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L.A. County DA Gascón steps down from state district attorney board because it’s too white

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Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has stepped away from the California District Attorneys Association after complaining that its board is all white and thus cannot adequately address current racial and criminal justice issues.

In a letter to the board’s president, Gascón also complained that the organization appeared too focused on being “tough on crime.”

“The absence of a single person of color on CDAA’s 17-member board is blinding,” Gascón wrote. “This is the leadership that sets the direction for an organization of elected prosecutors, all of whom disproportionately prosecute communities of color at a time when the nation is facing a reckoning over systemic racism, and in a state with a plurality of minorities no less.”

The newly elected L.A. County DA, a former San Francisco district attorney whose campaign was financed in part by left-wing billionaire George Soros, also claimed that the organization has “lost touch with the public.”

The former LAPD officer also complained that the board was replete with “those willing to toe the ‘tough on crime’ line,” adding, “For the rest of us, it is a place that fails to support us, our communities, or the pursuit of justice.”

Vern Pierson, district attorney for El Dorado County in Placerville, Calif., accused Gascón of staging a publicity stunt.

“Mr. Gascón cannot resign because he has not been a member of CDAA since October 2019 when he quit his job as DA of San Francisco,” he said in a statement to BizPac Review.

“On the ethnicity issue, his remarks are disingenuous, as he ran against the first sitting Los Angeles District Attorney who was both a woman and an African American. Incidentally, she was a CDAA board officer and in line to become president,” Pierson added.

“Shootings and other violent crimes are skyrocketing in LA. This appears to be a publicity stunt to divert attention from his favoring criminals at the expense of victims and growing calls for his recall,” Pierson said.

Gascón rankled career deputy district attorneys in Los Angeles as well as members of the LAPD when he announced last month after taking office he would discard all sentencing enhancements such as gang membership and the ‘three strikes’ provision for serial offenders. 

He also wrote an open letter to the police department indicating he has a “profound intolerance” for dishonest cops.

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

Shortly after taking office and announcing that he was eliminating sentencing enhancements, Gascón was sued by his own deputy DAs who said he was violating state law by refusing to utilize them.

The state DA organization filed an amicus brief in support of the action. “No constitutional provision and no statute vests any district attorney with veto power over the law,” said CDAA Chief Executive Officer Greg Totten in a statement.

In his letter, Gascón also denounced the state DA group for backing the lawsuit filed by his deputies, calling it “disappointing,” though “it was not a surprise given the politics of the organization.” 

Nevertheless, a state judge temporarily blocked Gascón earlier this month from ditching the sentencing enhancement requirements.

“The District Attorney’s disregard of the Three Strikes law ‘plead and prove’ requirement is unlawful, as is requiring deputy DA’s to seek dismissal of pending sentencing enhancements without a lawful basis,” Judge James Chalfant wrote in granting the deputy DA’s request for an injunction.

The decision allows them to continue using sentencing enhancements until the case is ultimately decided.

However, Chalfant also wrote that “the public interest strongly weighs” in Gascón’s favor, adding that the “injunction will not enjoin the District Attorney from preventing deputy district attorneys from charging sentencing enhancements in new cases where not required by the Three Strikes law.”

Gascon went on to defend his decision.

“I never had any illusions as to the difficulty and challenges associated with reforming a dated institution steeped in systemic racism,” he said earlier this month following Chalfant’s ruling. “My directives are a product of the will of the people, including survivors of crime, and a substantial body of research that shows this modern approach will advance community safety.”

Jon Dougherty

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