George Gascón

George Gascón

: Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: Shawn Calhoun


* Police chief of Mesa, Arizona from 2006-09
* Police chief of San Francisco from 2009-11
* District Attorney of San Francisco from 2011-19
* Was elected District Attorney of Los Angeles County in 2020
* Views the American criminal-justice system as inherently and systemically racist
* Favors the defunding of police departments, alternatives to incarceration, the elimination of cash bail, and the termination of capital punishment
* Seeks to limit the prosecution of “low-level, ‘quality-of-life’ offenses”


George Gascón was born in Havana, Cuba, on March 12, 1954. In 1967 he and his family immigrated to the United States and settled in Bell, California. Gascón went on to serve in the U.S. Army from 1972-75, during which time he worked his way up to the level of Sergeant. He then earned a BA degree in history from California State University at Long Beach, and he joined the Los Angeles Police Department as a patrol officer in 1978.

After a three-year stint with the LAPD, Gascón worked in business management from 1981-87 while serving also as a reserve officer in the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Division. In 1987 he returned to the Police Department as a full-time officer and was subsequently promoted to Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Commander, Deputy Chief (in 2002), and Assistant Chief (in 2003). Gascón also earned a J.D. degree from Western State College of Law in 1996.

Opposing the Strict Enforcement of Immigration Law

In 2006 Gascón was named Chief of the Mesa, Arizona Police Department, where he clashed frequentlyFdriv with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio over the latter’s tough stance against illegal immigration.

District Attorney of San Francisco

In 2009, San Francisco’s then-mayor, Gavin Newsom, appointed Gascón as Chief of the San Francisco Police Department. Two years later, Newsom named Gascón to replace Kamala Harris as San Francisco District Attorney, after Harris became Attorney General of California.

Expunging & Reducing Past Drug Convictions

In 2018 Gascón announced that he would retroactively apply the Adult Use of Marijuana Act — a 2016 voter initiative that legalized cannabis in California — to expunge the misdemeanor convictions and reduced felony convictions of more than 9,000 past drug offenders statewide. “It was the morally right thing to do,” Gascón explained.

Leftist Support (Including George Soros) for Gascón’s Campaign for Los Angeles County D.A.

Gascón resigned from his San Francisco DA position on October 3, 2019. Twenty-five days later, he announced his plan to run, as a Democrat, for District Attorney of Los Angeles County in 2020.

In a December 2019 op-ed, former San Francisco Deputy District Attorney Nancy Tung, who had worked as a staffer in Gascón’s DA office, wrote that Gascon’s approach toward crime had been disastrous for the city:

“Reputationally, San Francisco is now widely regarded as the place where you can commit a crime and get away with it. And when you have a weak DA like George Gascón, it’s no wonder San Francisco has gone by the wayside, crooks commute into San Francisco to commit crime, and why many were celebrating his departure…. George Gascón wreaked havoc on the San Francisco DA’s Office and the City as a whole.”

In his 2020 campaign against the incumbent District Attorney of Los Angeles County, Jackie Lacey, Gascón received $12 million in support, mostly from wealthy donors who favored criminal-justice reform. Billionaire George Soros led the way with $2.25 million in donations, while philanthropist Patty Quillin and her husband, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, contributed more than $2 million. Other high-profile backers included the anti-capitalist Working Families Party (California branch), the Los Angeles public defenders’ union, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Senator Kamala Harris, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Moreover, the Black Lives Matter organization mobilized many of its supporters to work on behalf of Gascón’s campaign.

Following Gascón’s election victory in November 2020, Black Lives Matter member and BLD PWR founder Kendrick Sampson said in a statement: “This is an important win to show that people can and will hold even the most powerful DA in the country accountable.”

Supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement

After Gascón won the 2020 general election, his first major meeting as District Attorney-elect was with Black Lives Matter organizers. In a statement that he issued on November 6, Gascón alluded to a number of African Americans who had died in altercations with police officers in recent months – most notably George Floyd in Minneapolis — and said: “If we can use these very tragic, horrendous events to change the course of history in this country, I think that we will be honoring their lives.”

Gascón Takes Office & Lays out His Philosophy & Priorities As D.A.

On December 7, 2020 — the day he was sworn into office as DA of Los Angeles County — Gascón wrote Los Angeles police officers an open letter in which he: (a) accused them of engaging in “unconstitutional policing” practices that had “severely hindered the standing and safety of us all”; (b) announced his intent to reopen several police shooting cases that his predecessor, Jackie Lacey, had declined to prosecute; (c) articulated his support for Black Lives Matter; and (d) expressed support for diverting funds away from police departments and toward community-based health and social-service programs that could serve as alternatives to jail and prosecution.

