Sacramento County’s chief prosecutor has informed Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon that her office will no longer grant him jurisdiction over any crimes that involve Sacramento County because of Gascon’s special directives that have been criticized by victims’ advocates as too soft on crime.
Gascon campaigned on criminal-justice reform, but many were taken aback by the lengths he went to when he announced upon taking office that prosecutors would no longer pursue the death penalty, try juveniles as adults, seek cash bail for misdemeanor and non-serious, non-violent felonies, or add gang and other enhancements to criminal complaints.
In a letter sent to Gascon’s office Monday, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert characterized many of the directives as “illegal and unconstitutional.”
“Your Special Directives are not just extreme but will undoubtedly wreak havoc on crime victims and their Constitutional rights,” the letter said. “Your lack of concern for their rights and safety concerns me greatly. Additionally, because crime has no boundaries, these Special Directives will have far greater impact than on Los Angeles County alone. Rather, victims across California will be negatively impacted and the safety of all Californians will be jeopardized.
“…you are hereby notified that, as the Elected District Attorney of Sacramento County, I will never grant you jurisdiction over any crimes that involve Sacramento County while these policies of your remain in place.”
When crimes occur in multiple counties, DAs from those respective counties must agree on the venue for prosecution.
Gascon fired back at Schubert, saying she was a backer of Proposition 20 — which was rejected soundly by voters in November and would have toughened sentencing in some criminal cases and limited numbers of inmates eligible for parole.
“The voters dismissed DA Schubert’s Proposition 20 by an extraordinary margin because her vision of safety has not been shown to enhance safety, but has been shown to destroy budgets, create enormous racial disparities and exacerbate recidivism rates that have led to more victims of crime,” Gason said in a statement.
“Prosecutors like Ms. Schubert love to push their backwards policies in the names of victims, but they do so in ignorance of the harm caused to the broader community and the additional victims the data shows these policies create in the future,” he said.
Gascon’s directives have drawn strenuous opposition from victims’ advocates since they were issued Dec. 7.
Gascon, who defeated former two-term DA Jackie Lacey in a runoff election in November, bowed to pressure a few weeks into his tenure by amending his directive to eliminate sentencing enhancements and instead allow them in cases involving the most vulnerable victims and in specified “extraordinary” circumstances. He said then that his office would seek sentencing enhancements in hate crimes, crimes against children and the elderly, and other crimes that meet certain criteria.
In late December, the union representing Los Angeles County prosecutors filed a lawsuit challenging the directives to eliminate three- strikes allegations and some sentencing enhancements, alleging the moves violate state law.
Gascon said then that his new approach “will take some fine-tuning and a tolerance for change,” adding “I invite open and respectful debate based on the facts, however, the people have spoken, the direction is clear and, in the end, we all want the same things — safety and equal justice under the law.”
On Monday, former LA County District Attorney Steve Cooley and roughly a dozen former prosecutors announced that they have teamed up to provide pro bono representation to victims and their families who are being affected by the directives.
Also Monday, a judge said he would allow San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan to retake jurisdiction in a case involving alleged crimes committed in San Diego County by a man who is also charged with the 2019 fatal shootings of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Gilbert Solano in Alhambra and Dmitry Alekseyevich Koltsov in downtown Los Angeles.
Rhett Nelson has been accused of five San Diego-area armed robberies, in a case originally turned over to LA prosecutors. Stephan said she wanted the freedom to impose a stricter sentence if her office wins a conviction.
Gascon, who was previously district attorney of San Francisco, has said that he has a “mandate from the public” to reverse tough-on-crime policies of the past that he said “undermine rehabilitation, exacerbate racial and other inequities in our justice system and they decimate families and communities. They also are crowding jails and prisons and exacerbating the COVID pandemic behind bars.”
Black Lives Matter Los Angeles has supported the policies, saying Angelenos elected Gascon “because they want transformative change, which means an end to mass incarceration, the prison-industrial complex, and a system that unjustly criminalizes, targets and harshly penalizes Black people, Indigenous peopleand other people of color.”