Prosecutors back efforts to recall district attorney

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Members of the association representing Los Angeles County prosecutors voted overwhelmingly in support of an effort to recall their boss, District Attorney George Gascón, the organization announced Feb. 22.

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining group for more than 800 deputy district attorneys in the county, had previously invited Gascón to speak to the organization as it considered whether to back the recall, but he declined.

The association contends that Gascón has “refused” to speak with his prosecutors since taking office to explain policies that have sparked the recall drive.

Roughly 83.3% of association members took part in the vote, with 97.9% of those who voted supporting the recall.

“This vote is by those who are intimately familiar with how Mr. Gascón’s policies actually play out on a day-to-day basis,” association President Michele Hanisee said in a statement announcing the vote. “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.”

A new effort to oust Gascón from office began in December, just months after a similar recall campaign fell short. Recall organizers must collect 566,857 signatures from registered voters in Los Angeles County by July 6 to force a recall vote.

The city councils of more than 30 cities in the county have issued “no confidence” votes involving Gascón.

He also has drawn criticism from Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck for his attempts to reform the criminal justice system.

Last September, organizers of the prior recall attempt said the effort was hampered by COVID-19 pandemic health mandates, along with a “premature start” and vowed to re-launch their bid to recall the county’s top prosecutor, who was sworn into office in December 2020.

Despite the failure of the original effort, organizers said they remained committed to recalling Gascón, who has come under fire from critics for a progressive agenda that has included directives against seeking the death penalty and dropping sentence-enhancing allegations in some criminal cases.

Gascón has repeatedly defended his policies, saying his stances were well-known during his campaign and his election signified public support of his agenda.

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys filed a lawsuit in December 2020 challenging Gascón’s directives to eliminate three-strikes allegations and some sentencing enhancements, alleging the moves are “unlawful.”

A judge ruled mostly in favor of the association last February, but subsequently put the case on hold while Gascón appeals. A trial date is scheduled to be set for the case in April.

On Feb. 18, Gascón issued a memo walking back some of his most-debated policies — bans on special-circumstance allegations that could result in life-without-parole prison terms and on transferring juvenile-defendant cases to adult court.

In the memo, Gascón noted that there “may be the rare occasion” in which special-circumstance allegations may be “necessary” that could result in a life prison term without parole in murder cases.

On Feb. 20, Gascón admitted that a policy that resulted in a transgender woman being ordered to serve two years in juvenile custody for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in a restaurant bathroom “may not” be adequate.

Gascón said he became aware after Hannah Tubbs’ sentencing about “extremely troubling statements she made about her case, the resolution of it and the young girl that she harmed.”

“While for most people, several years of jail time is adequate, it may not be for Ms. Tubbs,” Gascón said of the 26-year-old defendant who was 17 at the time of the 2014 attack in Palmdale. Tubbs’ case was handled in juvenile court as a result of a directive the district attorney issued the day he was sworn into office.

He noted that the defendant was arrested “years after the crime rather than the usual case, where a child is arrested close in time to their crime” and that Tubbs had “several charges in other counties after the juvenile offense but never received any services, which both her past behavior and that subsequent to her arrest demonstrates she clearly needs.”

 

 

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