Ominous Signs for George Gascón

By James R. Bozajian

It has been said that the wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. And so it was with San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, as he was overwhelmingly and unceremoniously tossed from office courtesy of a recall election held on June 7th.

Campaigning on a platform calling for “criminal justice reform,” Boudin was elected to the position of District Attorney in 2019. While many of his so-called reforms were doomed from the outset, others might have succeeded had they been implemented thoughtfully, incrementally, and moderately. But instead, Boudin attempted to tear down the entire criminal justice system immediately upon taking office, seemingly unconcerned about the adverse consequences of his behavior.

Two years later, confronted with a soaring crime rate and a plummeting quality of life, San Francisco voters successfully petitioned to conduct a special recall election of Boudin. The recall was held in conjunction with the regularly scheduled 2022 California Primary.

Boudin spent much of the recall campaign making highly unpersuasive pitches to an electorate weary of his criminal-friendly policies. He claimed, for instance, that the recall movement was a conspiracy spearheaded by Republicans and Donald Trump partisans. But registered Republicans make up a scant 6.73% of the electorate in San Francisco, and Trump scored an underwhelming 12.7% of the vote there in 2020 — which was actually an improvement on the 9.3% he got in 2016.

Clearly, Boudin did not get removed because of a conservative plot in San Francisco. He lost because a broad and diverse coalition of the public, spanning across the political spectrum, decided that enough was enough. Since Boudin’s soft-on-crime tenure began, San Francisco (where uniquely, the consolidated city and county governments are one and the same) has descended into lawlessness. By every possible measure — public safety, economics, and even aesthetics — the city is a complete mess. In 2021, San Francisco suffered the worst depopulation of any major municipality in the United States, losing an estimated 6.3% of its residents in a single year. And while surging crime is not the only reason for this exodus, it is certainly a heavily contributing factor.

San Francisco’s experience might sound eerily familiar to those of us living here in Los Angeles County, because we are now confronted with a very similar situation. The destructive policies of Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón are essentially the mirror image of what San Francisco just discarded.

What happened on Election Day symbolizes just how politically toxic the whole “defund the police” movement has become. If San Francisco — by some measures the most liberal county in the nation — could so decisively rid itself of a District Attorney who openly flouted his disdain for public safety, then the signs are ominous indeed for George Gascón. It is only a matter of time.

James R. Bozajian has served as a Calabasas City Councilmember/Mayor since 1997. He was a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney from 1990 to 2014, and is an ADDA Past President. James can be contacted at jrbozajian@earthlink.net.

Statement Regarding the Recall of SF DA Chesa Boudin

Los Angeles, June 8, 2022 – ADDA Vice President Eric Siddall issued the following statement regarding the vote overwhelmingly to recall San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

Last night, San Franciscans had the last word on George Gascón’s failed legacy as San Francisco’s District Attorney. Over the next few weeks, Angelenos will take the first steps to bring his failed term as Los Angeles’ chief prosecutor to a necessarily early end.

Chesa Boudin wasn’t recalled because he was a reformer; he was recalled because San Francisco voters rejected his defendant-centered approach to criminal justice reform. The same approach that his predecessor, George Gascón, has forced upon Los Angeles.

More than 500,000 Los Angeles County residents have already signed petitions to recall Gascón. Approximately 98% of his own deputies voted to support that grassroots effort. And thirty-four cities have voted to express their lack of confidence in Gascón and his leadership abilities. They all agree that we need to reform our criminal justice system. They desperately want a District Attorney who will do the job, protect the public, and follow the law.

Gascón Derails Quality of Life for Angelenos

By Kathleen Cady

There are essentially two types of crimes: felonies and misdemeanors (Penal Codes 18 and 19). Felonies include murder, robbery, rape and other more serious crimes. Misdemeanors are often referred to as “quality of life” crimes. All these crimes are governed by legislation passed by legislators in Sacramento. In December 2020, however, several crimes were effectively legalized in Los Angeles County when District Attorney George Gascón took office. He simultaneously swore an oath to uphold the laws of California and issued a policy that his office would not prosecute 13 misdemeanor crimes. He issued another policy that his office will never prosecute anyone under 18 who commits a misdemeanor.

