Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón will fight a state Supreme Court appellate ruling that he must charge all eligible cases as mandated under California’s “three strikes” law.
The progressive district attorney, who is facing a recall push, said in a statement Thursday that a June ruling by a three-judge panel of the California Second District Court of Appeal that mandates prosecutors file such cases “set a dangerous precedent” in the Golden State.
“The court is effectively taking the charging decision out of the prosecutor’s hands – the core function of a prosecutor’s office,” Gascón said.
“The decision also forces prosecutors around California to ignore important research that shows longer prison sentences do not lead to increased public safety and to ignore the unique factors of each individual case that militate against using strikes,” he continued.
Gascón said the state’s three strikes law “imposes draconian penalties” on defendants previously convicted of certain prior felonies, leading them to be subjected to sentences more than twice as long. Anyone convicted of two or more prior felonies typically receives sentences of 25 years to life in state prison.
“These policies increase recidivism rates, have little-to-no deterrent effect and keep people in prison long after they pose any safety risk to their community,” Gascón said.
The three strikes law also disproportionately impacts minorities, the district attorney said, noting that nearly 93% of people sent to prison in Los Angeles County are people of color.
Gascón said he was “now taking the fight for fairness and rationality” to the California Supreme Court, claiming prosecutorial power belongs to the executive branch under the state’s Constitution – “and therefore, to the prosecutor’s office.”
“The Constitution further delegates to district attorneys the power to decide whether to institute criminal proceedings within their respective jurisdictions,” Gascón said. “That discretion includes the power to determine what charges to bring, and which sentencing enhancements to allege. Courts cannot take that power away.”
Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami, a Gascón critic who supports the recall movement against him, said his boss issued a “blanket policy” in December 2020 forbidding strike priors to be filed in any case.
“He also ordered all prosecutors to remove strike priors on any existing cases,” Hatami told The Post. “That meant child murderers, serial rapists, child molesters, sex traffickers, and police killers who were career criminals, we couldn’t use the law, look at the evidence, or even ask for an exception, we had to remove any strike priors from existing cases, and not allege them on new cases.”
Hatami said he was dismayed that Gascón was now going to “spend taxpayer money” to fight the ruling due to his political ideology instead of following the law.
“When an elected DA refuses to follow the law, won’t consider facts, evidence or circumstances of the case, and is guided by politics over justice, you have George Gascón,” Hatami said. “Someone who has accepted chaos and lawlessness over public safety and doing the right thing.”
Los Angeles County officials, meanwhile, announced Thursday that a random sampling of the 715,000-plus signatures filed in the recall campaign against Gascón had passed the first certification hurdle. A full review of the signatures must be completed by Aug. 17.
Gascón, who took office in late 2020, has endured mounting criticism for his progressive policies, including a rule against seeking the death penalty, a ban on transferring juvenile suspects to adult court and prohibitions on filing sentencing enhancements in most cases. The earliest date a recall election could be held is Nov. 8.