Judge rules against L.A. County DA’s policies pushing for reduced sentences for violent criminals

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LOS ANGELES – FEBRUARY 19:  The Los Angeles County Superior courthouse is shown on February 19, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)

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UPDATED 1:07 PM PT – Tuesday, February 9, 2021

A Los Angeles County court blocked the county’s left-wing district attorney from enacting a number of changes to how crimes are prosecuted. On Monday, L.A. County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant ruled against DA George Gascon in a lawsuit filed by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for L.A. County.

The association filed the lawsuit in December against the new DA’s policies, which included the elimination of sentencing enhancements for most violent crimes and the elimination of cash bail for most offenses. They argued Gascon’s order overstepped his authority over the prosecution of crimes in the county.

With this new ruling, Gascon now has to allow prosecutors to add enhancements for violent crimes.

Sentencing enhancements are used for citizens accused of serious or violent felonies. They are added to their original sentence for things such as murder with a firearm or committing a violent crime in a school zone. These charges can tack on years to prison sentences.

Union officials said the progressive DA’s directives not only posed legal problems for prosecutors, but also ethical ones.

“We are very thankful that the judge decided to go with the rule of law. I know many of our deputies were very concerned about their ethical and legal obligations to the state of the Constitution,” Eric Siddall, VP of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys in L.A. County said. “The judge basically said we can follow that and not have to follow the directives of our boss.”

Gascon’s directives have been highly criticized since he took office in December, especially by the families of murder victims. Including in one case, where he wanted special circumstances charges dropped for a man who was convicted of murdering an off-duty sheriff’s deputy and a professional skateboarder.

The sister of one of the victims said Gascon’s policies were shocking.

“Completely in shock, I can’t even tell you, my heart just dropped, I couldn’t believe it. He should be there for the families, we are the victims here, not this person who shot him,” Christina Solano, the victim’s sister said. “I don’t understand what his purpose is to let these murderers out of jail, I don’t get it, he’s like the devil, I don’t understand it.”

In another case, sentencing enhancements were dropped for people accused of beating a man multiple times and throwing him off a cliff.

“Smirking from ear to ear. One of the lawyers giving one of them a fist bump on his shoulder, like ‘good job, way to go.’ Really? They thought my son was dead three different times, and yet, they continued to beat my son to death,” Desiree Andrade, the victim’s mother said. “You’re going to tell me those aren’t murderers?”

Gascon has said he intends to file an appeal on the ruling.

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