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.

Gascón’s Ignorance on Allegations and Enhancements Leads to Injustice and Endangers Public Safety

By Kathy Cady

Violent criminals hurt individuals and endanger the public. California law allows sentencing enhancements/allegations to be filed when the criminal also inflicts great bodily injury (Penal Code 12022.7), uses a deadly weapon (Penal Code 12022(b)(1)), uses a gun (Penal Code 12022.53), commits the crime for the benefit of a gang (Penal Code 186.22), or when they have prior felony convictions for crimes of violence (Penal Code 667(a)(1) and 1170.12).

Allegations show the gravamen of the offense. Filing an allegation affects the bail that is set and can also affect the sentence a defendant receives upon conviction. Although the law allows allegations and enhancements to be charged, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón’s misguided policies do not. He believes the “statutory ranges” are sufficient to protect public safety. Many crimes have statutory ranges, which are often called a sentencing triad. Murder, however, does not have “statutory ranges.” Experienced prosecutors know this. Gascón, having never actually prosecuted a case, apparently did not.

Gascón’s ill-advised policies have been wreaking havoc on public safety. He has abandoned murder victims’ families. His blind devotion to “reform” the criminal justice system has been an abject failure because nothing is actually better since he took office. The families of 9-year-old Trinity and 53-year-old Fatima Johnson know firsthand the devastation that Gascón’s policies have created.

Prior Conviction Allegations

On March 1, 2019, Trinity was brutally beaten, tortured, and dumped dead on the side of the road as if she were trash. Trinity’s mother, Taquesta Graham, and her mother’s boyfriend, Emiel Lamar Hunt, are charged with her murder. Hunt has a prior record. In 2005, Hunt physically abused his 3-year-old son who almost died and had to be put on life support. Hunt was convicted and sentenced to 12 years for this crime.

The law requires prosecutors to allege prior convictions, so Hunt’s prior conviction was alleged in Trinity’s case. From December 7, 2020, until February 8, 2021, Gascón’s policies required prosecutors in Los Angeles County to ask judges to dismiss prior conviction allegations. On February 8, 2021, Judge James Chalfant determined Gascón’s blanket policy mandating dismissal of allegations without legal justification was unlawful. Unfortunately, the allegation of Hunt’s prior conviction was dismissed one week after Gascón took office, before his policy was determined to be unlawful.

After Judge Chalfant issued his ruling, Gascón doubled down and ordered that prosecutors could not ask judges to reinstate allegations that had been dismissed even if the only reason they were dismissed was because of his unlawful policy. Because of that, the trial prosecutor in Trinity’s case is precluded from asking the judge to reinstate Hunt’s prior conviction for abusing his son. If his prior conviction were alleged, his sentence could be longer than Graham’s. As it stands now, both defendants face the same punishment for murdering Trinity, even though the mom’s boyfriend has this prior felony conviction. Trinity deserves to have Hunt’s conviction alleged because the law requires it. Justice demands it, but Gascón’s absurd policies don’t allow it.

Special Circumstance Allegations in Murder Cases

The law allows special circumstance allegations to be filed in murder cases. Penal Code 190.2 Multiple murder is a special circumstance that can be alleged when a defendant has killed more than one person. The effect of a special circumstance is that the defendant can be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Not filing special circumstances means that the defendant will be eligible for parole.

On July 2, 2021, the body of mother and grandmother Fatima Johnson was found bound and gagged in her South Los Angeles home. Her boyfriend, Darryl Collins, is charged with her murder. Collins is the poster child for recidivism. In 1992, he was convicted of attempted robbery, sentenced to prison and given another chance. In 1998, he committed a string of armed robberies during which he killed two people on two separate dates. He was given a plea deal of 50 years to life for two counts of murder. After serving 25 years in custody, he was eligible for Youth Offender Parole (Penal Code 3051). The Parole Board made a disastrous decision and granted him parole, giving him a third chance. Less than one year after being released, Collins brutally bound, gagged and murdered Fatima Johnson. Collins is now 51 years old. In 20 years, he will qualify for Elder Parole (Penal Code 3055) regardless of whether his sentence is 25 to life or 85 to life. Collins is a serial killer. His conduct has earned him a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. The public deserve to be protected from Collins. The law allows for special circumstances to be filed when the defendant has committed multiple murders, and the facts of this case demand it.

