Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami, a Valencia resident who’s led a number of successful high-profile prosecutions in his 17 years with the office, announced his candidacy for his boss’s job this week.
Hatami, who’s been an outspoken opponent of District Attorney George Gascón’s policies — opposition that has led to an ongoing lawsuit after Hatami claimed the office was retaliating against him — is seeking the role as the county’s top prosecutor.
In a statement shared with The Signal explaining his candidacy and why he is running to keep Santa Clarita safe, Hatami decried Gascón’s “statement of values.”
“Santa Clarita, the first city in L.A. County to vote no confidence in George Gascón, is my home. My wife is a detective here. We are raising our children here. I promise you that I will always fight to make sure our children and families have a safe community here in Santa Clarita,” he wrote in the statement shared with The Signal.
His work in the successful prosecution of child murderers through the DA’s Complex Child Abuse Unit has garnered national attention in recent years, with a Netflix documentary featuring “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez,” the story of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy who was tortured to death in 2013. Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, received life without the possibility of parole, and the boy’s stepfather was sentenced to death in 2017 after the jury deliberated for two days, in a case that also revealed major problems with the county’s Child Protective Services.
More recently, the parents of Anthony Avalos, a 10-year-old boy who was also in the Department of Child and Family Services before he was tortured to death by his parents, were found guilty in a case reviewed by a judge instead of a jury. In that case, Heather Barron and Kareem Leiva are expected to receive life without the possibility of parole after Gascón withdrew the death penalty from consideration, a move decried by Hatami.
“George Gascón’s blanket policies on Day 1 were his ‘statement of values,’” he added. “He didn’t value victims, public safety, prosecuting hate crimes, addressing gun violence, implementing real reforms, protecting children or collaborating with our leaders in our communities.”
He cited Gascón’s special directives, which have been widely criticized in a number of lawsuits against his office, as the reason why L.A. is the “Hate Crime Capital of America,” fentanyl deaths are skyrocketing and L.A. streets are increasingly unsafe due to crime.
Hatami is scheduled Wednesday afternoon to formally announce his candidacy during a campaign kickoff event in Whittier.
Maria Ramirez, another veteran deputy district attorney in the office locked in a lawsuit with Gascón over his policies regarding juvenile prosecutions, announced her intention to run for the office last month.
As a head deputy district attorney, Ramirez currently oversees the Target Crime Division, which includes the Child Abduction, Arson & Explosives, Stalking and Animal Cruelty sections.
A spokesman from Gascón’s campaign also confirmed his intention to seek re-election Tuesday.
“One of the commitments that I made to the community when I ran in 2020 was that I would run for two terms,” he said in a statement shared by a spokeswoman for his campaign, “because 40 years of bad policy cannot be undone in a four-year cycle.”
A separate lawsuit over the validity of the signatures in the petition to recall Gascón is also slated for a hearing Friday.