Also in the days and weeks following his election, Gascón:

  • said that “we have to hack our justice system,” and “the first hack is that we have to turn our court system upside down”
  • pledged that he would “work to reduce incarceration and punishment except in those circumstances in which punishment is proportional, is in the community’s best interest, and serves a rehabilitative or restorative purpose”
  • announced that his office would stop pursuing prison enhancements – i.e., longer and surer sentences due to special circumstances or considerations — for gang-related offenses and for crimes in which a firearm had been used
  • tweeted that “enhancements, a legacy of the ‘tough-on-crime’ era, are a principal driver of excessive sentences & mass incarceration,” and “are outdated, incoherent, & applied unfairly”
  • said that his office would consider resentencing some 20,000 or more defendants who had been convicted with enhancements, or under California’s three-strike law, the latter of which required state prison terms of 25 years to life
  • estimated that as a result of the termination of enhancements in sentencing, up 30,000 cases might be eligible for re-sentencing
  • said that he would sidestep California’s three-strike law, even potentially for offenders who had previous convictions for rape, murder or child molestation
  • characterized the death penalty as a “racist” and “morally untenable” practice that would now be “off the table in L.A. County”
  • announced that juveniles would no longer be sentenced as adults, regardless of their circumstances or criminal history
  • advocated a ban on the death penalty, not only in future cases, but also vis-a-vis existing prosecutions
  • called for the elimination of cash bail for all misdemeanor crimes and nonviolent felony offenses, explaining that “the money bail system is as unsafe as it is unjust,” and that “the rich can be dangerous while the poor impose zero threat to society”
  • ordered Los Angeles County prosecutors to stop prosecuting first-time offenders accused of nonviolent offenses like criminal trespass, disturbing the peace, public intoxication, and loitering
  • proposed reducing the “prosecution of low-level, ‘quality-of-life’ offenses” such as drug possession, driving without a license, and public urination, so that illegal aliens arrested for such crimes would not face what Gascón described as “outsized immigration ramifications, due to the booking and fingerprint sharing between local law enforcement and immigration authorities following an arrest”
  • pledged to “limit exposure to immigration enforcement” for criminal illegal aliens by reducing jail-time so that suspects could be booked and then released almost immediately

Further emphasizing his desire to help criminal illegal aliens avoid arrest and deportation, Gascón said:

“Local criminal justice actors must be careful not to become part of a pipeline to deportation in a dysfunctional immigration system…. Immigration status can have a disproportionate adverse impact on noncitizen defendants because of federal immigration law implications. A core duty of prosecutors is to ensure that the punishment fits the crime. As such, it is incumbent upon the prosecutor to be aware of and mitigate collateral consequences, particularly when they are more severe than the punishment for the crime itself.”

Gascón Cancels Cash Bail, the Death Penalty, and Enhanced Sentencing

Upon taking office in December 2020, Gascón immediately canceled cash bail, the death penalty, and enhanced sentencing in most cases. Those actions led the prosecutors in his office to ask for reduced penalties for even the most serious crimes, including one multiple murder in which the victims included a Deputy Sheriff.

A Look at Gascón’s Special Directives Aimed at Helping Criminals Avoid Punishment

In his early days as DA, Gascón issued a number of highly significant Special Directives. Some examples:

Special Directive 20-06 is titled “Pretrial Release Policy.” Founded on the premise that cash bail creates a “two-tiered system of justice” (depending on defendants’ financial resources) and leads to much “unnecessary incarceration,” this directive ignores the fact that Californians voted to keep the cash bail system intact. It bars prosecutors from requesting cash bail for any misdemeanor or nonviolent felony, regardless of the nature of the defendant’s criminal record. It bars prosecutors from opposing a defense counsel’s motion to remove or modify conditions of release. It forbids prosecutors from objecting to a defendant’s release. And it applies retroactively to anyone already incarcerated in Los Angeles County on cash bail. Says the directive: “The negative consequences of cash bail have fallen unequally on the shoulders of low-income communities of color in Los Angeles County…. The US Constitution guarantees every person – regardless of race, class or origin – the right to be presumed innocent during the pretrial phase of a criminal proceeding.”

