Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón defended his special directive that bars prosecutors from attending parole hearings in response to a recent request from county Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
In a Monday letter to the supervisor, Gascón said Special Directive 20-14, which orders that prosecutors “will not attend parole hearings” and will support granting parole to those who have served their mandatory minimum sentence, as well as his other policies, “prioritizes victims by securing better results, enhancing victim services, and preventing future victimization.”
His response follows a Jan. 21 letter from Barger to the district attorney, in which she requested a “thorough review” of the Ruben Beltran case and urged the Board of Parole Hearings to deny Beltran parole “and protect the public from this potential repeat rapist.”
Beltran was convicted of sexual assault of a child and has been serving a 15-years-to-life sentence since 2004. He is scheduled to have his first parole hearing March 11. Under Gascón’s reforms, the deputy district attorneys who convicted Beltran will not be able to attend the hearing. Barger said she’s concerned about “the trend that I’m seeing taking place” and that victims need proper representation.
“I am concerned that this lack of representation for survivors, in this case and in others, will lead to more victimization among our residents,” said Barger in her letter.
In response, Gascón said that a prosecutor’s role ends at sentencing and that the role of the Parole Board begins thereafter.
“They are indeed the experts in this arena, and are the only entity that would have all the necessary information to make such important decisions,” he said. “If an individual seeking parole has not been rehabilitated, the Parole Board would not find them suitable for release.”
Gascón said his Victim Services Division works with victims by notifying them of upcoming parole hearings and offers to counsel, as well as accompany them to hearings for victim advocacy. He added that it is vital to provide “more wraparound services for the victims we serve.”
“That is why my office is seeking additional funding to increase the number of advocates we have working in the office,” said Gascón. “With your help, we can enhance the services we provide our victims. I look forward to working collaboratively with you and to discuss this matter further at your nearest convenience.”
Barger’s Office plans to meet with the Gascón’s staff “to gain a deeper understanding of his position on victim services which will inform our next steps,” according to Barger spokeswoman Michelle Vega.