George Gascón’s campaign promises of transparency and transformation are put to the test.
Moments after George Gascón was sworn in as the new Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney in on December 8, 2020, he enacted a special directive that changes some key parts of the local criminal justice system: ending cash bail and the death penalty, as well as, reducing sentences.
In response, Deputy District Attorneys voiced strong opposition. Jon Hatami, one of those lawyers who has been the most vocal says that Gascón makes it difficult to prosecute complex crimes with “a blanket policy for every single case without looking at all the facts.” Hatami also thinks that certain crimes should be penalized “to the fullest extent of the law” such as child murderers.
Hatami also alleges that Gascón has created a “hostile working environment” for deputy district attorneys.
“A lot of DDAs (deputy district attorneys) are really scared,” said Hatami to local TV station KABC. “They are sending people to court to monitor what we say. They are working with the public defenders and alternate public defenders to intimidate us and document what we do and what we say.”
Also in disagreement is current Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, who uses a racialized language when he explains that Gascon’s policies are “far off the reservation . . . that they’ve not been tested and that there are so many changes coming simultaneous are a recipe for absolute failure.”
Even, former LA District Attorney Steve Cooley disagrees. Cooley, who lost the California Attorney General position to Kamala Harris in 2015, calls Gascón “a George Soros puppet, and that is dangerous.” Cooley also predicts that crime and animal cruelty will escalate under the new DA.
So troubled were LA County prosecutors that they sued Gascón over the changes. The suit alleges that Gascón’s criminal justice reforms violates the oath taken by prosecutors and is inconsistent with the state’s three strikes law.
But is Gascón the changed law enforcement leader that he says he is . . .
Gascón, who met with Black Lives Matter organizers and residents whose family members were killed by police during his campaign made promises to make sweeping reforms. Some of them include having a more transparent process in how prosecutors handle cases; holding law enforcement officers accountable in using force or violence against citizens; and setting new standards on when force can be used. To carry these sweeping changes out he did not take money from police unions to remain independent.
While it appears that Gascón is holding his promise, his former colleagues when he was San Francisco’s DA, vehemently disagree. London Breed, the current mayor wrote, “Like countless others who have witnessed Gascón’s brand of ‘leadership’ up close, I have opposed his candidacy from the start, and for very simple reasons: Gascon was bad for San Francisco, and he would be bad for LA.”
In her opinion letter, she wrote that Gascón was a Republican who switched sides, and previously supported the death penalty if it was within reason. Mayor Breed also claims that he did not prosecute officers for violent behavior towards San Franciscans, and especially citizens of color; but he also voiced racist attitudes toward members of the community.
“Gascón showed how little actual Black lives matter to him,” she said recounting a story of how a young Black man from the city’s Filmore District was wrongfully accused in a shooting when Gascón was San Francisco’s DA.
Mayor Breed continued. “Eventually, the charges against the young man were dismissed, but not before his life was totally derailed. Gascón, who now portrays himself as a flagbearer for the Black Lives Matter movement, wasn’t willing to lift a finger for that young man’s Black life.”
If Mayor Breed is the canary in the coal mine, Black Lives Matter organizers says that they will do what they did to the previous district attorney, Jackie Lacey, show up at Gascón’s front door.
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