Special Directive 20-07 is titled “Misdemeanor Case Management.” Exhorting society to “reimagine public safety,” this directive lists 13 separate misdemeanor crimes that “shall be declined or dismissed before arraignment and without conditions,” unless certain “exceptions” or other “factors” can be shown to exist. Further, the directive states that “these charges do not constitute an exhaustive list,” and it instructs each prosecutor in Gascón’s office to “exercise his discretion” in identifying additional charges that may fall within “the spirit” of this directive. The 13 crimes that are explicitly named are: trespassing; disturbing the peace; driving without a valid license; driving on a suspended license; criminal threats; drug & paraphernalia possession; minor in possession of alcohol; drinking in public; under the influence of a controlled substance; public intoxication; loitering; loitering to commit prostitution; and resisting arrest.

Special Directive 20-08 is called “Sentencing Enhancements/Allegations.” It eliminates most sentencing enhancements, special circumstances, cases eligible for life-without-parole sentences, and capital punishment. As Cully Stimson explains in The Daily Signal:

“Over the years, the California Legislature has passed dozens of sentencing enhancements to crimes, and has laws protecting specific classes of individuals, such as children, women, the elderly, and others. In 1994, the Legislature passed the Three Strikes Law, which gave prosecutors the ability to seek a life sentence for anyone who committed a qualifying offense and had two qualifying prior convictions. The Legislature also passed laws detailing the gruesome special circumstances of the most violent cases that would make a criminal eligible for life without parole or the death penalty. Gascón’s directive prohibits prosecutors from filing sentence enhancements, sentence allegations, or Three Strikes in all cases, and forces them to withdraw the same from all pending cases. Despite the fact that enhancements, special allegations, and Three Strikes keep violent, career felons off the streets for decades, thus protecting society from the worst of the worst, Special Directive 20-08 undercuts the California Legislature’s laws, and outright bans their use.”

Special Directive 20-09 is titled “Youth Justice.” Its objective is to prevent anyone younger than 18 from ever being prosecuted in adult court, regardless of their offense. Moreover, the directive mandates the withdrawal of all pending motions to transfer youth to adult court, and it bars the prosecution of nearly all young people accused of misdemeanors. For young criminal defendants who are illegal aliens, prosecutors are instructed to try to “avoid immigration consequences” and are prohibited from objecting when defense attorneys seek to seal a defendant’s criminal record.

Special Directive 20-10 is called the “Habeas Corpus Litigation Unit.” It calls for the creation of an HCLU panel whose mission is to look for cases of “injustice,” including “racial injustice,” regardless of whether or not there were any violations of a defendant’s constitutional rights. The directive stipulates that the HCLU “shall not, as a policy, defend every conviction or raise every conceivable procedural challenge with equal fervor.” Pointing out the implications of this policy, The Daily Signal writes:

“So after line prosecutors engage in pre-trial litigation for weeks or months, disclose the information to defense counsel that is required by law, go to trial, and earn a conviction, lawyers in their own office now have marching orders not to defend the conviction, [to] look for “racial injustice” (at least in Gascón’s eyes), and ‘remedy’ the situation by moving to vacate the conviction, agreeing to a retrial, or seeking some other pro-defendant scheme.”

Special Directive 20-11 is titled “Death Penalty Policy.” Founded on the premise that “a sentence of death is never an appropriate resolution in any case,” this directive prohibits prosecutors from ever seeking the death penalty for any murderer, including in all pending cases, and it ignores the fact that both the California Legislature and the California electorate voted repeatedly in favor of capital punishment for defendants convicted of qualifying offenses. The directive also requires prosecutors to review, with “the goal of removing the death sentence,” all prior death sentences issued in Los Angeles County.

Special Directive 20-12 is titled “Victim Services.” It directs the victim services’ section of the DA office to contact families of individuals killed not only by civilian murderers, but also by police officers in the line of duty, and to provide “support services including funeral, burial and mental health services immediately following the death regardless of the state of the investigation or charging decision.” As The Daily Signal observes: “In other words, if a police officer is attacked by an armed violent felon who shoots at the police officer, and the police officer fires back in self-defense and kills the assailant, the district attorney’s office will now be required to help the deceased felon’s family pay for the funeral, at taxpayer expense.”

Special Directive 20-13 is titled the “Conviction Integrity Unit.” The directive stipulates that prosecutors in the Conviction Integrity Unit reserve the right to review any case in the “interest of justice” — as in cases where a prosecution or conviction was allegedly “tainted by racial discrimination,” even if a court previously rejected a defendant’s claim that racial discrimination had occurred.

