As organizers of an effort to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón say they are working closely with county officials to finalize the petition, three more cities declared “no confidence” in the progressive prosecutor this week.
“City leaders are beginning to see what citizens and victims have known: George Gascon threatens the safety of our communities with his pro-criminal policies and actions,” read an email blast from Victims of Violent Crime for the Recall of District Attorney Gascón. “Together, we can recall George Gascon and stop his soft on crime policies that are not providing justice for victims.”
Lancaster, La Mirada, and Whittier city councils all approved resolutions on Tuesday night, following previous similar moves by elected leaders in Beverly Hills, Pico Rivera, and Santa Clarita.
“The City Council’s that have pursued these symbolic, pointless, and partisan attempts to aid a floundering recall effort are tiny islands of red in LA County’s sea of blue,” Max Szabo, who has served as a spokesman for Gascón, told The Daily Wire. “Like the tough-on-crime policies of the 1980s and 1990s which focused on punishment at the expense of our safety, racial disparities, and limited public resources, they are destined to fail miserably.”
The Antelope Valley Press reported, the Lancaster City Council approved the proposal 4-0-1, with one councilman abstaining. According to the outlet, “the resolution cited three policies Gascón implemented after he took office in December following his victory against incumbent Jackie Lacey in the Nov. 3 election.” Those policies included sweeping changes for cash bail and eliminating sentence enhancements – a reform Gascón later amended after public outcry.
According to the Valley Press, Deputy District Attorney John Hatami spoke out against Gascón at the meeting. He is one of several DDAs who have been critical of the county’s new top law enforcement official.
“The policies and directives implemented by George Gascón adversely affect the public safety of Lancaster,” Hatami said. “They don’t help or support the residents of Antelope Valley. Basically these policies provide comfort and support to criminals and wrongdoers.”
Hatami mentioned L.A. County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Owen, who was fatally shot execution-style outside a Lancaster apartment complex by a parolee in 2016. The Valley Press reported, “the parolee pleaded guilty last week and is set to be sentenced May 17 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.” Owens’ widow, Tania, is an honorary chair of the Gascón recall group.
“If another deputy in Lancaster is killed, we will not seek a special circumstance under George Gascón policies, and that means that person could be paroled at some point,” Hatami claimed. “Going forward, George Gascón won’t seek life without the possibility of parole in any case, no matter what the circumstances.”
According to the Whittier Daily News, the La Mirada City Council’s vote on Tuesday was 4-0, with Councilman Anthony Otero recusing himself “because his wife is a deputy district attorney.” The outlet reported Whittier’s vote the same night was 4-1.
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In both cities, council members criticized Gascón for his new policies of not prosecuting numerous misdemeanor cases, including disturbing the peace, driving without or on a suspended license, drug and paraphernalia possession, littering, loitering to commit prostitution, making a criminal threat, minor in possession of alcohol, public intoxication, resisting arrest, trespassing and under the influence of a controlled substance.
“What kind of message are we sending by being lenient on our criminals?” Whittier Councilman Fernando Dutra asked. “If you’re a criminal you can get away with more.”
In Whittier, about 200 cases involving these crimes since December haven’t been filed by the District Attorney’s Office, Whittier Police Chief Aviv Bar said. The majority of these are for drug possession, for being under the influence and for possession of drug paraphernalia.
“This District Attorney has issued some very dramatic and consequential directives that not only put our county residents at risk but contradict the practices we have come to expect from the prosecutors who pursue justice for victims of crime in Whittier,” said Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri.
According to the Daily News, Vinatieri “also criticized Gascón for no longer seeking the death penalty for a gang member accused of fatally shooting Whittier Officer Keith Boyer and trying to kill Whittier Officer Patrick Hazell in 2017.”
“That heinous crime shocked our community to its very core and challenged the sensibilities of even the most forgiving of those amongst us,” he said. “To have the prosecution of Officer Boyer’s murderer now take a softer tone under these new directives is not something I am willing to accept or tolerate and I don’t believe our residents are either.”
Los Angeles Times reporter James Queally, who has covered Gascón extensively, tweeted, “It is annoying to watch city officials completely misstate the policies they’re debating.”
He's saying there's no process by which diversion would occur in these cases (not true, literally says this in the directive). Same directive also allows DDAs to appeal up the chain that charges should still be filed when a threat exists to another person or other circumstances.
— James Queally (@JamesQueallyLAT) April 28, 2021
“Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri saying D.A. will ‘never’ prosecute drug paraphernalia charges,” Queally added. “Not accurate.”
Whittier Councilman Henry Bouchot opposed the resolution, providing the only no vote. According to the Daily News, “Bouchet said the vote was purely symbolic and would carry no legal force.”
“I think this is an ill-conceived, nearsighted and partisan effort to bolster the recall effort of a sitting district attorney,” he said.
Recall organizers told supporters this week that the committee is “working closely with the Registrar of Voters office and our attorneys to make sure the petition is ready to hit the streets and cannot be challenged by Gascon or his George Soros-funded backers.”
“It’s important that we are thorough and detailed down to font size and margin spacing,” a statement from the Gascón recall group said. “This process only helps our effort to Recall George Gascon and the extra time is allowing us to organize thousands of volunteers and raise needed funds to buy volunteer petition site supplies. The extra time and energy does not negatively impact our time to collect signatures once the petition is approved.”