Many minor violations of law, when kept in check, help ensure public safety, minimize damage to property and protect victims. Gascón’s policy does none of these things and ignores the important misdemeanor violations that improve quality of life issues for the residents of Los Angeles County. With a few narrow exceptions and supervisor approval, Gascón’s policies do not allow prosecution of: Trespass (residential and business districts); disturbing the peace; driving without a license; driving with a suspended license; public intoxication; criminal threats; being under the influence of drugs; possession of drug paraphernalia; minor in possession of alcohol; drinking in public; loitering; loitering to commit prostitution, and resisting arrest.

Generally, police present a case to the District Attorney’s office and prosecutors evaluate whether a crime was committed and if sufficient evidence exists to file criminal charges. Gascón’s policies mandate that even if a misdemeanor is committed, perhaps even caught on camera, and sufficient evidence exists to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, charges will be declined. The person will receive no consequence for the criminal action.

One recent example of the devastating consequences of Gascón’s misdemeanor policy is the widely publicized cargo thefts at the Union Pacific railroad tracks. In the past, this situation was kept in check because officers could respond to arrest people for trespassing on the tracks. However, under Gascón, thieves know they can trespass on the tracks to wait for the opportunity to break into the cargo containers and steal packages. Union Pacific employees were confronted by these thieves and threatened with crowbars. As if that were not bad enough, dozens of handguns and shotguns were among items stolen from the cargo containers. Had the District Attorney’s Office initially filed trespass charges, those responsible would have been held accountable without the crimes escalating. Union Pacific employees would not have been threatened. Perhaps most importantly, dozens of handguns and shotguns would not now be in the hands of criminals.

In addition to the above crimes that will not be prosecuted, Gascón’s policy requires that pre-plea diversion shall be presumptively given for all other misdemeanor crimes except for driving under the influence, domestic violence or stalking. When a person is diverted, they are not convicted of a crime nor are they sentenced. Instead, once they have completed diversion, the charges are dismissed. So despite Gascón’s public comments about wanting to reduce gun violence – when a person with a mental disorder or illness illegally possesses a gun, or illegally possesses a gun in violation of a domestic violence restraining order, or possesses a ghost gun (which is always illegal) – they get pre-plea diversion. To come full circle, the people who stole the guns from the Union Pacific cargo containers would likely not be held accountable, but rather would get pre-plea diversion and have the criminal charges dismissed.

Gascón’s policy deprives victims of their right to restitution

“It is the intent of the Legislature that a victim of crime who incurs an economic loss as a result of the commission of a crime shall receive restitution directly from a defendant convicted of that crime.” Penal Code 1202.4. When crime victims sustain financial loss because of the crime, for instance hit and run, theft or embezzlement, they have a constitutional right to restitution. California Constitution Article I, Section 28(b)(13). The only way victims can receive restitution, however, is when a defendant is convicted of the crime. Gascón’s policy allows for defendants to be diverted, meaning there is no conviction. If there is no conviction, there is no sentence and without a sentence, victims cannot get restitution.

Essentially, defendants are given no consequences and are provided resources for programs while victims receive nothing.

Not only are victims being left in the lurch by Gascon’s policy, but no one is monitoring the success of these diversion programs. The last time Gascon implemented this social experiment in San Francisco, it failed miserably. A 2020 report out of San Francisco analyzed diversion outcomes between 2008 and 2018, and noted that Gascon’s diversion programs were in deep trouble.

Some independent cities take action

At last count, 34 City Councils have voted “no confidence” in Gascón. Palmdale, Manhattan Beach and Whittier have gone further and asked Gascón for permission to prosecute their own misdemeanors. Inexplicably, although Gascón has abdicated his responsibility to prosecute most misdemeanor crimes, he refuses to relinquish control of misdemeanor prosecution to another agency that stands ready to take over that task.