On February 18, 2022, after more than one year of requiring prosecutors to dismiss special circumstances that were alleged when he took office and never allowing special circumstance allegations to be filed, Gascón has had an epiphany and now states “I understand there may be the rare occasion where the filing of special circumstance allegations may be necessary … in an extremely limited number of cases where the underlying facts are extraordinary and/or the victims are uniquely vulnerable.”
Not to overstate it, but duh.

That’s why they are called special circumstances. Perhaps Gascón’s complete lack of experience in prosecuting cases gave him the impression that special circumstance allegations were common. Unfortunately, murder victims whose voices have been permanently silenced and their families whose cases have been undermined in the last 14 months have no recourse for Gascón’s ignorance and ill-informed policies. Going forward, murder victim’s families have to hope that Gascón thinks their case is “extraordinary” or that their loved one was “uniquely vulnerable.” Alternatively, Gascón could just follow the law he swore an oath to uphold and allow prosecutors with experience and expertise to file Special Circumstances when the facts and circumstances warrant.

Allegations and Enhancements Affect Bail

The California Constitution (Article I, Section 28(f)(3)) requires that the protection of the public, the safety of the victim, the seriousness of the offense, the prior record of the defendant and the probability of his or her appearing in court be considered in setting bail. The safety of the victim and the victim’s family must be considered in setting bail (Article I, Section 28(b)(3)). The courts have a bail schedule which sets presumptive bail for each crime and allegation.

Enter the insidious interplay of Gascón’s policy regarding allegations and his policy regarding pretrial release. Despite the Constitution, Gascón’s policy is that deputy district attorneys shall not request cash bail for any misdemeanor, non-serious felony, or nonviolent felony offense. Some crimes only become serious or violent when an allegation or enhancement, such as use of a weapon or inflicting great bodily injury is charged. Gascón’s policies, however, precludes filing those allegations. Without the filed allegations, prosecutors cannot ask judges to set bail resulting in dangerous criminals being released.

Los Angeles County residents are endangered because our elected district attorney has enacted policies that violate the laws of California. We need a prosecutor who enforces the laws, protects the public and honors victims’ rights.

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

ADDA Members Overwhelmingly Support George Gascón Recall

Los Angeles, February 22, 2022 – 97.9% percent of the front-line prosecutors tasked with implementing George Gascón’s policies voted to support his recall. The vote came after Gascón refused an invitation to address the prosecutors of his office to explain and defend his policies and provide his arguments why he should not be recalled.

“This vote is by those who are intimately familiar with how Mr. Gascón’s policies actually play out on a day-to-day basis. We believe the vote of our members will resonate with the voters of Los Angeles as they decide whether to recall Gascón from office and restore public safety as the priority of the District Attorney’s office,” commented ADDA President Michele Hanisee.

Mr. Gascón previously participated in a scripted meeting with Public Defenders. Since taking office, the District Attorney has refused to speak directly with deputies to explain his policies.

“Over a year ago, Gascón began a massive social experiment by redirecting prosecutorial resources away from enforcing the law while simultaneously ignoring large portions of the penal code. The result is an emboldened criminal element that knows the DA will not hold criminals accountable. This experiment needs to end,” said ADDA VP Eric Siddall.

With 83.3% participation, voter turnout exceeds all previous ADDA elections.

This ADDA vote occurs after more than 30 cities within the County of Los Angeles have issued votes of no confidence in the District Attorney. In addition, multiple cities have begun the process of seeking to prosecute misdemeanors within their jurisdictions due to the policies of the District Attorney, prosecutions currently handled by ADDA members.