Special Directive 20-14 is titled “Resentencing.” It requires prosecutors to “reevaluate and consider for resentencing people who have already served 15 years in prison.” For pending cases that have sentence enhancements, it requires prosecutors to “join in the Defendant’s motion to strike all alleged sentence enhancements.” In all cases where a defendant — even if convicted of manslaughter or murder — is eligible for resentencing or “recall of a sentence,” prosecutors are barred from opposing the resentencing or sentence recall. The directive also establishes a Resentencing Unit tasked with conducting a “comprehensive review” of past cases where a defendant may have received a sentence “inconsistent” with the newly implemented policies and objectives of Gascón’s office. Moreover, the directive states that prosecutors not only are prohibited from attending parole hearings, but are required to provide a written statement of support for the parole of any convict who has served his mandatory minimum prison sentence.

Gascón’s Insensitivity to the Mother of a Murder Victim

When Gascón made an appearance in Pomona, California on December 18, 2020, the family of the late Joshua Rodriguez, a 21-year-old Californian who had been murdered in 2015, confronted Gascón to protest his intention to eliminate any chance that the young man’s killers could receive no-parole life sentences in prison. When Rodriguez’s mother shouted at Gascón, the latter said: “It’s unfortunate that we have people who do not have enough education so they can keep their mouth shut for a moment so we can talk.” In response, the mother said: “My son can never speak again because he was murdered — kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. My son matters.” “They killed my son, tortured him!” the woman screamed as Gascón subsequently walked away. “And what are you gonna do about it? Nothing!”

ADDA Sues Gascón

On December 30, 2020, the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) of Los Angeles County sued Gascón over his recent orders to reduce sentence enhancements for certain crimes. “As detailed in the lawsuit, [Gascón’s] directives violate California law, which imposes a mandatory duty on prosecutors to plead and prove strike priors,” the ADDA explained in a statement. “Dismissals of those priors can only be based on individual circumstances, not a blanket policy. Similarly, special circumstance allegations that will result in a life without parole sentence cannot be dismissed under the section cited by the directive.”

A Los Angeles Superior Court found against Gascón in 2021. He then appealed and lost on June 2, 2022. As NBC Los Angeles reported, the California Appeals Court ruled that Gascón “cannot order prosecutors to sidestep elements of the state’s three-strikes law that may increase prison terms when filing criminal charges, and cannot order prosecutors to drop or withdraw special circumstance allegations that could lead to sentences of life without the possibility of parole.”

Gascón Cuts Ties with CDAA for Reasons of Race

In February 2021, Gascón announced that he was cutting all ties with the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) because he objected to the fact that its board of directors was composed exclusively of white members. “The absence of a single person of color on CDAA’s 17-member board is blinding,” Gascón wrote in a letter to the organization’s president. “This is the leadership that sets the direction for an organization of elected prosecutors, all of whom disproportionately prosecute communities of color at a time when the nation is facing a reckoning over systemic racism, and in a state with a plurality of minorities, no less.” In a statement to Fox News, CDAA president Vern Pierson replied: “Mr. Gascón cannot resign because he has not been a member of CDAA since October 2019, when he quit his job as DA of San Francisco. On the ethnicity issue, his remarks are disingenuous, as he ran against the first sitting Los Angeles District Attorney who was both a woman and an African American. Incidentally, she was a CDAA board officer and in line to become president…. This appears to be a publicity stunt to divert attention from [Gascón’s] favoring criminals at the expense of victims and growing calls for his recall.”

Failed Effort to Recall Gascón

Just a few weeks after Gascón took office as DA of Los Angeles County and began implementing his promised reforms — such as doing away with most sentence enhancements and stopping prosecutors from seeking the death penalty for murder convictions — a public recall effort was initiated against him. But by mid-September of 2021, the effort had collected just 200,000 of the roughly 580,000 L.A. County voter signatures that would have been required by October 26 in order to force Gascón into a recall election. Concluding that it would be impossible to gather the remaining 380,000 necessary signatures during the five weeks that remained before the October deadline, the organizers of the petition drive terminated their campaign.

Light Sentence for Teen Who Attempts Vehicular Homicide

Gascón made headlines when he imposed a remarkably light sentence on a 16-year-old male driver in Los Angeles who had intentionally plowed his car into a young mother and her 8-month-old son, whom she was pushing in a stroller on August 6, 2021. The impact sent the mother, who likely saved her child’s life when she raised the stroller off the ground just before it was struck, tumbling over the hood of the vehicle. The driver then attempted to speed off but was stopped by another driver who rammed a pickup truck into the teen’s car. The teen was subsequently charged with two felony counts of assault-by-means-of-force-likely-to-produce-great-bodily-injury, as well as one felony count of hit-and-run. Gascón’s office, however, sentenced the youth only to a five-month probation camp and no prison time at all.

