By Doug Wyllie
Late last month, a career criminal with a history of violence—including incidents resulting in charges of assault, assault with a deadly weapon, and attempted murder—was arrested in connection with the stabbing death of a 40-year-old father of two named Dennis Banner.
Banner’s family contends that the accused killer should have never been out on the streets, free to inflict upon them the forever loss of their beloved.
They’re absolutely right.
The alleged assailant—identified as 23-year-old Jade Simone Brookfield—had repeatedly avoided incarceration and was offered “mental health diversion” on numerous occasions, despite her penchant for repeatedly wielding a knife in unprovoked attacks on innocents.
In each instance, it was with the approval of Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón that Brookfield was left untethered to meaningful criminal penalty and given unfettered access to the cutlery drawer.
According to Fox News, Brookfield was arrested in early 2020 and charged with attempted murder after she allegedly stabbed a woman in the chest, puncturing the victim’s lung.
In 2021, prosecutors in District Attorney George Gascón’s office accepted a deal in which Brookfield’s charges were reduced to Assault with a Deadly Weapon (ADW) and she be assigned to receive “mental health diversion” in lieu of jail time. Apparently, even that ultra-lenient “punishment” was too much for Brookfield to bear—she soon went absent from her court-ordered mental health treatment.
Shortly thereafter, she was arrested for battery of a police officer (also involving an edged weapon). She was again slated to receive “mental health diversion” but Gascón’s office inexplicably and unilaterally dismissed the case.
Brookfield was arrested again just few months later—this time for brandishing not one but two knives and threatening to kill a man. Citing a lack of evidence, the DA’s office dropped the charges and Brookfield was free once more to menace society.
Brookfield was arrested again just a few months ago—this time for attempting to stab the driver of a transit bus. Like a song stuck on repeat, Gascón’s office let her walk free with nothing more than an ankle monitor as her “supervision.”
Officials in Gascón’s office had four obvious opportunities to intervene in this individual’s collision course with murder charges. Due to their failure to responsibly act, the fifth time Brookfield attacked a person, that individual ended up dead and two young girls will now grow up without Dennis Banner as their dad.
George Gascón was one of several high-profile liberal DA candidates across the country to run on a platform emphasizing “criminal justice reform”—all following a summer of devastating anti-police riots in the aftermath of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Gascón’s soft-on-crime approach has been the target of justice-minded Angelenos ever since he won his 2020 election bid for District Attorney. It wasn’t long after he took office that a groundswell of opposition began to form, and in 2021 efforts began in earnest to force a recall vote. Supporters of that initiative said in a statement that as soon as he was sworn in, “Gascón began issuing directives to his prosecutors, instructing them to go soft on crime, coddle criminals, and trample upon the dignity and rights of crime victims.”
Organizers said further that Gascón has “disregarded the rule of law and weakened lawful sentencing requirements for the most violent criminals, including murderers, armed robbers, and rapists.”
Unfortunately, that effort fell short of securing the requisite signatures to place the matter on a ballot.
Undeterred, a second recall campaign was launched, but in August 2022 county officials determined that only around 520,000 valid signatures were collected, falling short of the 570,000 needed.
Importantly, opposition to Gascón’s “progressive” policies isn’t limited to the electorate. He has also faced substantial push-back from within the ranks in the District Attorney’s office, with some senior prosecutors complaining about policies that minimize criminal conduct and press for alternatives to incarceration such as the “diversion” applied in the tragic case resulting in Banner’s death.
During the second of the two recall processes, members of the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys (LAADDA) were vocal in their support of showing Gascón the door.
During an April 2022 podcast interview, LAADDA Vice President Eric Siddall bemoaned the “directives” put in place by his new boss, saying that those new instructions were probably written by people who were never prosecutors.
“They were written by defense lawyers and people who have an agenda to basically decriminalize certain crimes,” Siddell said, adding that the authors were people “who don’t believe that prisons should exist.”
In February 2022, the LAADDA took a vote on whether to support the recall. With 83.3% of the member prosecutors casting a vote, an astounding 97.9% of them supported the recall.
Others have voiced their displeasure more quietly. For their effort—their committed defense of citizens of Los Angeles in particular and civilized society in general—those folks have met with a vicious wrath and unwarranted retaliation.
According to Spectrum News, LA County Prosecutor Shawn Randolph was recently awarded $1.5 million in a lawsuit against Gascón after she had publicly opposed her boss’s policies of not charging juveniles as adults in certain cases.
In the suit, Randolph—the former head of the juvenile division of the DA’s office—argued that she was transferred to the parole division in retaliation for her belief that Gascón’s blanket ban on trying juveniles as adults was not only harmful to the community, but also violated laws pertaining to victims’ rights.
Randolph’s court victory could be a watershed moment—there are at present about a dozen similar civil claims pending against Gascón, filed by prosecutors who say they were reassigned or passed up for promotions after speaking out against Gascón’s policies.
Following the failure of that second recall attempt, Gascón—unwittingly revealing an apparent total lack of self-awareness—said on Twitter that he was “grateful to move forward from this attempted political power grab.”
Gascón made an even more tone-deaf statement following the recent arrest of the abovementioned 23-year-old woman who stands accused of slicing to death Dennis Banner.
“We appreciate the public concern when someone is participating in a mental health program and allegedly commits a serious crime,” Gascón’s office said in a statement. “Our prosecutors make the best decisions they can in light of all the available information. Our heart goes out to all the victims in this matter, and we stand ready to support them on their journey to healing.”
It’s abundantly clear that despite the pervasive opinion—among his rank-and-file staff and a growing number of Angelenos—that he is failing in his duties to protect citizens from the criminal who would do them harm, Gascón appears unfazed.
In fact, he seems to hold for those critics a bitter contempt that borders on outright disdain.
Perhaps a day will come when Gascón is finally held to account for his blatant disregard for public safety—he faces re-election in November 2024.