Saturday, July 16, 2022

What is Gascon's goal? Public insecurity?

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is being blasted for putting “chaos and lawlessness over public safety” by announcing he’ll fight to soften California’s three strikes law.

The progressive district attorney, who is facing a recall push, announced Thursday that a June ruling by a three-judge panel of the California Second District Court of Appeal mandating prosecutors file such cases “sets a dangerous precedent” in the Golden State.

“The court is effectively taking the charging decision out of the prosecutor’s hands — the core function of a prosecutor’s office,” Gascón said.

But a vocal critic of Gascón who supports the recall effort against his boss told The Post he was dismayed the district attorney will now “spend taxpayer money” to fight the ruling.

Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami said Gascón issued a “blanket policy” in December 2020 forbidding the filing of strike priors.

Posters from students at Mountain View High School during a press conference about the recall of Los Angeles district Attorney George Gascon and fallen officers including the two police officers that were shot and killed earlier in the week at the El Monte Police Dept.
Posters from a press conference about the recall of LA DA George Gascon.
MediaNews Group via Getty Images

“He also ordered all prosecutors to remove strike priors on any existing cases,” Hatami told The Post. “That meant child murderers, serial rapists, child molesters, sex traffickers, and police killers who were career criminals, we couldn’t use the law, look at the evidence, or even ask for an exception, we had to remove any strike priors from existing cases, and not allege them on new cases.”

Hatami is accusing Gascón of “being guided by politics” rather than justice.

“Someone who has accepted chaos and lawlessness over public safety and doing the right thing,” Hatami said.

Los Angeles County officials, meanwhile, announced Thursday that a random sampling of the 715,000-plus signatures filed in the recall campaign against Gascón had passed the first certification hurdle. A full review of the signatures must be completed by Aug. 17.

Olga Garcia, mother of slain officer Joseph Santana walks past a poster of suspect Justin Flores as she spoke during a press conference about the recall of Los Angeles district Attorney George Gascon
Olga Garcia, mother of slain officer Joseph Santana, walks past a poster of suspect Justin Flores as she spoke during a press conference about the recall of Gascon.
MediaNews Group via Getty Images

“George – you are one step closer to losing your job!” Hatami tweeted Thursday in response to the development. “Angelenos-we are one step closer to bringing back public safety, accountability, reasonable reforms, transparency, empathy, compassion, law, and justice for all!”

Gascón, meanwhile, said the state’s three-strike law “imposed draconian penalties” on defendants previously convicted of certain prior felonies, leading them to be subjected to sentences more than twice as long. Anyone convicted of two or more prior felonies typically receives sentences of 25 years to life in state prison.

The June ruling also forces prosecutors in California to “ignore important research” showing longer prison sentences don’t equate to increased public safety, according to the embattled district attorney.

“These policies increase recidivism rates, have little-to-no deterrent effect and keep people in prison long after they pose any safety risk to their community,” Gascón said.

The three strikes law also disproportionately impacts minorities, he said, noting that nearly 93% of people sent to prison in Los Angeles County are people of color.

Gascón said he was “now taking the fight for fairness and rationality” to the California Supreme Court, claiming prosecutorial power belongs to the executive branch under the state’s Constitution — “and therefore, to the prosecutor’s office.”

“The Constitution further delegates to district attorneys the power to decide whether to institute criminal proceedings within their respective jurisdictions,” Gascón said. “That discretion includes the power to determine what charges to bring, and which sentencing enhancements to allege. Courts cannot take that power away.”

Gascón, who took office in late 2020, has endured mounting criticism for his progressive policies, including a rule against seeking the death penalty, a ban on transferring juvenile suspects to adult court and prohibitions on filing sentencing enhancements in most cases. The earliest date a recall election could be held is Nov. 8.

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