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.

Gascón Refuses to Meet

Los Angeles, February 9, 2022 – The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA), representing over 800 Deputy District Attorneys of Los Angeles County, invited District Attorney George Gascón to speak to the membership in a virtual town hall event to explain why he should not be recalled. That invitation was declined.

The District Attorney ran on a promise of transparency. It is clear from his actions today that this promise was merely a political platitude. Unfortunately, his refusal to meet with his own deputies is consistent with the secrecy with which he manages his administration.

Not surprising from a man who rarely shows up to his own office.

No competent elected official should be afraid of answering questions. While we are surprised that Mr. Gascón chose to decline our invitation to make his case as to why he should not be recalled, the ADDA will proceed on a vote.

Our call for a membership vote on this nonpartisan question was made out of our respect for the democratic process. Our invitation to the District Attorney was intended to give him an opportunity to defend the wisdom of policies. Our goal was to ensure that our membership’s decision-making process was deliberative and transparent.

This call for a vote was not made in haste. Already, more than 30 cities within Los Angeles County issued votes of no confidence in the District Attorney. In addition, multiple cities are exploring options to avoid Gascón’s no prosecution policy on quality-of-life crimes.

The Deputy District Attorneys of Los Angeles are intimately familiar with how the District Attorney’s policies have impacted our office, our law practices, the victims with whom we work, and the safety of the communities in which we live. We are confident that our upcoming membership vote on the recall will be valuable for the voters of Los Angeles as they decide this issue.

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 Members to Vote on George Gascón Recall

Los Angeles, February 4, 2022 – The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA), representing over 800 deputy district attorneys of Los Angeles County, will hold a membership vote on whether to endorse the recall of District Attorney George Gascón.

The ADDA believes that this important question must be answered in a fair, transparent, and democratic manner. In that spirit, we have given the District Attorney the opportunity to speak directly to the membership and answer their questions.

We look forward to this important exchange.

Here is the link to our invitation to District Attorney Gascón.

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.

The Lemon Lawyer

By Ryan Erlich

If you buy a new car in California and it doesn’t work, the state’s Lemon Law compels the carmaker to fix it, replace it, or buy it back.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had something like that for local politicians?

Here’s why I ask..

I’ve been a deputy district attorney for almost ten years. And in that time, I’ve talked with a lot of people about what I do.

Most of them don’t work in the criminal justice system. They’re artists, waiters, teachers, writers, nurses, librarians, barbers, pastors, and moms and dads with other things on their minds. They all ask questions, mostly about the cases we handle in court. I blame this on true crime podcasts and TV shows.

Until this year, those questions usually began with “who” or “what” or “when” or “how,” like “what was your craziest case?” or “how was it solved?

But since George Gascon became Los Angeles County’s District Attorney, more are asking questions that begin with “why.” And I don’t mean “why does crime happen?” or “why do we need prisons?”

Now, they’re asking “why are things so much worse now than they were a year ago?” “Why did I vote for this guy?” “Why do I still live in Los Angeles?

The people asking these questions are frustrated, mad, and afraid. They also regret not paying more attention to the 2020 District Attorney’s race when they had the chance.

And despite what Gascon and his political team say, these folks are not right-wingers or reactionary Republicans. Most of them are politically left-of-center. Some are proud, self-described progressives. All care deeply about social justice and racial equity.

Their anger is not irrational.

Many of them — including many of my friends — voted for Gascon because they believed, in the post-George Floyd / Black Lives Matter era, that he would prosecute “killer cops” who unlawfully used force against people of color.

And they felt good about casting that vote. Because, in their minds, a vote for Gascon and the brand of criminal justice reform he claimed to represent was an easy way — the easiest, in fact — for well-intentioned moderate and left-of-center voters like them to demonstrate allyship and continued political support for a nationwide movement that, at its core, stands for equal justice and righting past wrongs.

