Recall effort against progressive Los Angeles prosecutor kicks off with sheriff’s backing
LOS ANGELES – With a stroke of his pen on Wednesday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva breathed new life into a recall effort against District Attorney George Gascón, who was elected on a promise to reform the office but which has been criticized by victims of crime and the law. law enforcement officials.
Supporters of the recall rallied outside the downtown Los Angeles district attorney’s office to start collecting signatures before the October deadline. Organizers must collect 597,000 verified signatures, or about 10% of registered voters in Los Angeles County, by Oct. 27 to qualify for a recall election.
The first three signatures included those of Villanueva. The sheriff, who attended the rally in plain clothes and declined to speak to reporters, has recently been criticized for his handling of allegations of deputy gangs and charges of excessive force, retaliation and other misconduct in the sheriff’s department.
California Governor Gavin Newsom is also facing a recall attempt. Organizers have collected enough signatures to qualify for an election, for which state officials have not set a date.
The effort against Gascón, who has led a campaign to reform the public prosecutor’s office, has been ongoing since he took office in December. Victims of crime and some law enforcement officials have spoken out against his early directives, including ending the use of sentencing enhancements and revamping the die-hard gang unit, and they are doing it. have blamed for the increase in crime in the area.
“You, George Gascón, put criminals before victims. I sincerely believe that you have confused your role as prosecutor and public defender,” said Desiree Andrade, whose son was murdered and thrown off a cliff in 2018. “It isn’t. It’s a fight for what’s right and what’s wrong. You don’t have to be a victim to understand the importance of this.”
In the past month alone, at least 14 Los Angeles County city councils have cast no-confidence votes against Gascón, the Los Angeles Times reported. But the rejection began a few weeks after the publication of his first directives by Gascón.
The union representing Los Angeles County assistant district attorneys filed a lawsuit earlier this year, saying some of Gascón’s orders defy state law and force prosecutors to violate their oaths. The trial centers on Gascón’s directive to forgo sentence enhancements, which are used to lengthen the prison terms of defendants in certain circumstances, such as gang membership or having a criminal record.
Gascón’s original directive ordered that more than 100 enhancements be removed, including one that elevated a hate crime from a misdemeanor to a felony. He eventually demoted and restored improvements in cases involving children and those targeted because of their race, sexual orientation or disability, but not before his own deputies brought him to justice.
Since then, the district attorney’s office has been on the defensive, touting Gascón’s commitment to reform and claiming that his progressive policies are born from “research, science and data”.
“Where I am today is an evolution based on being critical of myself, looking back and looking at a system that is so wrong at its core – a nation that incarcerates people. based on race, and we do, ”he said in an interview. on “NBC Nightly News”.
Gascón, the son of Cuban immigrants, began his law enforcement career as a beaten cop in Los Angeles before becoming police chief in Mesa, Arizona, and then San Francisco. He then became the District Attorney of San Francisco when Kamala Harris, now Vice President, left the post to become Attorney General of California.
In November, he toppled Jackie Lacey, the first black woman to head the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. Lacey’s predecessor Steve Cooley was among those who gathered at Wednesday’s rally to launch the recall effort.
Gascón did not respond directly to the recall effort. In a statement Wednesday, he offered comments from supporters who support his reforms, including the 2015 local of the International Union of Service Employees.
“Supporters of this right-wing recall are making a deceptive and underhand appeal of fear and emotion in their desperate efforts to restore the sentencing practices of the 1980s and 1990s,” said April Verrett, president from the local, in the press release. “This reminder is about upholding policies that have devastated black and brown communities for decades, policies that continue to perpetuate on criminalization. Voters elected George Gascon to change those policies.”
Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, also throws organizational weight behind Gascón after protesting Lacey’s leadership for more than three years in part because she never sued a police officer. or a deputy for brutality.
“LA finally has a district attorney ready to stand up and hold law enforcement to account, and it’s no surprise that the head of one of America’s most rogue and deadliest agencies either behind the effort to undermine the Los Angeles movement for black lives, ”she said. in a statement, referring to Villanueva’s support for the recall.
Gascón is one of several Reform prosecutors who have faced similar backlash in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Chicago, among other jurisdictions. A recall effort is underway against Gascón’s successor in San Francisco, Chesa Boudin.