“George Gascón doesn’t value my life or the life of my child, or any other victim out there, and would rather reward the monsters like [the juvenile suspect] by demonstrating to them that their actions have no consequences,” said a victim-impact statement written by the woman who had been struck by the vehicle. “DA Gascón is telling him and every other thug in L.A. County that it doesn’t matter if you try to murder people. Why are Gascón ’s policies prioritizing the livelihood of rotten monsters when my child, my baby, who is incapable of protecting himself, is left to fend for himself, and is essentially being told his life doesn’t matter?” “I was also told that [the perpetrator’s criminal] record would be wiped clean when he turns 18,” the woman continued. “How on earth can that be? He tried to murder two innocent pedestrians. Murder. And we have video evidence. My child would be dead if I hadn’t been there to protect him.”

But Gascón’s office steadfastly defended its lenient treatment of the offender. “We stand by the purpose of the juvenile justice system to rehabilitate young people,” the office said in a statement. “In this case, this teen will be held accountable for his actions and receive the needed services to foster positive development to keep him from committing future offenses.”

Second Effort to Recall Gascón

On January 28, 2022, the Los Angeles Times reported:

“The county’s Registrar’s Office approved the new recall petition Thursday [January 27] that requires organizers to gather signatures of support from 10% of the county’s registered voters — a little more than 560,000 people — by July 6. […] [R]ecall organizers contend that Gascon’s policies favor defendants and have contributed to a rise in crime. […] ‘We are sick and tired of living in the pro-criminal paradise Gascón has created,’ recall organizers Desiree Andrade and Tania Owen said in a statement. ‘Gascón turned his back on us, and now his policies are destroying Los Angeles County right before our eyes and needlessly creating more innocent victims.’”

Crime Rates Skyrocket in Los Angeles

Gascón’s approach to criminal justice led to swift and dramatic increases in rates of violent crime in Los Angeles. In 2021, for instance, there were 52 percent more homicides and 59 percent more shooting incidents than in 2019. Gascón gave those figures little importance, saying: “The reality is that we go through these cycles, and we go through the cycles for a variety of reasons…. In many ways we cannot prosecute our way out of social inequalities, income inequalities, the unhoused, the desperation that we have.”

Gascón Tries 26-Year-Old Sex Offender As a Juvenile

In early 2022, Gascón stirred controversy with his decision not to seek a lenient sentence for 26-year-old convicted sex offender Hannah Tubbs, a male-to-female transgender formerly known as James Tubbs, who admitted to having choked and sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl in a bathroom stall at a Denny’s restaurant on January 1, 2014 — a crime that was never solved until DNA evidence incriminating Tubbs was presented to a court in 2019. Specifically, Tubbs had grabbed the girl by her throat, locked her inside the stall, and shoved his hand down her pants to carry out the molestation. Gascón explained that because the crime had occurred two weeks before Tubbs’s 18th birthday, he would try the defendant as a juvenile — thereby fulfilling a campaign promise not to prosecute juveniles as adults. Consequently, Tubbs — who had previously been accused of sexually molesting a four-year-old girl at a California library in August 2013 — was ultimately sentenced to a mere two years in a juvenile detention facility — with the possibility that, with good behavior, he could spend as little as 6 months in detention. Moreover, because Tubbs had assaulted his victim before turning 18, he was not required to register as a sex offender. ABC News affiliate KABC reported that although Gascón acknowledged that Tubbs “likely will not face punishment proportionate to the victim’s trauma,” he was convinced of the righteousness of his decision to try the assailant as a juvenile.

In a recorded jailhouse phone conversation he had with this father prior to the sentencing, Tubbs, who had not begun identifying as a female until after he was taken into custody for the bathroom assault, said: “So now they’re going to put me with other trannies that have seen their cases like mine or with one tranny like me that has a case like mine. So when you come to court, make sure you address me as ‘her.’” Also in phone calls with his father between November 2021 and January 2022, Tubbs gloated about the light sentence he would be receiving in exchange for a guilty plea. “I’m gonna plead out to it, plead guilty,” he said in one recording. “They’re gonna stick me on probation, and it’s gonna be dropped, it’s gonna be done, I won’t have to register [as a sex offender], won’t have to do nothing.” “You won’t have to register?” his father asked. “I won’t have to do none of that,” Tubbs answered. “So what are they going to do to you then?” the father retorted. “Nothin’,” Tubbs said while laughing.

