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Nathan Hochman. (Photo: by Nathan Hochman for LA District Attorney)

Advantage, Hochman: Gascon Aide Scandal Dimming Re-Election Hopes?

‘It could be an indicator that Bonta, and the progressive movement in the state, do not want to be associated with Gascon

By Thomas Buckley, May 3, 2024 2:45 am

Sometimes in politics, campaign gifts just seem to fall out of the sky.

So it has happened for Nathan Hochman, the man challenging Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon in November, when Gascon top “ethics and integrity” lieutenant Diana Teran was charged with 11 felonies by Attorney General Rob Bonta.

Putting aside for the moment the question of Teran’s guilt or innocence, the fact that Bonta – a progressive’s progressive and longtime Gascon ally – actually filed charges in the case is far more surprising than the possibility of chicanery in Gascon’s office.

For example, it seems (based on the charges) that if Bonta had literally waited only three more days he could have avoided the whole thing by simply letting the statute of limitations on the charges run out, something he appeared to do last year in the public intoxication/threatening a police officer matter involving Gascon’s then-chief of staff Joseph Iniguez.

In other words, not filing could very easily have been portrayed as a “whoopsie” moment for Bonta on the very off-chance the news about the charging decision ever became public.

For Hochman, the chaos that is the DA’s office now is definitely a plus for his campaign.

“When I’m campaigning, I’m hearing from across the political divide – left, right, and center – that there is one thing people agree on: Gascon has to go,” Hochman said. “He’s a strangely unifying force.”

That is reflected in the polling data available. Gascon’s favorable/unfavorable numbers have been consistently terribly underwater, no matter who took the poll.  And the last poll made public (done by the Hochman campaign) showed Gascon with only about 25% of voter support and Hochman with about 45% and the rest undecided (note: typically, undecided voters tend to end up voting for the challenger because if they were sure they wanted the incumbent they wouldn’t be undecided.)

Teran was charged with illegally uploading/accessing  private file officer information in 2021 – while an employee of the DA’s office –   she somehow obtained in 2018 while serving as the “constitutional policing advisor” to then-sheriff Jim McDonnell.  

After Alex Villanueva beat McDonell to become sheriff, he launched an investigation into Teran’s actions, an investigation Bonta’s office eventually took over. Bonta also took over the sheriff’s investigation into then-county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl allegedly steering grant money to a friend for a project – a harassment hotline for people who ride public transit.  Before the sheriff’s office raided Kuehl’s home, county Inspector General Max Huntsman allegedly tipped off Kuehl about the impending raid.  And Villaneuva alleges that Huntsman asked Teran to get the confidential information in question, adding that every deputy who had their files accessed was a supporter of his campaign.

Huntsman has denied asking Teran to get the files, Teran’s attorney James Spertus has vehemently denied the charges against his client, and neither the DA’s office nor Bonta’s agreed to comment further on the matter.

Like so many others, Hochman has questions as to exactly what happened.

As the investigation was launched before Gascon tapped Teran for a DA’s office job, Gascon had to know about it and at least an outline of the allegations, Hochman said.

For him to then promote Teran just this past January to become assistant district attorney in charge of “Ethics and Integrity”  is astounding, Hochman said.

“He triple-downed on her,” Hochman said.  “And since he had to know of the investigation, it was like poking the AG’s office in the eye.”

Which brings up an interesting possibility – was it Gascon’s hubris, was it the promotion itself that prompted Bonta into action? As noted above, the AG’s office is declining any further comment on the matter.

A different possibility, Hochman said, is the idea that Bonta was making some space between himself and Gascon in preparation for a shot at the governor’s office in 2026.

“It could be an indicator that Bonta (and the progressive movement in the state) do not want to be associated with Gascon,” Hochman said.  “He’s that politically toxic.”

Either way, Hochman assumes that the cases against Teran are “rock solid,” even if only out of the absolute need for Bonta not to lose in court and avoid a major political embarrassment.

Hochman also wonders exactly what information Teran had and if she in fact – as has been reported but is not specifically referenced in the charge sheet – uploaded the data into the office’s “Brady List.”  Almost every prosecutor in the country maintains a list of squirrely (not bad enough to get fired but far from the most honest, cleanest, etc.) officers just in case they have to rely on them in a case. Such information typically has to be turned over to the defense attorney in the case and, warned Hochman, sometimes that information is not complete.

“What did she actually put in?” asked Hochman. “Actual verified conduct or rumors or mere allegations? It is a career crusher for cops if you are in the Brady file.”

And, most importantly, wonders Hochman, has any of the information been used in court?

Overall, Gascon’s handling of Teran and the matter in general is an example of Gascon’s “catastrophically incompetent” management of the DA’s office, a charge that was leveled against Gascon by every other candidate – again, politically left, right, and center –  who ran against him in the March primary.

As to exactly what Gascon will say to make his re-election pitch to the public, Hochman believes it will be a purely political message – Hochman used to be a Republican and Trump is evil – ignoring anything that Gascon has done in office.

“Not only has he failed to keep people safe, he’s even failed the progressive agenda,” Hochman said.

There is one promise Gascon made in his 2020 run that he has managed to keep: he has charged more police officers with varying levels of misconduct than any other LA district attorney ever.

One problem, though, with that claim, said Hochman: Gascon’s dismal court track record.

“It is true that no one has brought that many officer-related cases,” Hochman said.  “But it’s also true that no DA has ever lost that many officer-related cases before.”

The election is November 5.

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One thought on “Advantage, Hochman: Gascon Aide Scandal Dimming Re-Election Hopes?

  1. “‘Not only has [Gascon] failed to keep people safe, he’s even failed the progressive agenda,’ [D.A. candidate Nathan] Hochman said.”
    We’ll see what happens, of course (knock wood a thousand times), but when you, Gascon, have managed to not only screw over the public you’ve been charged with protecting and serving, but also to somehow disappoint EVERYONE ELSE, no matter where they are on the political chart, whether honest and admirable or entirely goofy, it’s probably time to polish up the old resume. Maybe the “Justice for Palestine” (or whatever they’re called) top brass —- or even rank-and-file —- have an opening you can squeeze yourself into later this year, depending on how things go.
    Appreciate the curiosity-satisfying possible explanations for A.G. Rob Bonta’s move. All of them are plausible. They each make sense. Maybe it’s a combo!
    And yes, it is amazing, isn’t it: “Sometimes in politics, campaign gifts just seem to fall out of the sky.” (!!!)

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