By The Vanguard Staff
LOS ANGELES, CA – Defining himself as a “21st century prosecutor,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón Wednesday “reflected” on what he did for public safety over this past year as a criminal justice reformer.
“I have and always will put public safety first,” District Attorney Gascón said, noting “we have demonstrated how advancements in science and data analysis can help keep our communities safer and healthier…(and) expand and improve trauma-informed services to victims and survivors of crime and to address mass incarceration and inequities within the criminal legal system.”
DA Gascón said the DA’s office files about “half of all felony cases presented by law enforcement officials for criminal case filing consideration. That is consistent with the 2019 pre-pandemic felony filing rates. Misdemeanor filings for non-addiction-related crimes also were consistent with 2019 filing rates for those same misdemeanor crimes.”
Notably, under Gascón, the office filed charges against 21 officers from seven agencies for crimes ranging from murder to filing a false report under penalty of perjury. and public corruption charges against 21 people, including a former Maywood mayor, a former Industry city manager and a Compton councilmember.
The office also brought legal actions against “six major companies accused of engaging in unlawful business practices. They paid $12 million in penalties, costs and restitution,” according to Gascón.
The reigning DA also received nationwide praise.
“I am proud to stand alongside District Attorney Gascón, who is implementing smart, evidence-based policies that will deliver safer, healthier communities in Los Angeles. It is the same thing I am doing in Arlington County, Va., and that reform-minded prosecutors are doing in every corner of the country,” said Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.
The VA DA added, “As ministers of justice, our obligation is to pursue a criminal legal system that works for all, and we will not be deterred by those who cling to the failed policies of the past.”
Miriam Krinsky, executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution added, “The amazing progress District Attorney Gascón has made in the past year is reflective of what’s happening in prosecutors’ offices around the country.”
Krinsky noted, “More and more Americans are calling for systemic reforms to the criminal legal system, and in increasing numbers, they see their locally elected prosecutor as a powerful force for change. Reform-minded prosecutors now represent around 20 percent of the U.S. population in communities large and small, rural and urban, blue and red.”
The LA DA listed a number of what he called achievements, including:
– Created the Community Violence Reduction Division, which, said Gascón, “works proactively with the Los Angeles Police Department by embedding veteran deputy district attorneys and investigators in four LAPD divisions to prosecute violent crime and find ways to interrupt it.”
– Convened the office’s first Crime Victims Advisory Board to advance public safety by helping to expand victim outreach and services.
– Death sentences are a thing of the past in LA. The DA office said it won’t seek execution dates for those sentenced to death, and, noted Gascón, “post-conviction death penalty cases currently are being reviewed to determine if there is a meritorious legal reason to vacate the death sentence or resentence the individuals in the interest of justice. To date, five people, including four with cognitive or intellectual disabilities, have been resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.”
– The office’s youth restorative justice policy has “led to the withdrawal of 77 petitions to transfer minors to adult court and the recalling of 25 cases in which people were resentenced as juveniles. An additional 100 cases remained in juvenile court as result of the policy,” the office said.
– By not seeking many sentencing enhancements, District Attorney Gascón said he has saved California taxpayers “millions of dollars in prison-related costs. Conservative estimates show that prison exposure times were reduced by 18,000 years in just the first year of the policy.”
– The office no longer seeks cash bail for individuals charged with misdemeanors and nonserious or nonviolent felonies who pose no danger to the community.
– Nearly 60,000 cannabis cases were identified for dismissal, under Gascón, who promised the cases also will be expunged from people’s records, easing their ability to get jobs and housing and services.