaliation order cost taxpayers over a million dollars to settle—and that didn’t include attorney fees. As he promised, he knew how to deal with internal terrorist.

Despite being limited by the county charter to six political positions, he rewarded political supporters by moving them into civil service protected positions. Under normal circumstances, a vacant government position requires a job posting that outlines the qualifications the candidate must possess to apply for the position. This good government practice ensures that through open competition, qualified candidates will fill open positions.

Gascón ignored this practice. Instead, he hand selected deputy public defenders who were political supporters, or friends of political supporters, to fill civil service prosecutor positions without the normally mandatory public job listing or requisite exam. This not only violated civil service principles, but, at a time when deputy public defenders were complaining about their workload, it took frontline defense lawyers out of their ranks into the district attorney’s office. Nor did this transfer assist the urgent need for trial attorneys, since it seems most of these deputy public defenders were promised that they needn’t prosecute most types of crime.

While the hiring of his political allies is being challenged before the Civil Service Commission, Gascón continues to stall a final decision by the commission by throwing up road blocks and filing frivolous motions that fly in the face of open and transparent government. And because he has unlimited resources (read taxpayer money) these motions are routinely filed and summarily rejected.

His latest venture is aimed at intimidating newly hired deputy district attorneys. For decades, newly hired deputy district attorneys were placed on probation for a year at a reduced salary. After the first year, they were evaluated by their supervisors. If they passed probation, they were automatically promoted, given a salary increase, and civil service protection. If they didn’t pass probation, they were fired. The system was designed to make sure that candidates had the required prosecutorial skills and temperament before given a permanent job.

Legally, any change to this practice requires negotiation with the union. Gascón conveniently ignored that rule. Without any notice, he ordered newly hired deputy district attorneys to take an exam that doesn’t contain one question testing prosecutorial skills or temperament. There is no known legitimate purpose for this exam. In fact, when one of the new hires questioned whether the exam would be used for their promotion, the answer from Human Resources Division was, “no.” So what is the purpose of the exam? The answer may lie in the test questions themselves, more than one of which reportedly ask the test-taker about their loyalty to the employer.

Even more problematic, we are unaware whether the test addresses concerns of racial disparity. For example, the University of California recently abandoned standardized testing for admissions because of concerns with “racist metrics.” Does this test cause racial disparity? Gascón has refused to meet and confer on these real concerns.

This brings us back to how you deal with “internal terrorist.” It seems Gascón has the answer to that one: flush out your political enemies and reward those who show allegiance.

Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing over 800 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. His commentary above was published in the Metropolitan News-Enterprise on November 8, 2022.