A California prosecutor says if Los Angeles County’s new controversial district attorney won’t pursue the maximum punishment for a crime committed nearly forty years ago, he wants the case.
The Orange County Register reports, “Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer has filed a brief seeking to take over the prosecution from Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón of a violent predator charged with the 1981 kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old Anaheim Hills boy.”
According to the Register, Kenneth Kasten Rasmuson “remains in jail in connection with the slaying of Jeffrey Vargo, but Gascón’s newly imposed directives have forced prosecutors in his office to move to dismiss special circumstances and enhancements.”
Special circumstance allegations and sentencing enhancements act as extra punishments added on to the charge of an underlying offense.
Rasmuson is accused of abducting Vargo on July 2, 1981, after the boy went for a bike ride near his home in Anaheim Hills, which is part of Orange County. His body was found the next day in neighboring Los Angeles County.
Orange County DA seeks to wrestle away cold-case murder from DA George Gascon in LA https://t.co/gjaZFuWFIu
— O.C. Register (@ocregister) February 17, 2021
DNA evidence would eventually lead investigators to Rasmuson, who was arrested 33 years after the death.
Rasmuson, 60, a convicted sexual predator, is also accused of murdering another 6-year-old boy in L.A. County in 1986.
He was previously charged in L.A. County under Gascón’s predecessor with two capital murder offenses, along with the special circumstance allegations that he committed the crimes during the commission of a lewd or lascivious act upon a child, and the accusation he committed multiple murders. If convicted as charged, Rasmuson would face the death penalty or life in state prison without the possibility of parole. Gascón, however, has moved to dismiss those special circumstance allegations.
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) March 29, 2015
A Los Angeles judge recently issued a preliminary injunction temporarily barring Gascón from directing prosecutors to drop sentencing enhancements in active cases.
Still, Orange County D.A. Spitzer said he would attend a hearing in L.A. County Superior Court on Monday on behalf of Vargo’s family “trying to get this case back to Orange County to do justice for the parents.” Spitzer filed special circumstances murder charges against Rasmuson in Orange County earlier this week, establishing what he described as “an active case.”
“If George Gascón refuses to follow the law in prosecuting a pedophile murderer, I will,” Spitzer said.
In a recent interview with KFI radio, Spitzer explained his strategy:
So my point to the judge is, “Your honor, if Mr. Gascon will not seek justice, in other words, he refuses to go forward because he’s trying not to go for the special circumstances, kidnapping, sexual assault for purposes of murder, then I am more than willing to, and I have jurisdiction over the case.”
Spitzer said that since Vargo was kidnapped from Orange County, his office has jurisdiction to file charges against Rasmuson in connection to that death.
“I refuse to allow the LADA’s ‘one-size fits all approach’ to prevent the family of a 6-year-old murdered child from achieving the justice that they deserve,” Spitzer said in a press release. “His crimes are the stuff of parent’s nightmares and I will do everything in my power to ensure that this pedophile is held accountable for his crimes and is off the streets for the rest of his life. We will not take any chance of having this sexually violent predator come in contact with one more child.”
Spitzer maintains that Rasmuson is “a child molester” who “can’t be rehabilitated,” noting “he’s never been rehabilitated” after previous convictions for sexually assaulting two other boys in 1981 and 1987.
After Gascón took the oath of office in December, he issued a set of special directives implementing progressive reforms that have been met with immediate resistance. He did not campaign on ending all sentencing enhancements and special circumstance allegations, but he did pledge not to prosecute some offenses to the fullest extent allowed by law. Along with other elements of his plan, the changes sparked a revolt from local law enforcement groups and several deputy district attorneys within Gascón’s office. Victims’ families and prosecutors connected with media outlets, and their stories helped create several new critics of both Gascón and his policies.
Spitzer’s spokesperson said he was motivated to file charges against Rasmuson after seeing a news report that featured Jeffrey Vargo’s parents discussing Gascón’s reforms. They had voiced concern that their son’s alleged murderer could possibly be paroled if convicted.
'I would be happy if he went to prison for the rest of his miserable life and rotted there,' says the mother of Jeffrey Vargo, a 6-year-old killed in 1981 https://t.co/vTuawdaK5F #deathpenalty #justice #LADA #SoCal
— Scott Schwebke (@TheChalkOutline) January 30, 2021
“If Rasmuson gets credit for the time already served in jail, he could be out in maybe 15 years,” Connie Vargo, Jeffrey’s mother, had claimed. “I know he is never going to be executed, at least not in my lifetime. I would be happy if he went to prison for the rest of his miserable life and rotted there.”