After those recorded conversations were brought to light by Fox News’ Bill Melugin during the third week of February 2022, Gascón issued a statement on February 20 claiming that he had not been aware of the recordings or their contents. “If we knew about her [Tubbs’] disregard for the harm she caused, we would have handled this case differently,” said the DA. On February 22, Alex Bastian, Gascón’s special adviser, concurred that “the content of these jail calls was something that we did not know about” until February 17, 2022.

But on February 22, 2022, Los Angeles deputy district attorney Jon Hatami disputed Gascón and Bastian’s version of the timeline of events. “I’ve seen emails, emails that show that George Gascón and his chain of command knew about those jail calls well before Bill Melugin published them,” said Hatami. “We have a DA who completely lacks any transparency, who’s sending a spokesperson on the news to say things that just aren’t true.”

Notwithstanding Hatami’s assertions, Gascón, at a livestreamed news briefing which was also held on February 22, 2022, doubled down on his claim that he had been unaware of Tubbs’ jailhouse phone calls until very recently. “I became aware last Thursday [February 17] of the contents of that call, and the contents of that call were extremely disturbing to me because it showed a level of callousness and a level of disrespect for humanity from an individual that I had previously felt, given her conditions when the crime had originally occurred, she needed to be prosecuted as a juvenile,” said Gascón. “I, as a result of reviewing the contents of that particular jail call, I came to the conclusion that this person was gaming the system.”

In March 2023, Gascón suspended Shea Sanna — the attorney who had prosecuted Tubbs in 2022 — for allegedly misgendering and “deadnaming” the latter.  “Part of it, the reason why I [was] suspended,” said Sanna, “is because I called out Tubbs to the [Gascón] administration and said I have recordings of him making up the name [Hannah], gaming the system, joking about it and the date that it was made up. And I had reports where he’s referring to himself as a ‘grown ass man.’” “It wasn’t like I was going around being transphobic or malicious,” added Sanna. “I brought it to their attention that they [Gascón’s prosecutors] have a convicted child rapist trying to get himself into a juvenile facility as a woman, and he rapes little girls. Does anybody see a problem with that?” (Notably, in February 2023 Tubbs was charged for a 2019 robbery/murder in which a man named Michael Clark had been beaten to death with a rock in a wooded area of Kern County, California.

Facing Recall Effort, Gascón Drops Some of His Radical Policies

Later in February 2022, reported that “Gascón is backing away from some of his most controversial policies as he faces a public outcry about lenient sentences, outrage about rising crime, and a newly-launched effort to force a recall election.” As the Los Angeles Times reported on February 18:

“Los Angeles County prosecutors can now seek to try juveniles as adults and pursue life sentences against defendants in certain cases, according to memos issued Friday [February 18] by Dist. Atty. George Gascón, marking a major shift in his all-or-nothing stances on certain criminal justice reform issues. […]

“Committees will be created to evaluate ‘extraordinary’ cases where a defendant’s conduct might require harsher penalties than those allowed under Gascón’s policies, according to documents reviewed by The Times. In cases involving juvenile defendants, that could mean transferring their cases to adult court. In murder cases, that means prosecutors can now seek to file special circumstance allegations against a defendant in certain situations — such as killing a police officer who is on duty or killing a witness — making them eligible for a maximum sentence of life without parole.”

Gascón Gives Advice on How to Defend Against the Rising Incidence of Auto Theft

On March 10, 2022, Gascón released a public service announcement offering tops on how Los Angeles County residents could protect themselves against auto thefts, which were becoming increasingly common throughout the county. After hitting a 10-year high of 34,003 in 2020, the figure escalated even further, to 39,894, in 2021. “Auto theft is a costly crime that impacts its victims’ ability to get to work and to school,” said Gascón. “[…] Here are a few easy steps you can take to help us reduce crime in our community: [a] Always lock your car door. [b] Do not leave a spare key in your vehicle. [c] Park in a well-lit area. [d] Get an anti-theft device for your vehicle.”