Several city councils asked their police department to present information on how crime is impacting their communities because of Gascón’s policies. In the three examples below, the person giving the report clarified they were only reporting facts and not taking a position on Gascón. They also made clear that the officers in their department continued to work hard every day to protect the residents in their city:

On Aug. 17, 2021, Glendale Police Captain Robert William gave a presentation at the Glendale City Council meeting on the DA special directives and impacts. He shared that misdemeanors impact quality of life for residents and the business community. When officers make an arrest, they have exhausted all other resources. Ninety percent of the 825 misdemeanor arrests did not result in charges being filed solely because of Gascón’s policies. Reckless driving, speed contest (street racing), petty theft and vandalism were also not filed because Gascón’s policy required the prosecutor to proceed with diversion. Officers still make arrests for possession of illegal drugs, but charges are not filed and there are no treatment programs available. The result of Gascón’s policy is that a basic traffic ticket carries more consequences than an arrest for reckless driving or street racing.

On Oct. 12, 2021, Claremont Police Captain (now Chief) Aaron Fate gave a presentation at the Claremont City Council meeting on the DA’s special directives and enforcement challenges. Captain Fate shared that business owners have called to report trespass when someone repeatedly was sleeping near their business. Business owners are concerned their property will be damaged. Officers responded and took the person away, yet the person kept returning because no charges were filed. The same situation occurs if a person trespasses on a school. People who are under the influence of cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin or who have glass smoking pipes or needles will never be charged with a crime and officers keep coming across the same people committing the same crimes. In one instance, officers responded to a call of a naked man covered in blood, running through the streets. He was under the influence of a controlled substance, yet Gascón’s policies will not allow criminal charges to be filed. These individuals also do not receive treatment because these resources do not exist.

On May 9, 2022 Alhambra Police Chief Kelly Fraser gave a presentation to the Alhambra City Council on crime rates and case filings from 2019 through 2021. She shared that in 2020, of the 235 misdemeanor cases declined for prosecution, 98, or 41%. were declined because of Gascón’s policies. In 2021, of the 762 misdemeanor declined cases, 351, or 46%, were declined because of Gascón’s policies. Chief Fraser highlighted that the time officers spend for each misdemeanor arrest and preparing the case for criminal filing takes about 9-10 hours. The specific statistics she reported included that 19 cases of trespass were declined; 270 drug and paraphernalia possession cases were declined; and 15 resisting arrest cases were declined. Between 2021-2022, one person was arrested 30 times for narcotic violations. He was offered services 24 times, accepted 4 times but absconded all 4 times. Criminal charges were never filed.

Gascón’s continued refusal to prosecute quality of life crimes is negatively impacting Angelenos. Residents and business owners are left with no recourse when misdemeanor crimes are committed. San Francisco stores have recently closed because of retail theft, leaving folks in disadvantaged communities with fewer resources. Hopefully, Los Angeles businesses will not be forced to make similar decisions. Unfortunately, most residents of Los Angeles, who live here because of jobs, children’s schools, places of worship and other social connections, do not have the option of just picking up and moving.

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

Gascón Exploits Tragedy To Spout Political Platitudes

Los Angeles,  May 18, 2022  –  ADDA Vice President Eric Siddall issued the following statement in response to comments George Gascón made today regarding gun violence.

Today, George Gascón talked a big game about reducing gun violence but did nothing to stop it. He refuses to hold criminals caught with guns accountable. In Los Angeles, a suspect caught with an assault rifle will be released back on the streets before the arrest report is finished.

In 2021, 859 people were killed in Los Angeles County; 687 of them from gun violence. Yet, Gascón refuses to enforce laws designed to combat gun violence. Because of Gascón’s bail policy, recidivist career criminals caught with guns face a revolving courthouse door. They continue to victimize our residents. No wonder gang members toast Gascón from prison and want to tattoo his name on their forehead.

California’s gun laws are the strictest in the nation. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, Gascón refuses to enforce them. Now he has the audacity to lecture the rest of the country about the danger of gun violence. His exploitation of this tragedy to spout political platitudes is unbecoming of his office. On one thing we agree with Mr. Gascon; thoughts and prayers are not enough. Nor are press conferences.

