Jonathan Hatami | Not Even the DA Is Above the Law

Jon Hatami, prosecutor for the Complex Victims Unit at home. Dan Watson/The Signal

The city of Santa Clarita has been my home for over 38 years. Both of my children were born here. My wife serves our community as a Sheriff’s Department detective. We are raising our family here. 

And, I have dedicated much of my life to the service of my country, my city and my county. However, the residents of Santa Clarita need to realize that we are now at a crossroads when it comes to the safety of our community, our homes, our neighborhoods and our families. We have a district attorney who is pro-criminal and anti-victim. He is implementing polices and directives that benefit and provide comfort to the wrongdoer over the safety of the public. As a city, we need to come together and stand as one united voice for all the voiceless and vulnerable members of our city and valley.  

I want to be clear — I believe in reforms. However, committing present injustices against victims and their families to solve the past injustices in our society are not reforms. What the DA is doing is divisive, unfair and dangerous. In a few short months, justice, the law and human decency have been replaced with policies driven by the media, social politics and personal beliefs and feelings. There must be protection of the public, true justice, victim advocacy, personal accountability, punishment for wrongdoings, empathy for all, and we must follow the law. 

George Gascón implemented $0 bail for all misdemeanors and many nonviolent felonies, including child abuse and domestic violence. Many of these crimes are repeat offenders. This policy is a direct violation of the will of the people. Millions of Angelenos voted against $0 bail in the fall of 2020. The DA has even disallowed the “out-on-bail” enhancement. That means a person can commit domestic violence, child abuse, and all sorts of other crimes, get arrested, get released within 48 hours on $0 bail, reoffend, and we are not permitted to file the “out-on-bail” enhancement. There is absolutely no punishment or deterrent to stop a criminal from continuously re-offending. 

The DA has disallowed the filing of misdemeanor criminal threats, trespass, disturbing the peace and resisting arrest. This means that individuals can harass patrons and community members in the mall, the supermarket, at a restaurant, a day care center, a school, or just about anywhere, resist arrest and attack the police when deputies are called, and the wrongdoer will be released in 48 hours with no charge. 

These policies will lead to diminished quality of life in the Santa Clarita city and valley and the lack of punishment or deterrence will eventually lead to those individuals committing more serious crimes. These policies will also destroy the morale of the deputies who honorably patrol our neighborhoods.   

Gascón has also actively supported Assembly Bill 3234, which allows diversion for 45 misdemeanor offenses including hate crimes, assault with a deadly weapon and dissuading a witness. This also removed the 10-year firearm ban on individuals who commit these crimes. So, a person can walk into the Sacramento State capital with a firearm, be charged with a misdemeanor, get diversion, and be right back on the street with that firearm in a matter of days.  

Gascón has relied on faulty data and science from articles that are not published, not peer-reviewed, and are based on partisan push-polls, in order to justify disallowing the charging of the gang enhancement and many firearms allegations. In L.A. County, murders are up 136% and shootings are up 261% as compared to the same time last year.  

This DA even disallowed the filing of any hate crime allegations until he was pressured to change his directives. Think about that? Gascón says incarceration and prosecution is traumatic to the murderer and rapist. Well, murder, rape, hate crimes and child molestation are more traumatic to the victim, the victim’s family, and the community! A DA should not be trying to actively comfort murderers and rapists.  

Gascón is allowing a 17-year-old who murdered two young mothers and tried to burn their bodies to be released when the murderer turns 25. I want to be clear — I believe that most juveniles can and should be rehabilitated. But murder, rape and child molestation are adult crimes and behavior. A DA must ultimately protect the public and all the children in our communities who are not committing such heinous crimes. That is his job. People need to know, including juveniles, that they will be held accountable for their criminal behavior. Ultimately, we have a pro-criminal DA who refuses to fully punish murderers and rapists.  

I do believe in rehabilitation. I do believe once you do your time, you deserve a second chance. However, I also believe the DA should follow the law and protect the public. I believe that deputy DAs should be allowed to attend parole hearings to advocate for the victim, the victim’s family and the safety of the public. I believe we should fully prosecute child murderers, hate crimes, domestic violence, elder crimes, and sexual crimes and assaults. I believe we should charge and prosecute gun crimes and gun violence. I also believe in empathy, helping my community, and making our homes and neighborhoods safer.  

I don’t believe in blanket policies that are unsafe, unfair, or ineffective. I don’t believe rapists, murderers, police killers, and child molesters, who are bad and evil people, should be released from custody. I don’t believe the DA should abandon victims and their families. I don’t believe we should never seek life without the possibility of parole (LWOP), the ultimate punishment, or special circumstances for the most heinous crimes where we have 100% evidence. In the end, I believe in following the law fairly, equitably, honestly and justly.   

Remember, Santa Claritans, winning an election does not trump the law. No one, including the DA, is above the law. And, in the end, all politicians, especially the elected DA, answer to the people.  

Jonathan Hatami, a Santa Clarita Valley resident, is a deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County.

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