Suspect Who Murdered 2 California Police Officers Was Free Because of Gascón‘s Leniency in Previous Case

Justin William Flores — a gang member who murdered two El Monte, California police officers during a shootout on May 14, 2022 — was free on two years’ probation at the time he committed that double murder. The probation had been imposed on Flores by Gascón’s office after a 2020 incident in which Flores was charged for felony firearms possession and also for possession of illegal drugs for personal use. It was a remarkably lenient sentence, in light of the fact that Flores had been convicted some years earlier for burglarizing the home of one of his grandparents. According to Fox News sources inside Gascón’s office, Flores likely would have been sentenced to as much as three years in prison for the 2020 firearm offense if he had been prosecuted in accordance with normal prosecutory procedure, which would have taken his prior criminal record into account. But in the aftermath of the May 2022 double murder, the official position of Gascón’s office vis-a-vis the light 2020 sentence was unapologetic: “The sentence [Flores] received in the [2020] firearm case was consistent with case resolutions for this type of offense given his criminal history and the nature of the offense. At the time the court sentenced him, Mr. Flores did not have a documented history of violence.” 

Because of a 2020 directive that Gascón had issued requiring Los Angeles County taxpayers to foot the bill for the funerals and burials of “individuals killed by police,” Flores, who was shot and killed by an officer soon after he had carried out his double murder, was entitled to have his funeral and burial expenses covered by the public.

Effort to Recall Gascón Produces Massive Excess of Signatures

On July 6, 2022, the campaign to recall Gascón from his post as DA handed in 717,000 voter signatures to the county registrar — 26% more than the required target of 566,857 — making it the largest recall petition inb American history. The extra signatures were collected to serve as security in the event that some of the signatures might ultimately be rejected for various reasons.

Gascón Will No Longer Inform Victims & Their Families When Their Assaulters Are up for Parole

On July 12, 2022, a member of the Los Angeles DA office’s so-called “Lifer Unit” — a group of DDAs (deputy district attorneys) tasked with notifying crime victims or their relatives and next-of-kin when their their victimizer’s parole hearings were scheduled (so they could attend the hearings and make a victim-impact statement) — posted the following Twitter message (with names redacted in order to protect their privacy):

“[The Gascón] Administration has directed that we wind down the Lifer Unit. Administration has determined that it is ‘not appropriate’ for the LADA to notify victims of crime and victim next of kin of those that were murdered that parole hearings are scheduled for the inmates that harmed them and their loved ones.

“We will continue to do the work on all cases assigned through October, 2022. There will not be a November calendar issued, nor any additional forthcoming assignments.

“DDAs XXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXX have been transferred. XXXX and XXX (XXX) XXXXXXXX will be available for some time for referrals to assist victims who affirmatively reach out to us or request DDA assistance through the normal process through October cases. If you have a case in need of a DDA or where a victim/VNOK [victim’s next-of-kin] is requesting assistance, please forward an email to XXXXX and XXXXX. One of them will reply indicating that they can take the case.

“Supervisors of the BOI and BVS [Bureau of Victim Services] have been notified and will reassign folks as they determine appropriate. I want to thank all of you for your dedication to this important work. It has been a wild ride since DDAs stopped attending hearings to try to continue this important support for victims. You rolled with every change, and the changes were not insubstantial. Your teamwork was impressive, working across Bureaus and Divisions. You worked tirelessly to meet important deadlines so victims/VNOK were not shut out of attending hearings. When so much about the system and our institutions seems heartless, you had heart, you fought on.

“It has been my great pleasure to work with you.”

Former Los Angeles prosecutor and child advocate Kathleen Cady issued the following remarks regarding Gascón’s new policy:

“Gascón is violating the California Constitution again. Victims have an absolute right to be notified of parole hearings (Cal Constitution Art I, Section 28((b)(15)). […] His administration then froze out DDAs access to state prison records so victims are not prepared for what they might hear during the parole hearing. Iniguez [Gascón’s chief of staff who had been recently busted for public intoxication], has instructed DDAs and VSRs [Victim Services Representatives] that they can not refer victims to pro bono attorneys who stand ready to assist them. Now, he will not even assist with notifying victims that a defendant is up for parole.  Many of these defendants had been sentenced to hundreds of years to life or Life Without the Possibility of Parole so victims didn’t register for notification because they didn’t believe a parole hearing would ever occur.”

In a similar spirit, Dennis P. Zine, a former LAPD Supervisor and city councilman, wrote in a text: “Yes, it’s all part of Gascón’s plan to turn Los Angeles into a place welcoming all types of crimes. Murder, Robbery, Burglary, Smash and Grab and GTA [Grand Theft Auto] to name just a few. If Gascón is not recalled[,] crime will continue and only get worse.”