About The ADDA

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents over 800 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.

ADDA COMPLETE LIST OF JUNE 2022 ENDORSEMENTS

ATTORNEY GENERAL OF CALIFORNIA

Anne Marie Schubert

LOS ANGELES COUNTY ASSESSOR

Jeffrey Prang

RANCHO PALOS VERDES CITY COUNCIL

Paul Seo

TORRANCE CITY COUNCIL

David Zygielbaum

LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURT – SEAT 60

Abigail Baron

Sharon Ransom

LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURT – SEAT 67

Fernanda Barreto

Ryan Dibble

LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURT – SEAT 70

Renee Chang

LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURT – SEAT 90

Leslie Gutierrez

Melissa Lyons

LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURT – SEAT 116

Judge David Gelfound

LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURT – SEAT 118

Melissa Hammond

Georgia Huerta

Keith Koyano

LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURT – SEAT 151

Karen Brako

ORANGE COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT – SEAT 30

Andrea Mader

District Attorney Gascón Deliberately Obstructs Justice for Victims

By Kathy Cady

April 24-30 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. This year’s theme is Rights, access, equity, for all victims. It underscores the importance of helping crime victims find justice by enforcing victims’ rights, expanding access to services, and ensuring equity and inclusion for all.

For crime victims in Los Angeles County, rights and access is now a rallying call. Since taking office, their elected District Attorney, George Gascón, has ignored their rights and limited their access. It is because of these actions victims of crime initiated the recall of George Gascón.

Crime Victims Have Constitutional Rights

We all know that criminal defendants have rights – we hear the Miranda admonition every time we watch a crime show.

But crime victims also have rights. (California Constitution Article I, Section 28, and Penal Code §679.02). Victims’ Constitutional Rights are known as Marsy’s Law Rights, named for Marsy Nicholas who was murdered by a former boyfriend.https://www.marsyslaw.us/marsys_story

First and foremost, victims have a right to justice and due process. (California Constitution, Article I, Section (b)). These rights are personal to each victim and apply to each case. The purpose of mandating victims’ rights is to ensure that they have a voicein the criminal justice system. (California Constitution Article I, Section 29(b)).

But rights are meaningless unless they are enforced. State law mandates prosecutors, law enforcement, and judges to faithfully protect these rights. (California Constitution Article XX, Section 3; Penal Code 679).

Over the course of Gascón’s term, he disregarded these rights and mandates. Upon taking his oath to uphold the law, he issued blanket policies ordering prosecutors to dismiss allegations in pending cases with no consideration for notifying victims as is required by law. (Special Directive 20-08). He ordered most conduct enhancements not be filed in new criminal filings. (Special Directive 21-01). He issued policies ordering prosecutors to keep all 16 and 17 year old juveniles charged with murder and other violent crimes in juvenile court, regardless of the nature of the facts of the case or record of the juvenile. (Special Directive 20-09). All of these policies ignored victims.

Victims who were given assurances that prosecutors would attend parole hearings with them, were abandoned because Gascón’s blanket policy prohibited prosecutors to participate in parole hearings. (Special Directive 20-14). Victims traumatized by crime, now must navigate the parole process alone.

Victims Have a Right to Receive Services to Help Them Heal

Victims have a right to receive services to help them heal. (Penal Code 13835(a) and Government Code 13950). For 40 years, Victim Service Representatives in the Bureau of Victim Services have been doing this important work. But “rights” are not “services.” Gascón confuses the two. Victims are traumatized by the crime. When their rights are violated, they are retraumatized by this new violation and by feeling that the criminal justice system has failed them. Gascón’s response to re-traumatizing victims by violating their rights is to offer them services. An analogy would be to deliberately violate a criminal defendants’ rights and then offer to give them therapy, rather than correcting the violation of their rights. The criminal justice system does not and should not work that way for defendants. It is offensive to treat victims that way.

When victims have been hurt by crime, they want justice and resources to help them heal. Justice means holding the offender accountable. Murder victims’ families and victims of forcible sex crimes, gang shootings, and other violent crimes usually want the defendant sent to prison for a long time so that they are safe and society is protected from further violence.