What they didn’t know was that Gascon hardly ever did that when he was San Francisco’s District Attorney. (See Mario Woods & Luis Gongora Pat.) In fact, his failure to do it made him so politically unpopular that he couldn’t run for reelection in 2019. His political toxicity was also one of the reasons he stepped down (read: quit) before his term ended.

They also didn’t know that Gascon’s claim that he “reduced violent crime in every leadership position [he’d] held” was false. Under Gascon’s “leadership,” overall reported crime in San Francisco increased 43% (32% per capita), property crime increased by 48% (37% per capita), violent crime by 11% (3.5% per capita), and arsons by almost 70% (57% per capita). When Gascon took office in January 2011, San Francisco’s per capita crime rate was 60% higher than the statewide rate; by 2019, it was 130% higher. Just last month, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors declared the city’s Tenderloin district to be a disaster area, thanks to policies Gascon championed as DA, including Proposition 47. And in his first full year as Los Angeles’ District Attorney, Gascon hasn’t lived up to his campaign promise to “make our neighborhoods safer.” In the City of Los Angeles, homicides are at a 15-year high. In Sheriff-policed areas, they’re up 47%. Violent crime has increased in both jurisdictions.

What they also didn’t know was that in his first five minutes as Los Angeles County’s District Attorney, Gascon would issue a series of blanket, quasi-illegal directives that would disproportionately harm the same communities that they sought to support with their votes. And they certainly didn’t seek out or sign up for the increase in crime that has inevitably followed.

It’s this disconnect between what Gascon promised (prosecuting “killer cops”) and what he has delivered (lawlessness and disorder) that has left so many people feeling like they’ve been taken for a ride. Because they have.

And now they aren’t just asking “why.” They are screaming it.

Why do we feel unsafe in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our cities?

Why has the violence become so random, so vicious, so pervasive, and so widespread?

Why has George Gascon refused to accept responsibility for any of it?

Why won’t he use every law and tool at his disposal to tame gun and gang violence?

Why hasn’t he fought or lobbied to make more resources available for those suffering from mental illness?

Why doesn’t he do more to help recently released prisoners successfully adapt to the most stressful and psychologically disorienting era in recent memory?

Why does he send weekly fundraising emails to political supporters, but won’t roll out a plan — any plan — to crack down on illegal firearms?

And why, despite all evidence to the contrary, does he believe that his first year as District Attorney was a success?

Why?

They’re also starting to ask another question: “What can we do about it?”

And that brings us back to California’s Lemon Law.

In November 2020, many Angelenos bought — with their votes — a very expensive “car” that just won’t work, doesn’t work, hasn’t worked, and maybe never will work. It’s sitting in the District Attorney’s office and earning an annual salary of $372,000 plus benefits.

They’re tired of making the payments, no matter their politics or party.

They’re begging for repairs, asking for a refund, and searching for a replacement.

So, again, wouldn’t it be great if we had something like the Lemon Law for local politicians?

Ryan Erlich is a Deputy District Attorney and a Director 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.

Running the Office into the Ground

By Eric W. Siddall

Often questioned about his lack of prosecutorial experience, George Gascón has compared running the District Attorney’s Office to managing an airline. Experience? Expertise? They don’t matter. What matters—according to Gascón —is his management credentials.

And after one year, the Gascón administration does feel a bit like a domestic airline. Terrible service. No trust. Low employee morale. Chaotic. The feeling of being abandoned.

Los Angeles is increasingly becoming unsafe. Yet, the DA has no plan to confront this problem. Between 2019 to 2021, gun-related homicides increased 63 percent in Los Angeles County. Instead of combating this scourge by using state law-authorized gun penalties, Gascón ordered his prosecutors not to. Less than 24 hours after the brutal murder of an elderly woman by a felon with a gun, he sent out a fundraising letter touting his commitment to eliminating gun enhancements.

