Instead of Confronting California's Violent Crime Surge, AG Bonta Launches a Wrongful Conviction Unit

California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who has recently come under fire for his “collusion” with Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon to have the death sentences of four convicted murderers vacated, announced his latest scheme to keep dangerous criminals out of jail and on the streets on Friday.

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Of course, he didn’t describe the Post-Conviction Justice Unit in those terms; he described it as a program to “support integrity in the criminal legal system and seek to remedy cases where there have been miscarriages of justice.” From his office’s press release:

“All across California, prosecutors and law enforcement stand united in the pursuit of truth and justice,” said Attorney General Bonta. “We fight each and every day to protect our communities and hold those who break the law accountable. Yet, despite our best efforts, we know our criminal legal system is not infallible. Whether it’s as a result of bias, changes in forensics, or any other issue, our system is not foolproof and we must make every effort to ensure the integrity of prosecutions in our state. As part of our pursuit of justice, I’m proud to launch the first-ever Post-Conviction Justice Unit within the California Department of Justice. While this is only a beginning, it represents a critical step forward for further fostering a culture of integrity and transparency that supports trust in the law.”

In a press conference announcing the unit’s formation, Bonta slipped and admitted the unit’s true purpose – to eradicate systemic racism and other injustices. From the Los Angeles Times:

He said the goal of the office is to “ultimately support public safety” by ensuring public trust in the criminal justice system. Its work, he said during a news conference in Oakland, will be conducted with “an eye toward systemic racism” and other injustices that have undermined that system in the past.

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California is seeing a surge not just in violent crime but in violent crime committed by convicted felons who were let out of prison early. For instance, a police officer in Selma, CA was gunned down by Nathaniel Dixon, a convicted felon who’d been sentenced to one year and four months in state prison on March 7, 2022 for drug and gun crimes committed while on probation for an armed robbery charge, who was released from prison September 22, 2022, and whose post-release probation had been revoked October 14 but reinstated on November 15, 2022. When he murdered Officer Gonzalo Carrasco on January 31, 2023, Dixon was under a domestic violence restraining order, so he was prohibited from carrying a firearm for numerous reasons.

Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said on a Fresno talk radio show that “Dixon was allowed out of prison early because of accelerated time credits from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,” after issuing a scathing statement about Carrasco’s murder which was aimed at Newsom, Bonta, and other leftist prosecutors:

“Today, Governor Gavin Newsom, and every legislator in the state of California who supports this over-reaching phenomenon they try to disguise as legitimate criminal justice reform, has the blood of this officer on their hands,” Smittcamp said in a statement released Tuesday night.

“The Governor and certain members of the California legislature have created a warped system that allows active and violent criminals to receive arbitrary ‘time credits’ in an effort to reduce the state prison population to reach their goals of closing more prison facilities.

“They are released without significant punishment, rehabilitation programming, or educational opportunities. This madness is creating more victims and, furthermore, it is not serving the people who are committing the crimes.”

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According to Asm. Joe Patterson (R-Rocklin), the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is releasing violent inmates early without notifying victims or the local District Attorneys, and has introduced a bill to require CDCR to provide “advanced notification to local DAs of credit calculations for early releases. The notification also would include the length of the sentence imposed by the court, the amount of time the sentence was changed by each category of credit awarded or denied, and the total time served vs. the original sentence.” He’s also co-authored a bill that would “provide that the CDCR documents pertaining to an inmate’s release date and their early release credits are public records,” since they currently are not public.

“I support proven rehabilitation programs, but the reality is that inmates are now being secretly released and earning credits automatically,” said Patterson. “Our local district attorneys are seeing criminals, denied parole, released back into communities to repeat offend, without notification to the district attorney or victim. This cannot continue unchecked.”

Bonta is going to hire at least two new Deputy AG’s to head the program and told the Los Angeles Times that he is using discretionary budget monies to fund the salaries. He might have been counting on the appointment of his wife, Assemblywoman Mia Bonta, as chair of the budget subcommittee overseeing his office’s annual budget to ensure that he’ll have all the funding he needs for this dangerous scheme, but Mia Bonta announced Sunday that she would recuse herself from any items dealing with funding for the California Department of Justice. He will undoubtedly find the other Democrats on the committee to be just as accommodating of his request, though.

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With Bonta’s focus on wrongful convictions, it’s doubtful that he will request much funding, if any, to ensure that the state’s prosecutors and victims of violent crime will receive warning when those felons are released into their communities early. And he’s absolutely uninterested in ensuring that those felons are charged appropriately to begin with, so that they can serve maximum time — something that would actually increase public safety,

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