Second Effort to Recall Gascón Fails

On August 15, 2022, it was announced that the second recall effort against Gascón had failed because officials, in a review process from which observers were excluded, had eliminated nearly 200,000 signatures from the recall petition. The removal of those names left the petition approximately 50,000 valid signatures short of what it needed in order to trigger a formal vote on removing Gascón from office. Reacting to the announcement, Gascón tweeted: “Grateful to move forward from this attempted political power grab-rest assured LA County, the work hasn’t stopped. My primary focus has been & will always be keeping us safe & creating a more equitable justice system for all. I remain strongly committed to that work & to you.”

Policy Directive Designed to Help Illegal Aliens Avoid Deportation

In early December 2022, Gascón issued a policy directive designed to help illegal aliens avoid deportation and other immigration-related penalties for crimes they had committed. As Fox News reported: “According to the policy,… alternatives to criminal convictions should be considered, such as avoiding charging for criminal enhancements, which can significantly increase one’s prison sentence, ‘that would turn an otherwise immigration neutral offense into an immigration damaging one.’” “All charging determinations shall be undertaken with the goal of avoiding or mitigating the adverse immigration consequences of a decision when known, possible pr permitting,” Gascón’s policy stated. “Under these circumstances and when, consistent with public safety alternatives to filing charges exist, those alternatives shall be pursued.”

Large-Scale Mob Violence in Los Angeles County

On April 17, 2023, reported on a recent string of violent crimes and massive street takeovers perpetrated by mobs of outlaws in the southern Los Angeles County city of Compton. Said the piece:

“Looters targeted a gas station in Compton, California, overnight Sunday [April 16] and left the store severely damaged. Thousands of dollars’ worth of items were reportedly stolen during the incident that happened at the Arco gas station near Alondra Boulevard and Central Avenue, according to ABC 7. Video footage shows two individuals apparently trying to break through the glass door by hitting it repeatedly as a crowd gathered around them. At one point, someone began kicking the glass. Once the door was opened, the mob poured inside the building while some at the scene held up their phones to record what was happening. When asked what frightened her about the incident, one resident told ABC 7, ‘The mob of people, period. You don’t know how they’re going to react once they get in, and if somebody’s in there, I know that they’re terrified.’  The group is also accused of grabbing food, alcohol, and condoms off the store shelves.

“Meanwhile, additional video footage from KTLA shows a street takeover early Sunday with a crowd standing nearby as cars screech through intersections in Compton. Shots were fired a block away from the gas station, but no one was reported injured, according to investigators. Among the three street takeovers was one that apparently happened on Rosencrans. Additionally, a laundromat in the area was broken into, according to law enforcement, NBC Los Angeles reported Monday [April 17]…. Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies told ABC 7 that multiple street takeovers transpired, but they were unable to intervene because they were outnumbered by the groups. The two biggest illegal takeovers happened at the intersections of Long Beach Boulevard and Rosencrans Avenue and also near the gas station that was targeted. Investigators said almost 500 individuals were involved in the street takeovers.”

Promoting a Cop-Hater to Chief of Staff

In December 2023, Gascón announced that he was promoting Tiffiny Blacknell, a longtime deputy public defender in Los Angeles County, to serve as his chief of staff, effective January 16, 2024. Blacknell, a black woman, was known for: (a) wearing T-shirts that bore slogans like “the police are trained to kill us” and “they can’t kill us all”; (b) supporting the defunding of police departments, whose members she described as “barbarians” and an “occupying army”; and (c) characterizing prisons as “obsolete” institutions.

Regarding the victims of the 2020 Black Lives Matter riots in California, Blacknell posted on social media: “’Cry me a river!’  Please don’t come on my page complaining about protestors or looters. Don’t text me SHIT about the Whole Foods in West Hollywood and your beloved Santa Monica.”

Blacknell also used her Facebook page to boast about her own past involvement in looting and rioting, stating that “I was a looter in 1992” during the infamous Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. “When the opportunity arose, we took some shit,” she wrote. “It was one of the most formative moments of my life.”

Further Reading

George Gascon Has Said ‘We Need To Turn Our Court System Upside Down.’ Now He’s Running To Be LA’s Next DA” (by Frank Stoltze, 10-28-2019); “He Said No to Naysayers” (by Richard Winton, 6-4-2004).

Additional Resources:

Meet George Gascón, the Rogue Prosecutor Whose Policies Are Wreaking Havoc in Los Angeles
By Cully Stimson

Newly-Elected L.A. District Attorney Despises the Police
By Joseph Klein

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