LA DA's "Justice Reform" Gets Priorities Askew

Newly elected DA for Los Angeles George Gascon has some thoughts on how the office should be run. Then again, he’s the incoming district attorney. That’s probably how it should be.

However, it seems that his priorities or a bit wonky. See, he sent an open letter to police officers in L.A. County, and it seems he’s apparently ready to be soft on criminals, but tough on cops.

Gascon’s letter warned that he has “profound intolerance” for dishonest officers.

“Those who engage in unconstitutional policing have severely hindered the standing and safety of us all,” Gascon wrote in the letter, obtained by NBC LA. “We are all scarred by their misdeeds, leading many in our communities to perceive police as persecutors instead of protectors,” he said.

Among the reforms expected to be detailed:

  • Prosecutors will no longer ask for the accused to be held in lieu of cash bail. Rather, prosecutors will request detention with no bail for those accused of certain serious or violent crimes and will not oppose those accused of misdemeanors and, “non-violent, non-serious,” felonies to be released on their own recognizance.
  • Gascon’s office will immediately drop any efforts to seek the death penalty in murder cases and will disband the committee of prosecutors who decided which cases were suitable for a death sentence.
  • Prosecutors will no longer be allowed to seek sentencing enhancements, such as those for committing a crime to benefit a gang or for the use of a gun. Gascon’s office will also apply the criteria retroactively, which could potentially cause the resentencing of tens of thousands of people already sent to prison to new, shorter terms.
  • Juvenile cases will never be allowed to be transferred to adult court, no matter the offense. Gascon’s office will ask that any pending cases be returned to juvenile court, where sentences are much shorter and focused more on rehabilitation.
  • Prosecutors will stop charging many crimes, and almost all misdemeanors, related to, “poverty, homelessness, or addiction.”

Now, there are a number of issues here that are profoundly troubling, at least to me.

First, only those accused of “certain serious or violent crimes” will be held. Others, including some violent criminals that aren’t accused of “certain” crimes, are to be released without bail. That means violent and potentially violent offenders will be dropped right back onto the streets where they can continue to commit various crimes. That’s plenty of time to cause still more problems. After all, there is a long time between arrest and trial.

Second, by refusing to seek sentencing enhancements, even going so far as to try and remove them retroactively, Gascon is looking to put violent criminals back out on the streets all that much sooner. While I tend not to like the idea of the weapon used factoring into the decision–do you really care if your loved one is murdered with a gun versus a knife?–there are times that it matters. Take an aggravated assault case where someone is shot versus someone being punched in the head, for example.

And gang enhancements definitely have their place.

Then there’s the fact that Gascon isn’t going to prosecute any number of crimes if they relate to any of these three things. The thing is, a case could be made that almost all crimes relate to “poverty, homelessness, or addiction” in some way, shape, or form. Is Gascon basically saying that he’s not planning on prosecuting much of anything? It sure sounds like it.

Also, let’s note what’s not included here. While he’s ready to clamp down on the police and ready to let the criminal element run wild, there’s absolutely no mention of looking the other way when law-abiding citizens accidentally run afoul of California’s draconian gun regulations. He’ll let prostitutes walk the city without fear of prosecution or let petty thieves destroy people’s businesses, but if you have a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds that you purchased when you lived out of state, well…you’re screwed.

If you live in Los Angeles County, it might be a good time to move.