Our View | Gascón and the Canary in the Coal Mine

Our View

District Attorney George Gascón is a cagey one, that’s for sure. 

This week, there’s been a lot of media buzz about the potential that Gascón will dismantle or neuter the Hardcore Gang Division of the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office.

Multiple sources within the DA’s office, fearful for their jobs, are speaking to media outlets on condition of anonymity, saying Gascón plans to torpedo the unit as part of his criminal justice “reform,” which sure looks a lot like an effort to put more criminals on the streets and ignore the concerns of crime victims, their families and the public at large.

But, when confronted on it, all Gascón and his operatives will say is this, which was sent to The Signal not as a direct quote from the DA, but as a paraphrase of his response to the question: 

“We have been evaluating all the functions of this office. I want to make sure we take a 21st century approach to our work, become science and data informed and we also become more efficient.

“In the interim we are evaluating functions and we will continue to do so and look at the areas we want to provide more resources and the areas we want to de-emphasize.”

That, folks, is what is called a “nonanswer.”

Sources in Gascón’s office are persistent in their belief, based on equally persistent chatter in their ranks, that the DA has the Hardcore Gang Division in his crosshairs. It would make sense: The district attorney, since he took office a few months ago, has already gutted prosecution of numerous crimes, abandoned sentencing enhancements for gang crimes and third strikes, and has taken multiple other pro-criminal measures.

Sources in the DA’s office are rightly concerned. For example, there’s this, from one such source who fears reprisals should anonymity not be granted:

“Gascón is about to disband the Hardcore Gang Division. He’s decentralizing the smartest and hardest-working prosecutors assigned to gang murders and putting them out to pasture. Then he is going to take the personnel influx resulting from the disbandment to make a resentencing unit. The resentencing unit will then be responsible for releasing from prison ANYONE who meets one of the following criteria serving prison for ANY crime (child rape and murder) no matter how heinous and no matter how well they have been doing in prison (racketeering and organized crime):

“1) Served 15 years state prison.

“2) Was convicted under 18.

“3) Is serving a sentence based only (on) time remaining on enhancements (strikes, guns, causing great bodily injury, gang, etc.).

“4) Criminalized survivors (no proffered definition).

“5) People susceptible to COVID.

“6) Anyone the prisons recommend for release.

“7) Anyone over 60.

“It is estimated that 20,000-30,000 inmates fall into one of these categories. Ninety-one percent of the total are serious, violent, or sexual offenders. However, the court will have to agree to resentencing in each case. Gascón has caused a liberal judge friend of his to come out of retirement, and she will be assigned to handle all the resentencing motions. It is believed that she will rubber-stamp all of the motions. While it is the court that heard a defendant’s case that must sentence the defendant, it is not clear that that rule applies to RE-sentencing. So this gambit may work.”

The upshot? Gascón is seeking to release potentially thousands of violent criminals onto the streets of L.A. County — and to stop pursuing prosecution of the new ones.

Murderers. Rapists. Sex traffickers. Violent gang members.

To all of them, Gascón is the best news they’ve seen. He must be stopped. Since he has not publicly acknowledged his plan to kneecap the Hardcore Gang Division, he can still walk it back. That might offer some reprieve.

But the die is cast: Gascón’s mission is clear, and his priority is not public safety. His priority is coddling criminals. And that’s why the effort to recall Gascón and oust him from office just may be the most important grassroots effort ever undertaken in L.A. County.

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