Another concern is Gascón’s appointment of Tiffiny Blacknell – a career public defender who has disparaged law enforcement and has advocated for abolishing all prisons, as the Interim Director of the Bureau of Victim Services in charge of all victim services in Los Angeles County.

Blacknell has said that she believes the entire criminal justice system needs to be dismantled. She has likened incarceration to caging people and expressed support for closing all prisons.

On one of her social media sites, Blacknell posted a picture of herself wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the following words: “THE POLICE ARE TRAINED TO KILL US.” Blacknell has called police “barbarians” and posted on a social media site, “[The police] were never supposed to protect us!!!! It’s not what they do.”

Former Prosecutors Network to Help Victims Assert Their Rights

Crime victims have a Constitutional right to have an attorney enforce their rights. California Constitution Article I, Section 28(c)(1). In January 2021, several former prosecutors started getting requests to represent crime victims whose cases were being negatively impacted by Gascón’s policies. An informal group called Marsy’s Law Attorneys formed to provide pro bono representation for victims. These attorneys can be contacted through marsyslawhelp@gmail.com.

Since January 2021, the Marsy’s Law attorneys have represented close to 300 victims. Most of these victims are next of kin and family of murder victims.

Families of murders victims have expressed that they feel abandoned by Gascón’s policies, and that their voices have been silenced. Gascón’s administration has now issued an edict that prosecutors and advocates are precluded from notifying victims about this group of former prosecutors. Gascón would even deny victims pro bono help from qualified and experienced attorneys who stand ready to help them assert their rights through the parole process.

Crime victims are now standing up against Gascón. It was crime victims who initiated the Recall DA George Gascón campaign. Victims deserve “rights, access, and equity for all victims” every day – not just during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. To honor victims’ voices and give them a forum to be heard, the Recall campaign is holding events every day during National Crime Victims’ Rights week and invite you to join us:

Monday, April 25 12 – 1 pm Pomona Courthouse

Tuesday, April 26 12 – 1 pm Hall of Justice, Los Angeles

Wednesday, April 27 12 – 1 pm Torrance Courthouse

Thursday, April 28 12 – 1 pm Antelope Valley Courthouse

Friday, April 29 12 – 1 pm Long Beach Courthouse

Saturday, April 30 Signing events throughout the County

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

Statement Regarding the Sentencing in the Case of People v. Maynor

Los Angeles,  April 19, 2022  –  ADDA Vice President Eric Siddall issued the following statement regarding the sentencing of Aariel Maynor in the shooting death of 81-year-old Los Angeles philanthropist Jacqueline Avant.

The ADDA’s injunction struck down Gascón’s illegal policies and forced him to follow the law.  It is the only reason Ms. Avant’s killer is going to state prison for 190 years.

Without that injunction, Avant’s killer would be eligible for parole in 21 years, despite his long criminal record and brutal conduct. Parole hearings not only mean a potential of early release, but they re-traumatize victims.

For Gascón now to claim that he’s responsible for today’s sentence is not only revisionist history, it’s completely false.

About The ADDA

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents over 800 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.

Thanks, But No Thanks, George Gascón

By James R. Bozajian, Calabasas City Councilmember

I am in receipt of your recent letter, inviting the Calabasas City Council to meet with you to discuss your vision for the District Attorney’s Office. For the following reasons, I must decline your request.

On the very day you assumed office, you announced a series of “reforms” seemingly designed with precision to turn the District Attorney’s Office upside-down. Your actions since then have only aggravated the negative effects of these ill-conceived measures.

You enacted these draconian policies without soliciting input from law enforcement, public officials, the general public, or even your own (experienced) prosecutors. Instead, you relied exclusively upon a cadre of hostile, extreme partisans whose sole objectives appear to have been to defund, demolish, and destroy our criminal justice system.

The ultimate result of which, simply put, is that Los Angeles County has become a vastly more dangerous place to live since you became its chief prosecutor.

