Jonathan Kraut | It’s Time to Select a New District Attorney

Jonathan Kraut

A criminal act can be characterized as when a person takes action for selfish benefit at the expense of another or that causes injury or suffering. Law enforcement responds to alleged criminal acts in the moment. Detectives and investigators gather evidence and build a case for the District Attorney’s office for prosecution.  

The DA’s office is the lynchpin that protects society by enforcing the law with prosecution. When criminal proceedings begin, it is a deputy DA who stands in “for the “people” and represents all of us. 

Years of failed leadership and counterproductive policies by current DA George Gascón must end.  

Gascón has ordered his deputies to minimize charges and mostly ignore misdemeanors like theft, shoplifting and commercial burglary. He removed enhancements for the use of a firearm in the commission of a crime and instructed his office not to fully prosecute gang members or serial criminals. 

Rather than prosecute crime on our behalf, Gascón treats criminals like victims and victims like criminals.  

I know of no one in the DA’s office who has supported Gascón’s policies or methodology of forgiveness.   

This March 5 is a primary election when voters can select a candidate to presumably run against Gascón in the November runoff. 

I reached out to speak with the 12 candidates for Los Angeles County district attorney and am grateful for a great response. All those contacted but Gascón took the time to express their views to me and answer my dumb questions.  

Due to the brevity of this article, I am unable to detail the views of Judges David Milton and Debra Archuleta, Deputy DA Maria Ramirez, and defense attorney Dan Kapelovitz, but appreciate their great responses and can attest to their competency. 

If you are opposed to the death penalty and see the justice system as an opportunity to reform, seasoned federal prosecutor Jeff Chemerinsky, who works with numerous law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California, is your man. 

Judge Craig Mitchell expressed his belief that strict punishment also generates incentives to reform. An experienced prosecutor with 19 years as a judge, he has been leading 4 a.m. runs on Skid Row to encourage recovery and rehabilitation. Judge Mitchell focuses on creating opportunities to connect those to a way out of addiction and misconduct. 

John McKinney, surrounded by gangs and drugs growing up, has witnessed the suffering that addiction and crime-ridden neighborhoods create. Deputy DA McKinney professes that long sentences are appropriate for criminals who represent an ongoing threat to public safety. He summarized, “Prosecution has two elements — the punitive element and the rehabilitation component. I have a strong fidelity to the law and an obligation to apply the law as written.” 

Another heavy of justice is Canyon High School grad Jonathan Hatami. Perhaps the most vocal critic of Gascón in the media, Hatami pledges to reverse all guidelines restricting prosecutorial choices initially set by Gascón.  

Drawing from his experience as an infantryman, Hatami states, “I am not afraid to stand in and perform and lead by example.” He recognizes that a small number of habitual criminals commit most of the crimes. He acknowledges the need for in-patient mandatory care for some homeless and mentally ill, who may need to be treated until self-sufficient.   

Maria Ramirez was appointed as head deputy under former DA Steve Cooley and as bureau director of specialized prosecution under Jackie Lacey. Her trial experience and managing over 260 employees should have made her invaluable when Gascón took office.  

But when she spoke up about Gascón’s policies, Ramirez was demoted. She and about 20 other deputy DA’s have filed suit for retaliation. Ramirez states, “Leadership is being able to stand up for our employees and to always be ethical.”  

Ramirez’s unique experience managing large segments of the DA’s office sets her apart from those who simply prosecute or adjudicate.    

Nathan Hochman, a former United States assistant attorney general and registered independent, represents a profound understanding of how the courts, jails, rehabilitation and persecution are all linked. Few of his fellow candidates have so clearly outlined such an ambitious and detailed approach to curbing crime, addressing drug addiction and dealing with mental illness.   

Prosecutor Eric Siddall, endorsed by the union that represents assistant district attorneys, also demonstrated a very deep understanding of how the DA’s role can enhance public safety. Siddall says that remediation upon conviction is the key to curbing crime. Siddall endorses adding capacity for treating the mentally ill via our jails, and believes “the certainty of punishment deters crime.”    

Choose a candidate as though your life depends on it. 

Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations agency, is the CEO of a private security firm, is the CFO of an accredited acting conservatory, former college professor and dean, is a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations. 

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