The surge in gun crimes is part and parcel of a broader surge in gang violence. Yet, not only has Gascón directed his prosecutors not to file gang conduct enhancements, but he eliminated half of the division’s prosecutors. He diverted the group of attorneys with the deepest expertise on gangs to units designed to speed up the released of violent convicts.

Despite evidence that criminals are exploiting Gascón’s zero-bail policy, he refuses to ensure dangerous offenders are held accountable for crimes committed while they are out on zero-bail. Felons caught with firearms are released almost immediately from custody, despite often having been arrested multiple times with guns. They are only held accountable when the situation escalates – that is, once they shoot or kill someone.

Theft offenders are on a continuous conveyer belt: arrested, released, repeat. Again, there is minimal effort by Gascón to hold them accountable. Not only does his policy require prosecutors seek zero bail, but when a repeat offender comes back on a new arrest, prosecutors are forbidden to hold them to account for committing a new offense while out on zero-dollar bail.

Sheriff Villanueva has such serious concerns about the District Attorney’s policies, he redirected a murder case to federal prosecutors. His logic clearly reflected not a lack of confidence in the line prosecutors, but a lack of trust in the DA to appropriately charge. And the sheriff is not the only law enforcement officer who has asked for federal assistance because of a lack of confidence in the DA.

Confidence in Gascón is in short supply. In fact, thirty-one cities voted no confidence on his policies. One of them, Manhattan Beach is willing to pay an additional $300,000 to not have the District Attorney prosecute its misdemeanor cases. Again, this reflects not a lack of confidence in the line prosecutors assigned to handle their cases, but a lack of confidence in Gascón himself.

In December 2021, Union Pacific—a critical player in the fragile US supply chain—sent a letter to Gascón. They implored him to reconsider his policies that have resulted in a 160 percent increase in rail theft in Los Angeles County. Typical to Gascón’s management approach, no response. Classic airline management. It is now being reported that Union Pacific is examining alternative routes to avoid having to rely on the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.

Angelenos don’t have that luxury. We can’t just reroute our lives.

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.

Will Gascon’s ‘Policy Considerations’ Turn a Murderer into a Millionaire

By Kathleen Cady

In 1997 defendant Kenji Howard was convicted of murder of Arkett Mejia, attempted murder of Travon Johnson and two others, and shooting at an occupied vehicle. Recently, the conviction was overturned because of “new” evidence, essentially a statement by his co-defendant who has nothing to lose. On December 2, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office announced that they would not retry the defendant because of policy considerations and resource constraints.

Wait. What? Murder is the most serious violent crime and the DA’s office won’t retry this case using policy and resources as an excuse? Arkett and Travon aren’t worth it? The result of the District Attorney’s action is that the defendant is no longer “convicted.” He can now legally purchase firearms and ammunition. The defendant has been given a hero’s welcome by his gang. When he applies for a job, there will be no criminal history flag giving employers a warning about what he did.

For Kenji Howard, a lot has changed because of District Attorney George Gascón’s reprehensible action. What hasn’t changed is that Arkett Mejia and Travon Johnson are still dead and their families still miss them every day, especially on holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

On March 17, 1995, 16-year-old Kenji Howard and co-defendant Edward Powell were both members of the “Blood” Limehood Piru Street Gang. At Dockweiler Beach, they followed friends Landon Martinez, Gail Lewis, Travon Johnson and Arkett Mejia, none of whom were gang members, as they drove home from the beach.

Powell pulled up next to Martinez’ car. People in Powell’s car flashed gang signs and gunshots were fired at Martinez’ car. Arkett, who was on leave from the Air Force to attend her parents 25th anniversary, was shot and died immediately. Travon Johnson was also shot. He lived for 18 years in a coma before he died as a result of being shot. Witnesses described seeing shots from the seat where Howard was sitting. Howard admitted shooting a gun out the window.