Here in Calabasas, crime has soared to unprecedented heights. From 2020 to 2021, the crime rate jumped 35%. Residential burglaries doubled, leaping from 19 in 2020 to 42 in 2021. In the first two months of 2022, the crime rate has risen yet another 54%, and we have had an additional 10 residential burglaries. If the current patterns hold, then, crime in Calabasas will have doubled between 2020 and 2022, while residential burglaries will have tripled. These are the highest increases, by far, since Calabasas incorporated in 1991.

Your attitude toward serious and violent crime is epitomized by your mishandling of People v. Jeffrey Cooper (BA464633), a matter which originates out of Calabasas and has affected the lives of many in our community.

Defendant Cooper is charged with four serious/violent felonies: one count of Penal Code Section 288.7(b), oral copulation or sexual penetration by an adult of a child 10 years of age or under; and three counts of Penal Code Section 288(a), commission of a lewd or lascivious act by an adult on a child under the age of 14 years. If convicted of all charges, the defendant could be sentenced to a maximum term of 39 years to life in State Prison.

This case has languished for the past four years, having had various proceedings in court on 62 occasions. Meanwhile, Cooper is out of custody and wandering about town. The abject refusal of the District Attorney’s Office to handle this matter in a professional manner is deeply troubling, and undermines public confidence in the criminal justice system.

If the defendant here is guilty, his victims, their families, and the general public have the right to see that an appropriate punishment is exacted. Conversely, if the defendant is not guilty of these crimes, he has the right to be formally exonerated.

When I sent you a letter of inquiry about the status of the Cooper case last year, you neglected to reply. When I subsequently filed two requests pursuant to the California Public Records Act (Government Code 6250, et seq.), you arrogantly ignored them and failed to respond as required by law.

There is nothing “progressive” about endangering the welfare of the public you are sworn to protect. Your policies have jeopardized the safety of my city. You have jeopardized the safety of my city. And I therefore have no confidence in your willingness or ability to serve effectively as District Attorney.

It is abundantly clear that you are only now reaching out to local elected officials because you are in serious trouble. Which is a classic example of too little, too late. Your support has collapsed, as conservatives, liberals, and pretty much everyone in between understand the significant threats you have brought to our communities.

So, no thank you, Mr. Gascon. I will not provide you with any political “cover” to help salvage your position.

Signed,

James R. Bozajian
jrbozajian@earthlink.net
Calabasas City Councilmember (1997 to present)
Deputy District Attorney, Los Angeles County (1990 to 2014)
Past President, Los Angeles County Association of Deputy District Attorneys

COMPETENCE MATTERS: Gascón’s Incompetence and Poor Leadership Are Driving the Recall Against Him

By Eric Siddall

Leadership and competence matter when you are in charge. As George Gascón has been subjecting Los Angeles County residents to his massive social experiment, it has become painfully clear he lacks both those traits (San Francisco mayor, London Breed, tried to warn us about that). It’s this failure in leadership and competence, just as much as his short-sighted blanket policies, that has made him unfit to be Los Angeles County District Attorney.

From day one, Gascón has been more focused on political gamesmanship than on responsible or sustainable reform. His interviews are full of grandiose self-praise, inflammatory rhetoric aimed at his dissenters, and nausea-inducing absurdities (like claiming ending his ban on juveniles being tried as adults was not a “reversal” but him “continuing to evaluate” the situation). He rarely lets his guard down, but he did just that during a particularly illuminating moment in a December 2020 interview.

Fresh off winning one of the most publicized district attorney’s races in the country’s history, but still a few days before taking office, Gascón was clearly relaxed and able to speak more freely about his campaign and his future. Notably, he was on the cusp of issuing the most controversial directives in the history of the office. These directives drastically reduced consequences for virtually every criminal offense in the most populous county in the country. Knowing what he was about to implement, Gascón was questioned about his interest in higher political office. He said:

“If you look at my policy, when you see what’s coming out on Monday, you’ll say, ‘That’s the end of his political career! He’ll be a one-term DA!’”

Amidst nervous laughter, Gascón sheepishly added:

“I’m hoping not, by the way! Because the work will require more than one term, but I can tell you a lot of the people that are really close to me are very nervous [and they’re telling me] ‘Man, you’re pushing the envelope.’”

