File this one under, “If you won’t do your job, someone has to do it.”
That, in essence, is the message L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva delivered this past week to county District Attorney George Gascón.
Gascón, since taking office in December, has famously abdicated his responsibility as the county’s chief prosecutor and protector of crime victims’ rights. Instead, he’s an advocate for criminals, issuing a raft of executive orders that can only be characterized as pro-criminal and anti-victim.
Among them is the district attorney’s order that deputy district attorneys will no longer be allowed to attend parole hearings — and in fact, the DA’s office will not advocate that convicts be required to serve anything beyond their minimum sentences, supporting parole for any convict who’s up for a hearing.
Gascón’s order, true to form, greases the skids for dangerous criminals to walk free as soon as possible, leaving their victims and victims’ families to live in fear.
Recognizing that Gascón was in the process of leaving crime victims and victims’ families to twist alone in the wind, Villanueva stepped up to the plate and informed the district attorney that if the DA’s office won’t look out for victims’ rights, the Sheriff’s Department will.
In a letter to Gascón on Wednesday, Villanueva said that if deputy district attorneys will no longer be allowed to attend the hearings, “The (L.A. County Sheriff’s Department) will do everything possible to give victims a voice at the table to address their concerns” despite “the lack of funding and resources in my department.”
Villanueva said LASD officials will attend virtual parole hearings or have investigators travel to in-person hearings, as well as continue to write letters in opposition to the Gascón administration’s policy.
Calling Gascón’s policy “a step backward,” the sheriff said in a live briefing: “We believe this is important to give a voice for the voiceless and keep our commitment in good standing in support of those who have been victimized by violent crime.”
Villanueva’s concerns are shared by county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose district includes the Santa Clarita Valley. (We previously thanked Barger for her advocacy on behalf of victims’ rights, in our Jan. 26 editorial.) Barger and Villanueva have locked horns on a variety of issues over the past couple of years — the sheriff’s relationship with Barger and the other members of the county Board of Supervisors can best be described as rocky — but Villanueva and Barger see eye to eye on this very important fact:
If the county’s so-called chief prosecutor doesn’t give a damn about the rights of crime victims, someone else has to.
We thank the sheriff for filling a gap that should not have to be filled, and putting public safety first — because our county’s district attorney clearly does not.