George Gascon, LA County’s New Top Prosecutor, Announces Sweeping Changes

George Gascon, LA County district attorney

After being sworn in Monday as Los Angeles County’s 43rd district attorney, George Gascon announced that his office would no longer pursue the death penalty, try juveniles as adults, seek cash bail for misdemeanor and non-serious, non-violent felonies, or add gang enhancements to criminal complaints.

“We will work to correct the injustices of the past,” Gascon said. “This is how, in a state that led the way in `tough on crime,’ California can lead `forgive now’ and turn the tide of mass incarceration and start anew.”

In addition to working to resentence prisoners on death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole, Gascon said his office would reevaluate sentencings in thousands of cases that include gang and other enhancements. His prosecutors will no longer file gang or three-strike allegations and will dismiss those allegations on pending matters.

“Experts estimate that at least 20,000 people sentenced to prison from L.A. County are serving sentences far longer than they would receive under the charging policies I announced today,” Gascon said, putting that total at one-fifth of the state’s prison population.

“Punishment must be proportional and in the community’s best interest,” he said during remarks livestreamed after his swearing-in ceremony.

Gascon said he will prioritize individuals for resentencing who have already served excessive sentences, are convicted of non-violent crimes, are deemed low-risk for release and those who are especially at risk for COVID-19.

While it’s not clear how he plans to pay for such a massive undertaking, Gascon contends that the work will ultimately save taxpayers money.

“It will also save California taxpayers billions of dollars,” Gascon said. “Billions of taxpayer resources that can be put back into our communities, into public health, housing and education — the solutions that actually enhance long-term health and safety for our community.”

He said the process will include input from victims.

Anyone sentenced to prison as a child will also be on that priority list, Gascon said, after pledging that his prosecutors will no longer seek to try minors as adults, effective immediately.

Even more work is ahead for local prosecutors, as Gascon said attorneys for any defendant behind bars awaiting trial for a misdemeanor or non- serious, non-violent felony charge could immediately request a hearing to revisit bail. The new D.A. said his office would not contest such requests for release, which he anticipated would involve hundreds of people.

“Our system of money bail is as unsafe as it is unjust,” Gascon said, “How much money you have in your bank account is a terrible proxy for dangerousness.”

He promised that his office would also present a plan by January to eliminate cash bail.

“It will reinvigorate the presumption of innocence in L.A. County,” he said.

Gascon’s election marks the beginning of a new era after Jackie Lacey’s eight-year tenure. He began his remarks talking about his first law enforcement job.

“It was 40 years ago that I walked my first beat as a young Los Angeles police officer. I still remember to this day the first day that I put a uniform on. I was so proud,” Gascon recalled.

But over his career as an officer, he said he found himself arresting young men who looked familiar to him, because he had taken their father or uncle or brother into custody years earlier.

“How, with all the resources that we pour into arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating, how do we fail multiple generations of the same families?” Gascon said, noting that the “phenomenon was visited exclusively on these disadvantaged communities.”

The answer, he said, is that “America is addicted to drugs” across racial lines but “the painful truth is that the disadvantaged kids that get caught tend to go to juvenile hall, while kids in wealthier communities tend to go to rehab.”

Putting kids in detention perpetuates a cycle that does not promote public safety, but increases the likelihood that they will commit more crimes, he said.

The new district attorney pointed again and again to racial inequities in the criminal justice system.

At one point, he asked his listeners to imagine their ideal safe neighborhood.

“I imagine that most of you will imagine a neighborhood with parks, playgrounds and manicured lawns, with kids playing and after-school programs,” Gascon said. “I don’t believe that most of you imagine a neighborhood with a police officer on every corner. We know what safety looks like, but we don’t offer it to every community equally.”

The D.A.’s office will no longer file first-time misdemeanor charges for quality-of-life offenses, will increase diversion programs and will offer victims’ services to families whose loved ones were killed in an officer- or deputy-involved shooting, no matter the circumstances.

“We will never get there with small incremental changes,” Gascon said. “While my methods have changed, my law enforcement journey has always been the same. It’s one about preventing crime, reducing recidivism and restoring victims.”

The Los Angeles Police Protective League contends that the D.A.’s moves will endanger the public and lead to rising crime.

“As homicides, shooting victims, and shots fired into occupied homes soar in Los Angeles, it’s disturbing that Gascon’s first act in office is to explore every avenue possible to release from jail those responsible for this bloodshed,” an LAPPL statement reads. “The new DA talks a good game, but his plans will do nothing but further victimize Los Angeles residents, especially Black and Hispanic residents who currently make up 70% of violent crime victims. These victims and law-abiding residents lost a voice today while criminals and gang members gained an ally in the prosecutor’s office. We sincerely hope Gascon realizes quickly that setting L.A. County on the same path he put San Francisco on will be disastrous.”

The Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Association of Deputy District Attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

However, in comments to the Los Angeles Times, one prosecutor expressed concern about a changing role.

“I think a lot of people are worried about becoming social workers when they’ve spent their lives being lawyers,” one deputy district attorney told The Times. “A lot us are in the position that we’re not just seeing a change in the administration, but we’re seeing a change in the core function of what we’ve chosen as our career.”

Another urged Gascon to move slowly on big issues like the death penalty and juvenile justice.

“Everyone is kind of taking a wait-and-see approach because there’s going to be a lot of ramifications for unilaterally doing any big policy changes without doing a full review of all of those cases,” the prosecutor said. “Some are easier to do than others.”

Even before his swearing-in, Gascon had previewed his plan to work closely with community advocates.

“I was elected by the people and this community will have a seat at the table as we work to modernize our criminal justice system,” Gascon said Nov. 18 in a written statement, as he announced his transition team. “Those that have been directly impacted by the work of this office have unique insights that are integral to an effective administration.”