After this brief glimpse of significant insecurity, Gascón quickly pivots back to his favored disposition (self-grandiosity), and compares his endeavor to landing on the moon.

Gascón’s momentary acknowledgment of the potential massive political fallout is certainly striking for someone who “rarely expresses doubt” about his policies. What is even more striking, though, is that in this answer Gascón seems to understand the trepidation of those “really close” to him regarding his forthcoming directives. This is in stark contrast to his behavior since: vilifying and disparaging those who publicly criticize those same directives. Then again, Gascón has never really been about intellectual honesty so much as rigorous self-promotion.

Predictably, Gascón’s campaign pledges have become broken promises. You can see them here. Sixteen months into his term and we don’t have a “Crime Strategies Unit,” a “Gun Enforcement Unit,” a “Homelessness and Behavioral Health Unit” or a “Homelessness Advisory Board.” There are promises that appear to only exist as line items on his campaign website, including promising to “advocate” for creating a “Behavioral Health Justice Center,” “expanding” the “Los Angeles County Homeless Court Program,” and being “committed” to diverting money from jails to “parks in environmental deserts.” There are promises that amount to nothing more than a garbled mess of buzzwords, like “reducing eviction filings in order to help stabilize communities through cost-saving early interventions and through leveraging existing systems for support.

Gascón consistently piles on promises with all the legitimate commitment of a five-minute photo op, displaying one moment as though it is momentum. As though a to-do list is enough to get anything done.

It may be tempting to paint this recall as being about some policy disagreements, but the emptiness of these promises proves otherwise. The recall movement is rooted in Gascón’s pathological devotion to self-glorification. Over the past 16 months, this has been painfully manifesting itself through his inept policies and his incendiary words directed at anyone who disagrees with him.

Gascón’s short-lived ban on sentencing enhancements is a prime example. Sentencing enhancements are used to add custody time to crimes where the perpetrator has acted in a way that either increases the harm caused or the risk of harm, for example using a gun or causing serious physical injury. About 10 days after enacting the ban, he vigorously defended it, saying there would be no exceptions. Gascón even went so far as to say in a video interview that those who disagreed with him (including his own employees) “had a tremendous economic interest” in “continuing their journey of mass incarceration” and that the enhancements they were advocating for were “racist.

Just two days later, and under intense public pressure, Gascón abruptly retreated, evidently deciding to permit “racist” enhancements to be filed again.

Gascon’s tendency towards pomp over practicality was on display again only a few months later, when his own employees successfully won an injunction against him and his directives in Los Angeles Superior Court. There, a judge ruled that some of the most fundamental parts of his sweeping directives – including one banning his prosecutors from ever pursuing three strikes cases – violated California law. This awarded Gascón a most dubious distinction: his first official acts as district attorney were a series of commands to his own prosecutors to violate the law.

Even with the humiliation of being ordered to stop breaking the law, Gascón continued to stick by what was left of his ill-advised policy directives. And he did so despite a series of high-profile murders, follow-home robberies, and the now-infamous pictures of train tracks littered with delivery boxes. In the wake of all this terrible coverage, Gascón told CNN that those who disagree with his policies would have to wait until the next election, signaling he was going to stay the course. And he did, until Hannah Tubbs.

In that case, Tubbs violently molested a ten-year-old child in a Denny’s bathroom. Tubbs was just a few weeks away from being 18 years old at the time, but evaded capture for another eight years. In the interim, Tubbs continued to accumulate convictions in other states for battery, domestic violence, and drug possession. When Tubbs was finally brought to Los Angeles County in 2021 to face the molestation charges, Tubbs remained in juvenile court because of Gascón’s refusal to use the state law that permits requests to transfer a case from juvenile to adult court. Tubbs was then sentenced, at 26 years old, to custody time in juvenile hall and – perhaps most inexcusably – without any sex offender registration.

