By Steve Pomper
In December, I wrote at NPA about a conflagration of corruption that had erupted in Los Angeles, California’s criminal justice system last November 3rd, 2020. That was the day voters elected George Soros-funded and former San Francisco DA George Gascón LA County district attorney. Gascón wasted no time tearing down a legal system intended to deter crime and transforming it into one that encourages crime. Well, Gascón’s own subordinates recently took their boss to court where the new DA got a cold reality slap in the face.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Superior Court Judge James Chalfant ruled in favor of the LA County Deputy DAs Association in a lawsuit they brought against Gascón. The deputy DAs accused their boss of issuing directives that refused to honor certain sentence enhancements, including California’s Three-Strikes Sentencing Law.
This is the 1994 law which requires sentencing those convicted of a third serious or violent felony to prison for 25 years to life. Though 2012’s Proposition 36 “substantially amended the law,” creating exceptions, the sentence enhancement, if convicted, still stands.
Superior Court Judge James Chalfant said, “the law gives prosecutors some discretion in filing charges but does not allow them to disavow three-strikes penalties as a blanket policy.” He also said, “Prosecutors must file three-strikes charges ‘in every case in which the defendant has a prior serious or violent conviction.’”
Judge Chalfant added, “That is what the voters and the Legislature both wanted.” He was also concerned that Gascón’s order prohibiting the three-strikes enhancement risked contempt of court charges being brought against deputy DAs for conduct that is both unethical and illegal. Two things of which Gascón appears unconcerned.
While law enforcement applauds Judge Chalfant for his decision on three-strikes, I must admit to being chagrined at what may appear a lack of consistency. Another associated ruling seems to reward Gascón for his leftist, anti-law and order activism. The same judge “allowed Gascón to prohibit prosecutors from seeking longer sentences for defendants whose crimes involved guns or gang membership.” The judge likely believes this aspect is still within a DA’s discretion.
The prosecutor’s association released a statement, saying, “This ruling [three-strikes] protects the communities which are disproportionately affected by higher crime rates and those who are victimized.” Well, at least a portion of the ruling does. Refusing to place sentence enhancements for a convicted criminal’s use of a firearm to commit a crime does not protect “the communities… disproportionately affected by…” high crime. But I suppose real prosecutors and the cops will take what they can get.
There have always been prosecutors known as lenient or tough for whatever reasons. However, what we’re watching happen in the American legal system from DAs like Gascón is different. It is a wholesale disregarding of legislated law. If it were just a matter of leniency, at least the DA would be working within the system even if doling out lenient sentences. At least, the criminals would actually be sentenced. But in Gascón’s case, he’s hovering above the law, adding judge and jury to his job description, to thwart public safety.
Gascón has also stopped the DA’s office from seeking the death penalty where that sentence is merited because, it appears, he doesn’t like it. In fact, one of Gascón’s first moves in office was seeking to reduce the sentence of a convicted cop-killer who shot Deputy Joseph Solano in the back of the head while he waited in line at a Jack-in-the-Box. Gascón did this without consulting the deputy’s family. And he wrote an open letter to police officers whom he accused of “unconstitutional policing” by policing in a manner which he doesn’t like.
Yet, Gascón ran for LA DA, won, and then he swore an oath to uphold the law, a promise he promptly violated by listing laws he wouldn’t not enforce. He also refuses to charge juveniles as adults for serious crimes and has relegated a slew of crimes to a “no-prosecution” zone. It seems Gascón struggles to find criminals to prosecute who don’t have excuses for committing their offenses.
The significant list of crimes include, according to FOX News, “trespassing, disturbing the peace, a minor in possession of alcohol, driving without a license, driving with a suspended license, making criminal threats, drug and paraphernalia possession, being under the influence of a controlled substance, public intoxication, loitering to commit prostitution and resisting arrest.” Yeah, cops really love that last one.
Sadly, this abdication of his public safety responsibility is not new or isolated. Gascón has plenty of company in the Non-Prosecuting Prosecutor’s Club with members scattered throughout the country from Boston to San Francisco and Chicago to Houston. Those prosecutors have also established similar prosecution no-fly zones.
What will Gascón’s response be to being admonished by the court? He seems far too ideological and narcissistic to allow his lowly deputies and a court to thwart his radical objectives. After all, he ignores what the legislature/voters say, so why care about a judge?
The judge has installed some necessary guardrails, but he hasn’t blocked Gascón’s corruption superhighway. It seems the courts see the DA attempting to nullify a law passed by the people differently than the DA simply stretching “prosecutorial discretion” even if it’s to a grotesque degree. I suppose the future will tell the tale. But it’s not likely to be a pleasant story for crime victims—or for the cops.