Howard was charged, and because he was 16-years-old, he had a “fitness hearing” as the law required in 1995. Under Welfare and Institutions Code 707, a judge determined that Howard should be moved from juvenile court and tried in criminal court. In 1997, a jury found Howard guilty of one count of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder, and shooting at occupied vehicle. Powell was also convicted of murder based on aiding and abetting.

On July 13, 2021, a judge granted Howard’s habeas corpus petition based on newly discovered evidence and the conviction was reversed. The ”new” evidence was a confession by Powell that he was the shooter. Powell’s attorney, however, told the judge that Powell would assert his 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refuse to testify in Howard’s retrial.

Although a judge previously ruled at the defendant’s “fitness hearing” that the defendant should be tried in criminal court, the law changed and Howard is now entitled to a “transfer hearing” where a judge would decide again if the defendant should be tried in adult court.

Enter Gascón’s politics.

On December 2, the prosecutor was directed by Chief Deputy Sharon Woo to read the following language into the record when announcing the office would not retry Howard: Howard “was a minor at the time of this offense. It is the policy of District Attorney George Gascón not to pursue transfer hearings to adult court. Accordingly, this matter will remain in juvenile court.”

“In weighing the evidentiary challenges of proceeding to an adjudication [juvenile court trial] and the reality that no additional penalties can be imposed, the District Attorney’s Office has concluded that its current resource constraints and overarching policy considerations and broad discretion favor dismissal of this matter.

“The District Attorney determines how best to represent society’s interest in prosecuting criminal offenses. Here the interest of justice and society’s interest as represented by District Attorney Gascón are best served by allocating the limited resources of the District Attorney’s Office to more critical needs.”

Really? Resource constraints, policy considerations, and the district attorney’s discretion mean that a charge of murder won’t be pursued when the defendant admitted he shot the gun that killed the victims?

Society has an interest in holding people accountable. Society has an interest in knowing that a background check would reveal that his criminal history when he applies for jobs. Society has an interest in making sure gang members who have admitted shooting a gun that resulted in death can’t buy guns or ammunition. Even if the district attorney’s office decided that they would follow the blanket Youth Justice policy and not pursue a transfer hearing to adult court or seek any additional punishment, society has an interest in ensuring justice is served. Victims want to know that the man who murdered their loved one is held accountable.

As if dismissing the charges wasn’t bad enough, the defense is now asking for a finding of factual innocence (Penal Code 851.8). While this is certainly an appropriate remedy for someone who is factually innocent, it is an outrageous outcome for someone who admitted shooting that resulted in the death of two innocent people. The burden is on the wrongfully convicted person to prove their innocence by a preponderance. The People may present evidence which would essentially be the same evidence and would take the same time as retrying the case. This is the same evidence which the district attorney’s office has claimed they can’t present because of “resource constraints.” If the people do not present evidence, it is likely that the court would have no choice but to find the defendant factually innocent. If that occurs, the defendant is entitled to receive $140 a day from the California Victim Compensation Board (Govt. Code 4904). Given that he has served over 25 years in custody, he could be awarded over $1.2 million from the Victim Compensation Board in addition to being able to sue Los Angeles County for millions more. This money isn’t free — the money from the Victim Compensation Board would then not be available to actual crime victims, like Arkett’s and Travon’s families. Any civil recovery ultimately is paid by the taxpayers. The civil statute of limitations, however, precludes the victims’ families from suing the defendant. Because the District Attorney didn’t want to expend resources retrying the defendant, the victims are concerned that the District Attorney’s office will not want to expend resources defending a factual innocence claim, effectively making Howard a millionaire.

The families of Arkett Mejia and Travon Johnson are devastated. They feel abandoned by the District Attorney. They deserve an elected prosecutor who seeks justice and recognizes that expending resources on prosecuting murder cases is in society’s interests.

Kathleen Cady began her career as a prosecutor in 1989 and retired in 2019. She is one of several former prosecutors who are providing pro bono assistance to crime victims in response to George Gascón’s policies.