Governor Brown’s “Get Out of Jail Free” Approach

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Governor Brown’s “Get Out of Jail Free” Approach

By Michele Hanisee

As Governor Brown enters his final years in office, legislation he has proposed, signed and vetoed in the past year make it crystal clear he wants convicted criminals to serve as little time as possible. Three changes in the criminal justice system illustrate his beliefs.

First is Prop 57 which the Governor wrote and campaigned for via extensive expenditure of time and money, yet does nothing to address recidivism. As we blogged about extensively, this proposition drastically shortened sentences to be served by convicted criminals. The goal of shortening sentences was accomplished by allowing the Parole Board to disregard sentence enhancements which had been imposed to reflect the severity of both violent and non-violent crime that criminals had committed.

Next is SB 620, a bill the Governor just signed which altered sentence enhancements for those who were found by a judge or jury to have used a gun in the commission of a crime. While the Governor eagerly signed six bills in 2016 restricting gun and ammunition sales, he doesn’t want those who actually use a gun in a crime to face the mandatory gun enhancements, so he signed SB 620 which removed the requirement that enhancements be imposed for using a gun in a crime.

Lastly is AB 1408, which passed the Legislature unanimously and made some common sense reforms to AB 109. The reform that caught the Governor’s ire and prompted his recent veto restricted parole violators to only three “10-day flash incarcerations” before a petition to violate parole had to be filed. The Governor denounced the idea as a “three strikes and you’re out approach,” preferring to allow repeated failures on parole without meaningful sanction. His veto message was pathetic and failed to address the merits of the legislation.

That is, of course, if the AB 109 violators can even be located by local probation officers; a perusal of the “most wanted list” from the LA County Probation Department is comprised of page after page of AB 109 parole absconders.

Governor Brown has in the past claimed that he seeks to make the criminal justice “more human, more just, and more cost-effective.” It appears the Governor is eagerly pursuing the “cost-effective” portion of his statement by reducing punishment for crime in every way possible. But it will be victims who pay the price.

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.
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Outright Lies Grease Passage of Bill That Eliminates Mandatory Gun Enhancements

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Outright Lies Grease Passage of Bill That Eliminates Mandatory Gun Enhancements

By Michele Hanisee & Eric Siddall

Regardless of how you feel about the legislation, we are disturbed, and every legislator should be disturbed, that a witness called to testify in support of Senate Bill 620 told multiple lies to the California Senate. Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition sat next to the bill author, Senator Steven Bradford, as she addressed the Public Safety Committee on April 25, 2017. McGill claimed, “one case in particular, stands out” to exemplify the unfairness of mandatory gun enhancements and then detailed the “facts” of a robbery case involving Travis Manning.

Ms. McGill testified that Manning was a 19-year-old man who had never been arrested. According to McGill, he entered a GameStop, asked for a $100 game while holding a BB gun, and then took the same game back to GameStop a month later, not understanding the consequences of his act. McGill claimed the sentencing judge “stated under California law he could not make any adjustments due to Travis’ cognitive disabilities or his lack of a past criminal record.” PBS NewsHour, relying upon McGill and Senator Bradford’s information, repeated these statements in a story where Manning was made the “poster child” for SB 620.

The actual facts show McGill lied to the Senate Committee. On the day he robbed the GameStop, Manning was a 23-year-old convicted felon. His criminal history included possession of cocaine base for sale. The jury found — and it was affirmed on appeal — that Manning pulled out and cocked a real gun while committing the robbery. Manning did not request a “$100 game” as McGill testified but demanded and received a Wii console, games, accessories, as well as the $600-700 in the cash register.

Ms. McGill also did not tell the truth about Manning’s actions after the robbery. He did not take the “same game” back to GameStop. Instead, on two separate occasions Manning sold portions of the stolen loot to another GameStop store. This was not a misunderstood youth. Mr. Manning was a felon who after committing robbery then committed a burglary by entering a business to sell property he had stolen at gunpoint. The connection was finally made when the store clerks from two different locations independently identify Manning.

Finally, Ms. McGill was dishonest in her description of the judge’s remarks which she embellished to support her key point–that inflexible sentencing laws led to Manning’s sentence. Clearly the judge never claimed he could not adjust the sentence despite Manning’s “lack of a past criminal record,” since Manning did have a prior record at the time he committed the robbery. Mr. Manning was on active probation with a prior felony conviction (Case number MA029937) when he committed the robbery and that led to his being charged and convicted of being a felon with a firearm. (Case number TA095435)

Equally importantly, the sentence length proved McGill was dishonest when she purported to quote the judge. This is the point that first caused us to take notice of her claims. As Ms. McGill was weaving her tale about the judge’s statement, anybody who understands sentencing laws (be they prosecutor, defense attorney, or legislator sitting on the Public Safety Committee) should have instantly recognized without even knowing the facts of the case that McGill’s tale did not ring true.

The sentence length for the crimes charged reflected that the judge had selected the longer of possible terms for Manning’s sentence. California law allowed the sentencing judge to run Manning’s convictions for two robberies and a burglary concurrently, resulting in a shorter prison sentence than the 18 years imposed. Instead, the sentence length reflected consecutive sentences, emphatically disproving McGill’s recitation that the sentencing judge stated California law precluded a reduced sentence length.

We believe that McGill’s misstatements were deliberate and calculated. According to her own words when she testified, she was involved in the Manning case before his trial and sentencing. Ms. McGill stated to the committee that she helped Manning get a new lawyer pending trial, “packed the court,” and coordinated the presentation of “several powerful testimonies” at sentencing.

It is shocking that Ms. McGill felt comfortable sitting next to Senator Bradford while calmly uttering false statements during public testimony to a Senate Committee. Also alarming is that when the ADDA contacted PBS reporter Kamala Kelkar to request a correction of her inaccurate story, we were informed that Senator Bradford’s office repeated McGill’s false statements about Manning, including the absurd claim that he had no prior record. Didn’t the Senator or anybody on his staff wonder how Manning was convicted of being a felon in possession of a gun if he had never been convicted of a prior felony? Why didn’t the Senator or his staff verify any of the facts of the case they chose to use as the “poster child” for the need to overturn mandatory gun enhancements? The information is, after all, public record.

Criminal justice reform advocates who wish to take the system to task should remember that in criminal trials, the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, and that everything is documented in the public record. If you misrepresent the facts that are in the public record, we will know. This sordid episode points out the need for legislators and the media to carefully vet the stories and ideas being peddled in furtherance of “criminal justice reform.”

Michele Hanisee is President and 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. To contact a Board member, click here.

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