He noted that “our profession has largely missed the opportunity to learn from those that are justice-involved. We need to listen, grow and take this opportunity to be better.”

Gascon — a former LAPD assistant chief, onetime Mesa, Arizona police chief and San Francisco district attorney — positioned himself as a reformer in the race.

Lacey finished first in the three-candidate field in the March 3 primary with 48.7% of the vote to 28.2% for Gascon. A runoff was needed because no candidate received a majority.

In the time between the runoff and the general election, Lacey continued to come under heavy criticism from activists who wanted her to be more aggressive in prosecuting law enforcement officers involved in deadly shootings.

Gascon won the Nov. 3 election with 53.53% of the vote to Lacey’s 46.47%.

His transition team includes only one current employee from the D.A.’s office, Joseph Iniguez, who initially ran against Lacey for the post as the county’s top prosecutor and then subsequently withdrew from the race and endorsed Gascon.

The balance of the team is composed of members of advocacy groups seeking to end cash bail, end the death penalty and reform the juvenile justice system, among other progressive aims. It includes a man who was wrongfully convicted and others with “lived experience” with the criminal justice system.

The law enforcement relations team includes Kevin Jablonski, retired Los Angeles Police Department chief police psychologist; Rebecca Neusteter, a former director of research, policy and planning for the New York Police Department; and Jacqueline A. Seabrooks, former Santa Monica Police Department chief who was recently asked by the city to serve as its interim police chief.

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Rocky
Rocky
1 month ago

All of the Soros-supported DA’s around the nation are instituting these egregious platforms of non-compliance with the laws of the land. Spending hugely on local DA elections was yet another election catastrophe engineered by the socialist wing of the Democrat Party.

As a lifelong Californian who lives in the LA area, it’s still hard to believe LA voted for George Gascon as their DA. This Marxist was supported by George Soros and will destroy (even further) the once beautiful city of Los Angeles. Escape from LA is now real world.

Just look at what has happened to San Francisco.

Rocky
Rocky
1 month ago
Reply to  Rocky

recallgavin.com is gaining steam with more and more signatures. Sign the petition to turn this state around.

Michael Grace
Michael Grace
1 month ago

This D.A. comes down from making San Francisco more dangerous and is now running Los Angeles. He is on the enemy elite list along with the political hacks running California and Los Angeles County.

Gdaddy
Gdaddy
1 month ago

The former person wasn’t great, and her husband didn’t help pulling a gun on protestors, but this is nuts. Might as well encourage lawlessness.

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago

what a lunatic. he won’t last a year.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Ham Shipey

fingers crossed.

WeHo Poster
WeHo Poster
1 month ago
Reply to  Ham Shipey

Would you like to bet posting privileges on Wehoville dot com on that?

greeneyedboy
greeneyedboy
1 month ago
Reply to  WeHo Poster

Yeah but then who would celebrate the closing of bars on Santa Monica Blvd anymore?

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedboy

good point

DontTread
DontTread
1 month ago

This is an win for criminalized people working in the sex trade.
Here are the details on the sex work related misdemeanors the LA DA’s office will decline to prosecute (SPECIAL-DIRECTIVE-20-07-.docx.pdf (georgegascon.org). What a great way to start off 2021!

Loitering – Penal Code § 647(b),(c), (d), (e)
a. Exceptions or Factors For Consideration
i. Repeat offenses over the preceding 24 months involving substantially similar behavior to that charged

Loitering To Commit Prostitution – Penal Code § 653.22(a)(1)
a. Exceptions or Factors For Consideration
i. None identified

Crookies
Crookies
1 month ago
Reply to  DontTread

Going to be amazing optics seeing streetwalkers and homeless lining our business district’s streets with impunity, while said stores and offices try the economic equivalent of CPR on sectors strangled into flatlining by the same political class that cheered Gorgeous George’s ascent into lawlessness and inevitable depravity.

Go LA! Let’s see if we can out-do SF and their fecal, needle strewn civic wasteland

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Crookies

@Crookies-could NOT have said it any better. We should NEVER do ANYTHING that San Francisco does -as the “leaders” of that city have destroyed it!

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago
Reply to  Crookies

so true

DontTread
DontTread
1 month ago
Reply to  Crookies

Oh honey the street walkers have BEEN in Weho, so step off your pedestal. We aren’t criminals, we’re the countless torsos you’ve jerked off to in the little gay sex apps, or if you’ve ever consumed porn.

Matii
Matii
1 month ago
Reply to  DontTread

I don’t understand. Why is this good? Is excessive prosecution the reason LA and much of urban America had low quality of life back in the 80s and 90s? This decision making seems backwards.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Matii

Totally backwards.

WeHoMikey
WeHoMikey
1 month ago
Reply to  DontTread

PC 647 was used to arrest and criminalize gay men for no particular reason other than homophobic hatred for generations. Is there some particular reason you’re suggesting this has created a problem?

greeneyedboy
greeneyedboy
1 month ago

Looks like he’s keeping his word on those campaign promises.

I really hope this works out well for LA. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was nervous though.

Crookies
Crookies
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedboy

The law of Reaping What You Sow

Suck it up, buttercup – this is what you and the rest of you BLM hypocrites wanted

WeHo Poster
WeHo Poster
1 month ago
Reply to  Crookies

Ok it’s good though

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Crookies

True.

greeneyedboy
greeneyedboy
1 month ago
Reply to  Crookies

Buttercup is my favorite Powerpuff girl! How sweet of yew 😘

WeHo Poster
WeHo Poster
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedboy

Same! Hoping for the best here