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Liberal LA County DA Gascón backtracks on progressive guidelines amid crime wave and public backlash


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Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is backtracking on a number of sweeping progressive directives he issued when he took office in late 2020, according to a series of memos he sent to his office on Friday regarding how to handle serious crimes.

In five documents, two addressed to assistant prosecutors and the other three addressed to his entire office, Gascón conceded that he had come to accept that his policy was too rigid “after listening to the community, the victims and his colleagues”.

Shortly after taking office, he barred deputy prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, life without parole, enhanced charges for particularly heinous crimes and trying juveniles in adult court in serious cases. .

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón speaks during a press conference, Dec. 8, 2021, in Los Angeles.
(Getty Images)

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His memos on Friday waived all such guidelines except to avoid the death penalty, but critics called the measures “smoke and mirrors” and politically motivated as Gascón seeks to fend off a second recall petition after a little more than a year in power.

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“George Gascón cannot be trusted for public safety in Los Angeles,” said Jonathan Hatami, a longtime child sex crimes prosecutor with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office and an outspoken critic of Gascón.

Members of law enforcement, Gascón’s own prosecutors and others castigated his inflexible directives as a boon to criminals. In one case, a 26-year-old child molestation suspect began identifying as female following an arrest for the 2014 assault of a 10-year-old girl, prosecutors say. This suspect, Hannah Tubbs, pleaded guilty in juvenile court after Gascón’s office refused to transfer the case to adult court, and Tubbs could spend less than 24 months in a juvenile facility – alongside girls.

Gascón also noted that while exceptions to his past policies can now be requested, they will have to go up a chain of command — through new bureaucratic processes involving officials loyal to him.

Hatami said he was likely feeling the pressure of public anger over a staggering crime wave and spike in murders.

“We’re supposed to believe that he suddenly changed his whole belief system overnight? ” He asked. “He is a politician and he thinks he will be recalled and lose his job.”

Alex Bastian, Gascón’s special adviser, argued that the memos actually show the DA “is firmly committed to its principles.”

“One of those underlying principles is to constantly refine what we do so that we can continue to improve public safety in a thoughtful way,” he said Friday evening. “We are now more than a year into his tenure, he has listened to community members, victims and his colleagues. Based on everything we have learned, we are rolling out these policy adjustments.”

Hatami, who rose to prominence as the lead prosecutor in the infamous Gabriel Fernandez child abuse case, didn’t believe it.

“Make no mistake, Los Angeles,” he said. “Actions always speak louder than words. Look what Gascón has done in Los Angeles in just one year. We can’t trust him.”

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During Gascón’s first full year in office, the city of Los Angeles recorded 397 homicides, according to LAPD statistics. That’s a 14-year high.

Before being elected DA in Los Angeles County, Gascón, 67, of Cuban descent, served as San Francisco’s police chief, then succeeded Kamala Harris as San Francisco district attorney.

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