LOS ANGELES – A campaign to evict Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón began Saturday night as pressure mounted on his criminal justice reforms, which critics claim went too far.
Proponents of the recall, including families of the victims and police officers, claim Gascón, who led a progressive campaign to implement profound changes in the prosecution, gave criminals priority over victims since taking office less than three months ago.
In a statement emailed, Gascón said that “the pain and trauma of losing a loved one is immeasurable” and he “respects that some victims want me to impose the maximum penalty on their case”.
“Research shows that excessive condemnation practices have exacerbated recidivism and resulted in more crime victims,” he added. “Our judicial system cannot continue to rely on guidelines that will create more victims tomorrow just because some victims want the maximum sentence that is imposed on their case today.”
Organizers planned on Saturday to collect at least 20 signatures required to file a recall intent during a “vigil” outside the downtown LA prosecutor’s office. They expected up to 100 people to be in attendance, including many crime victims and deputy district attorney Jon Hatami, an outspoken critic of the changes in Gascón, NBC Los Angeles reported.
The recall requires valid signatures from at least 10 percent of registered voters in the county or nearly 600,000 people in order to qualify for the vote, according to the LA County Registrar-Recorder / County Clerk Office. Elected officials must be in office for at least 90 days before a recall can be officially initiated. Gascón was sworn in on December 7th.
Since taking office, Gascón has been quick to overhaul the prosecutor through a series of guidelines, including stop seeking the death penalty and ending the practice of trying young people as adults.
According to a Recall George Gascon Facebook group of more than 39,000 followers, the district attorney “ran a campaign and was voted on a platform that contained no gang reforms and did not apply for the death penalty. So this is no reason to call him back. “
“However, within minutes of being sworn in, he was making other drastic changes that he did not reveal in campaigns that let violent and dangerous criminals onto our streets. This is unacceptable. He made a fool of LA County’s voters and must be removed from office, ”the group wrote on Facebook.
As a Cuban immigrant, Gascón was a District Attorney in San Francisco from 2011 to 2019, and was previously a Los Angeles police officer. During his most recent campaign, Gascón vowed to carry out many of the reforms he has since made during a bitter race against former LA District Attorney Jackey Lacey. He won more than 53 percent of the vote.
Lacey had come under fire from Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and other progressive groups who were frustrated with failing to prosecute police charged with excessive use of force. She was the first black person and woman to run the office. Her predecessor, Steve Cooley, is among those who support Gascón’s recall.
Two republican ex-officers also support the effort. Gascón is a Democrat, even though the election was impartial.
Opposition to Gascón’s agenda has been swift since he took office. Earlier this month, a judge ruled that his amendment to the Ending Improvement Policy was against state law. Such improvements can add years to a defendant’s prison term if certain criteria are met. The decision arose out of a lawsuit filed less than a month after Gascón’s tenure by the union, which represents hundreds of district attorneys. In the lawsuit, the union alleged that Gascón’s comprehensive policy was contrary to state law.
Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, said on Saturday that the group supported Gascón’s progressive judicial reforms and launched the hashtag #StandWithGeorge earlier this year.
Recalls are also running in other parts of the state. Organizers calling for California Governor Gavin Newsom to be removed say they collected more than 1.8 million signatures out of the 1.5 million needed to force an election. Less than half that number has been confirmed by the Secretary of State’s office.
A third recall is also being brewed in San Francisco to oust progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin.