Elected DA's Throughout California Slam LA County DA Gascon's Policies, Refuse to Grant Jurisdiction

Bryan Chan/County of Los Angeles via AP

Now it’s not just the majority of his 1,000 subordinates who are publicly and vehemently opposed to new Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon’s policy directives. Three elected California District Attorneys (all female, interestingly enough) have slammed Gascon’s policies, and two of them sent letters directly to Gascon refusing to allow him to prosecute any cases that arose in their counties.

(Note: If you’re wondering how Gascon could prosecute cases from outside his county to start with – under California law a District Attorney can grant jurisdiction to another county for prosecution. In circumstances in which a defendant is accused of committing crimes in numerous counties, it’s not uncommon for the DA in the county where the most serious crimes were committed to prosecute them all.)

Kern County DA Cynthia Zimmer was the first to slam Gascon’s policies, in the form of an op-ed in a Bakersfield newspaper encouraging criminals in her county to relocate to a more favorable environment – Los Angeles:

Are you a convicted felon with a history of violent crime? A murderer? Rapist? Child molester? Human trafficker? Drunk driver who kills? Do you take pleasure in using firearms to ratchet up body counts in all types of crimes? Do you think it unfair that your history of violent crimes makes your punishment for new crimes higher? If so, I have an exciting opportunity for you….

Next, San Diego County DA Summer Stephan sent Gascon a scathing letter revoking her grant of jurisdiction for Rhett Nelson, accused of five armed robberies in San Diego County immediately before murdering two people (including an off-duty LA Sheriff’s Deputy) in Los Angeles County. At the time Stephan granted jurisdiction to LA, Jackie Lacey was District Attorney and appropriate enhancements and special circumstances were filed against Nelson.

When Gascon took office in December, that all changed. Gascon directed his Deputy District Attorney to dismiss special circumstances and enhancements in the case, meaning that Nelson wouldn’t even be facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. At that time, Gascon’s office told Fox 11 LA that Nelson “would still face at least 70 years in prison even if all special charges were approved to be dropped,” and issued this statement justifying Gascon’s position:

If convicted, there is a possibility that decades from now, the parole board could determine he’s been rehabilitated. Such a determination, many years from now, would ultimately be a reflection of a system and the public alike weighing their continued interest in incarcerating a man who no longer poses a threat to society at an extraordinary taxpayer cost. Eliminating that remote possibility today may not be in the public’s interest decades from now.”

Stephan, furious, told Fox 11 Los Angeles that Gascon’s policies aren’t in the interest of justice and that his claim that Nelson would face at least 70 years in prison was dishonest because of a new California law, AB-3234, which instituted an “elder parole” that convicts are eligible to apply for at age 50.

“This doesn’t require creativity,” Stephan said. “Two people were killed, you don’t get two lives for the price of one, that’s not how this works. The polices that have been set forth, I think they’re unlawful. I think you cannot stand up in front of a judge and say that it’s in the interest of justice because those words cannot come across any prosecutor’s lips and be truthful about it….

“In this case, the person accused of being the killer is 30 years old, so when he’s 50 years old he will be eligible for elder parole,” Stephan said. “How can you say that seven armed robberies and the execution, the murder of two innocent people is one where a person should have a parole date in 20 years?”.

A parole date that Gascón’s new policies restrict deputy DA’s from attending, Stephan adds.

A week later, on January 11, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert sent her own letter directly to Gascon, saying, “I will never grant your office authority over any Sacramento case.” Schubert started her letter by informing Gascon that his Special Directives are “illegal and unconstitutional,” and that they have “decimated the rights of crime victims in Los Angeles County.” In the four-page letter Schubert gives Gascon a lesson in criminal law – one which he needs, since he has never prosecuted a single case, misdemeanor or felony. (How is it that someone who’s never seen the inside of a courtroom as an attorney lands such a coveted appointment? Great question for Gavin Newsom.)

Gascon’s office refused to reply to Fox 11 LA’s requests for comment about these letters, but in response to prior criticism both he and his office have asserted that critics are people who have bought into this country’s mass incarceration scheme and benefit from it in some way. If by “bought into this country’s mass incarceration scheme” he means people who believe in law and order, and in holding people accountable for their misdeeds, he would be correct.

Read San Diego DA Summer Stephan’s entire letter here.

Letter 001 by KJ Hiramoto