The latest chapter in a series of controversial policy changes from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is headed to the state Supreme Court next month, which will hear arguments from a suspect in firearm assaults who, in a plot twist with little precedent, is being supported in his efforts to reduce his potential sentence by the D.A. — a job that traditionally entails enforcing such penalties.
The state Supreme Court is planning to hear arguments in June from a man accused of criminal threats, kidnapping, six counts of assault with a firearm, several counts of extortion and carjacking in a case brought forth in 2019.
The suspect, Rehan Nazir, is seeking to remove the now hotly debated sentencing enhancements from his allegations — specifically that a firearm was used in commission of a crime — in following with a special directive from District Attorney George Gascón issued last December, which ordered prosecutors not to file sentencing enhancements.
The current appeal, which could have broader implications for defendants who have already had sentencing enhancements issued for their crimes and allegations, looks at whether Gascón’s policy, to retroactively remove previously court-approved sentencing enhancements in Los Angeles County, is acting “in the best interests of justice.”
For his part, Gascón has argued the D.A. has wide discretion in sentencing, which is why, on Dec. 11, his office made arguments to dismiss the gun allegations for Nazir, just days after his directives were announced.
Previously, Gascón has argued for the elimination of sentencing enhancements, contending they “provide little deterrence, decrease the ability of the offender to reintegrated after imprisonment, increase recidivism and impose serious costs to the community that can be instead invested in more effective alternatives.”
The court rejected the motion on the grounds it was based on a policy decision and not the merits of the case. However, the court invited the D.A.’s Office to refile, which it did Dec. 18. Prosecutors attempted to refile the case against Nazir, without enhancements, which the judge declined to grant. The trial judge noted that while the D.A. has the discretion on filing charges, once those charges are filed, amendments require judicial supervision.
That rejection led Nazir to appeal the decision in a March 8 filing, which was denied March 10, prompting Nazir to appeal to the state Supreme Court. Gascón supported that appeal, arguing that the trial court was mistaken in its belief that the D.A. didn’t have the authority to amend charges in the “interests of society.”
A number of members of the law enforcement community, from homicide detectives to victims’ advocates to prosecutors in the D.A.’s Office, have questioned the reasoning behind Gascón’s policies — which have also been opposed by the deputy district attorneys union — and how it could create a safer environment.
“In my career, I’ve never seen the D.A. join in a defendant’s motion to dismiss firearms allegations that are provable,” said Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami. “I’ve never seen that.
“George Gascón claims that (he issued the directives) because it promotes public safety — but not charging firearms allegations that are provable, how does that promote public safety?”
The online docket for Nazir’s case on the state Supreme Court website set a deadline of June 17 for a review of the matter.