Jonathan Hatami | County Needs a Principled D.A.


Nineteen cities (Santa Clarita, Beverly Hills, Pico Rivera, Whittier, La Mirada, Covina, Lancaster, Rosemead, Azusa, Santa Fe Springs, Diamond Bar, Redondo Beach, Arcadia, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, San Gabriel, Temple City, La Habra Heights and Hidden Hills) have now voted “no confidence” in L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón’s policies and directives. 

This is unprecedented. These cities represent hundreds of thousands of Angelenos — Democrats, Republicans, declined to state and independents — who have lost confidence in the elected D.A. and are gravely concerned about public safety and the protection of our children and families.  

Angelenos ought to be concerned. Crime in L.A. County and the city of Los Angeles has skyrocketed over the last seven months of Gascón’s reign. Homicides, shootings, robberies, assaults and violent crime have all risen dramatically. Since Gascón took office, in Santa Clarita, more than 500 misdemeanor cases have been straight rejected as a result of Gascón’s directives. In West Covina, it is over 150 cases. In Glendale, it is over 400. And in Pomona, over 1,000 cases have been rejected as a result of Gascón’s policies. 

Gascón has almost decimated the Hardcore Gang Unit and reduced the Major Narcotics Unit to half its size. Gascón disbanded the AB 109, parole compliance and PC 290 sex registration compliance unit, which was called the SET team. He has disbanded the North County Code Enforcement unit. 

And, he has reduced the Cyber Crime Unit, which investigates child pornography crimes, from 14 investigators to six. Furthermore, all 16- and 17-year-olds who committed heinous murders in the past, where they were directly transferred to adult court, fairly prosecuted, convicted by a jury and sentenced to prison by a judge, these juveniles, many of whom are now adults, are all being released around age 25 into our communities under Gascón’s blanket juvenile policies.     

We all deserve to be equally protected under the law by our elected D.A. We all deserve transparency from our government. We all deserve public safety, especially our children and vulnerable members of our communities. That is not a right-wing belief. It is a value all Angelenos hold. Blanket policies that do not take into consideration the facts, evidence, law, victims, surviving families and public safety are unjust and unfair.     

Recently, Gascón said the reason for our homeless crisis in L.A. County is misdemeanor prosecution. Gascón said prosecuting misdemeanors actually makes us less safe. Basically, according to Gascón, not prosecuting misdemeanors makes us safer. This is coming from the elected D.A. Think about that. 

In a recent article, the author says, “Let’s say you are arrested for trespassing, or maybe for public drunkenness, both misdemeanors. In most states, if you can’t afford bail, you stay in jail.” The author goes on to state, “As soon as Gascón took office in December, he ordered that people who commit low-level offenses like trespassing, disturbing the peace, public intoxication or driving with a suspended license be diverted to rehabilitation programs rather than face prosecution.”  

Let’s talk about this. Per Gascón’s Special Directive 20-07 issued Dec. 7, the following misdemeanors shall be declined or dismissed: trespass, disturbing the peace, driving without a valid license, driving on a suspended license, criminal threats, drug possession or paraphernalia possession, minor in possession of alcohol, drinking in public, under the influence of controlled substance, public intoxication, loitering, loitering to commit prostitution and resisting arrest. Furthermore, according to Gascón’s directives, prosecutors are forbidden from asking for bail for most misdemeanors and many felonies. So, maybe the author and Gascón did not even read his own directives. Because, in L.A. County, under Gascón’s policies, we do not even charge trespass or public drunkenness anymore. Even if we did, under Gascón’s policies that person would be given $0 bail and released. So, Angelenos, don’t be misinformed.   

Furthermore, charging wrongdoers with misdemeanors did not lead to the homeless crisis. That is an absurd statement. There is not one piece of “data and science” supporting that theory. If that were true, Proposition 47, of which Gascón was one of the authors, would have fixed the homeless crisis, not made it worse! Arresting, charging and offering diversion programs for low-level misdemeanors, which helps the wrongdoer and keeps communities safer, while ensuring there is an incentive to get better or else you go to jail if you fail, is the best option. Not charging certain misdemeanors at all (blanket policies) leads to more crime, higher levels of crime, diminished quality of life, lack of public safety and demoralized police departments. 

In direct contradiction to the author of the article, Gascón never said, “let’s charge misdemeanors and divert low-level offenders to diversion and rehabilitation programs.” He straight out ordered all the above misdemeanors to not even be charged. The thousands of misdemeanor rejects mentioned above from Santa Clarita, Glendale, West Covina and Pomona — Gascón never diverted those individuals to a program. That is just untrue. If there’s no incentive, you can’t implement diversion and rehabilitation programs. The wrongdoer will not participate. All you need to do is look at the direct results of Prop. 47.       

Individuals can harass community members in the mall, the supermarket, at a restaurant, a day care center, a school, or just about anywhere, resist arrest and attack police when they are called, and the wrongdoer will be released within 48 hours with no charge and no program. Many of these directives also adversely affect prosecution of sex trafficking cases. It emboldens pimps and sex traffickers to abuse young people and the most vulnerable in our communities. Furthermore, convicted drunk drivers don’t need a license. That is dangerous to everyone, including our children. Not punishing criminals appropriately will not result in less crime. It will result in more. Not following the law and enacting blanket policies doesn’t benefit anyone. 

This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is a human rights issue. This is a community issue. This is a public safety issue. The failure to follow the law, personal politics, and blanket policies from a person who has never tried one single case as a prosecutor shows a complete crisis in leadership. Gascón’s policies ignore the rights of victims and their families while focusing exclusively on the criminal and wrongdoer. His policies also disregard the law, public safety and the will of the voters; and is now leading to dangerous results. 

Angelenos, it is now up to you. Please join me in this fight for justice.  

 Jonathan Hatami, a Santa Clarita Valley resident, is a deputy district attorney for L.A. County.

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