Gascón’s subsequent clumsy defense of the sentence was such a catastrophic embarrassment he drew condemnation across the journalistic spectrum, from Fox News to the Los Angeles Times. And, for a political party who is routinely criticized as being “soft on crime,” Gascón’s defense of the juvenile hall sentence was a gift to the opposing party. It’s no wonder that recently, when Democratic candidates for mayor of Los Angeles were asked to name something they supported about Gascón, not a single one of them dared say a positive word about him. Even progressive stalwart Kevin De León attacked one candidate for fundraising for Gascón, and then went after Karen Bass for having even shared the stage with Gascón when she announced her run for mayor, ominously saying, “you can’t run away from who you were with on day one.”

After Tubbs, Gascón was forced to reverse his hallmark ban on sending juveniles to criminal court. And while Gascón has attempted to defend some of his decisions as requiring a nuanced analysis, he can’t be bothered to give the same deference to the positions of those who may disagree with him. Like when he shamefully attempted to draw parallels between the prosecutors in the LADA’s office and officials in the Trump administration who detained children without their parents at the border. In a cheap political sleight of hand, he used the exact same language directed at those officials against his future employees, saying these prosecutors were indiscriminately keeping “kids” in “cages.” It should also come as no surprise that someone who throws around such incendiary language at his prospective employees is prone to retaliation and happily flouts civil service rules to hire political cronies.

No wonder 97.9% of his prosecutors supported his recall in a recent vote.

Remarkably, despite the reversals, the injunction, the terrible press, and his position as a political pariah, Gascón steadfastly maintains that in order to improve his relationship with his employees, it’s their responsibility to rethink things. Not his.

When the San Francisco Chronicle supported the recall of several school board members, it specifically cited competence, national embarrassment (like Gascón and the Tubbs case), and disregard for the law. As the Chronicle put it, “competence matters, even for progressives.” Gascón has been anything but competent. His flagrant disregard for the law, inept policies and his derision directed at his own employees have rendered him totally unfit to lead the office he now holds.

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.

An Expensive Political Insurance Policy

By Michele Hanisee

While running for office, George Gascón attacked Jackie Lacey’s record of declining to prosecute police officers who killed people and promised to go a step further and undo what he saw as her mistakes.

One of his first acts upon taking office was to convince the Board of Supervisors to give him more than $6 million over four years to hire outside counsel to re-examine closed cases where the District Attorney’s Office had previously cleared police officers. Gascón handpicked a criminal defense attorney named Lawrence Middleton for this purpose, deliberately ignoring the multitude of seasoned and ethical prosecutors already employed by the district attorney’s office who could have done this task at no additional expense to taxpayers.

The Middleton contract—while providing no benefit to Angelenos—did provide Gascón with something; political coverage. As Middleton was reviewing and rejecting cases previously examined and declined by prosecutors, Gascón could go back to his supporters and tell them that even Middleton did not recommend a filing. In essence, Middleton provided Gascón with political insurance on this delicate subject.

There was a slight hiccup before Middleton could start, as he was still actively representing criminal defendants. This ethical conflict of interest was resolved not by Middleton resigning from those cases, but by a judge summarily removing Middleton from representing several criminal defendants because of the “appearance of impropriety.” Middleton’s work of reviewing cases where officers in police shootings had been cleared by the highly experienced prosecutors working in the Justice System Integrity Division then commenced.

The standard of proof for any case to be filed is whether the case can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. While George Gascón erased many laws enacted by voters and the California Legislature, he cannot erase the standard of proof in criminal cases. One year and 1.5 million dollars later, Gascón’s handpicked special prosecutor has reviewed four closed cases without filing of any charges.

Gascón has now announced that no charges will be filed in two additional cases. The reason provided by Gascón in his statement was that “the burden of proof for prosecution is high.” In other words, his critique of Lacey’s decision not to file the same cases was wrong. It was a political narrative that had no factual basis. Not surprising since Gascón has never tried a single case and has no practical experience on what it takes to prove charges in court.

The question now is, how much longer will Gascon continue to bill the taxpayers to the tune of $1.5 million per year to keep Middleton on staff as his political insurance policy.

Michele Hanisee is 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.