District Attorney changes course on sentencing enhancements

L.A. County Superior Court in San Fernando.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon announced a change of course Friday, saying he’ll allow some exceptions to a recent directive limiting prosecutors from pursuing longer sentences for some violent criminals.

Earlier this week, Gascon said he would allow no exceptions to his elimination of “enhancements,” a legal term used by lawyers to modify charges for reasons such as prior convictions, gang involvement, etc.

Now, in a statement issued Friday afternoon from his office, Gascon has said that he won’t eliminate prior-conviction enhancements, gang enhancements, special circumstances enhances or out-on-bail enhancements.

The decision comes after a deluge of pressure and criticism from a number of people from across the local law enforcement spectrum, including criticism from his own deputies.

“I think the community of Angelenos from all over L.A. County came together to fight for justice and to fight these special directives by the district attorney that would have hurt vulnerable victims, would hurt children and would hurt people of color,” said Jon Hatami, a Santa Clarita resident and prosecutor for Los Angeles County. “However, this is just one step, and there are many other directives that have been put out that could hurt public safety, that could hurt our community.”

Hatami said that he would continue to work to change some of Gascon’s other recent orders that he’s enacted or pledged to enact since he defeated former District Attorney Jackie Lacey in November.

“I think the issue regarding bail is a very dangerous issue, allowing zero bail or presumptive zero bail, for domestic violence and child-abuse cases,” said Hatami. “I think he’s still not allowing the out-on-bail enhancement, so somebody gets released on bail because they’ve already committed a crime, and then they go and commit another crime. He doesn’t think that that requires an out-on-bail enhancement.”

The Santa Clarita resident said Gascon is not allowing risk assessment when dealing with bail, nor allowing deputy district attorneys to go to parole hearings to represent the interest of crime victims.

Hatami emphasized Gascon also needs to begin looking at reaching out to victims before allowing the courts to start the process of dismissing things or moving forward with things on the legal process.

Gascon has said in the last week that he hopes his policies will still result in people being prosecuted for their underlying crimes, but that by eliminating some enhancements that he can begin to end mass incarceration.

The District Attorney’s Office had not issued a public comment as of the publication of this article.

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