LOS ANGELES – The campaign to overthrow Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón began on Saturday night by stepping up pressure on his criminal justice reforms that critics say have gone too far.
Remember the proponents, including families of victims and law enforcement officials say Gascón, who has run a progressive campaign to implement extensive changes to the district attorney’s office, has given criminals an advantage over victims since taking office less than three months ago.
In an e-mail statement, Gascón said that “the pain and trauma of losing a loved one is immeasurable” and “respects the fact that some victims want me to impose the maximum punishment on them.”
“Research shows that excessive criminal proceedings have exacerbated recidivism, leading to more crime victims,” he added. “Our justice system cannot continue to rely on policies that create more victims tomorrow simply because some victims today want the maximum punishment imposed in their case.”
Organizers on Saturday planned to collect at least 20 signatures, the amount needed to file an intent to revoke, during a “victim vigil” in front of the LA District Attorney’s Office. They expected up to 100 people to attend, including many crime victims and Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami, an outspoken critic of Gascón’s changes, NBC Los Angeles reported.
A revocation order requires valid signatures from at least 10 percent of registered voters in the county, or just under 600,000 people, to qualify to vote, according to the LA County Registry Office. Elected officials must be in office for at least 90 days before the official initiation of the recall procedure. Gascón was sworn in on December 7th.
Since taking office, Gascón has quickly moved on to auditing the district attorney’s office through a series of directives, including no longer seeking the death penalty and stopping the practice of trying juveniles as adults.
According to George Gascon’s Facebook group Recall with more than 39,000 followers, the district attorney “ran the campaign and was elected on a platform that did not include gang reinforcements and did not seek the death penalty, so that’s no reason to recall him.”
“However, within minutes of taking the oath, he made other, drastic changes that he did not discover during a campaign that allows violent and dangerous criminals to return to our streets. That is unacceptable. He deceived LA County voters and must be removed from office, “the group wrote on Facebook.
A Cuban immigrant, Gascón served as San Francisco District Attorney from 2011 to 2019, having previously served as a Los Angeles police officer. During his recent campaign, Gascón vowed to implement many of the reforms he has since carried out during a bitter race against former LA District Attorney Jackey Lacey. He won more than 53 percent of the vote.
Lacey found herself under fire from Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and other progressive groups frustrated by her dossier that she did not prosecute police accused of excessive force. She was the first black woman and the first woman to run the office. Her predecessor, Steve Cooley, is listed among those who support the attempt to recall Gascon.
They also support the efforts of two former Republican incumbents. Gascón is a Democrat, although the election was non-partisan.
Opposition to Gascón’s program has been rapid since he took office. Earlier this month, a judge ruled that his policy change, which ends up improving his sentence, violates state law. Such improvements can add years to a defendant’s prison sentence if certain criteria are met. The decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed in less than a month by Gascón’s term by a union representing hundreds of county prosecutors. In the lawsuit, the union argued that Gascón’s extensive guidelines defied state law.
Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, said on Saturday that the group supports Gascón’s progressive judicial reforms and launched the hashtag #StandWithGeorge earlier this year.
Recall campaigns are also underway in other parts of the country. Organizers call for removal of California Governor Gavin Newsom, Democrats, say they have collected more than 1.8 million signatures out of the 1.5 million needed to conduct the election. Less than half of that number has been confirmed by the secretary of state’s office.
A third recall effort is also being prepared in San Francisco to force progressive district attorney Chesa Boudin.