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Where Does Gascon Go From Here?

DA’s Ethics and Integrity Chief faces 11 felonies

By Thomas Buckley, April 25, 2024 3:35 pm

The announcement by California Attorney General Rob Bonta of the filing of nearly a dozen charges against Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon’s chief of ethics and integrity Diana Teran has thrown a huge wrench in Gascon’s re-election quest.

While Teran, through her attorney, denies any wrongdoing, just the fact of the filing of charges could be seen as a major shift in the once-tight relationship between Gascon and Bonta. It could also mean that state and nationwide progressive forces that backed Gascon in 2020 may already be thinking he cannot win re-election in November.

The felony complaint for Teran’s arrest states that Teran – a local legal fixture on both the prosecution and defense sides of the aisle for more than 30 years – did “on or about April 26, 2021” –– “did knowingly access and without permission take, copy or make use of data” 11 times regarding a “sheriff’s deputy” (note – each count is a different deputy.)

There have been reports that the charges relate to her accessing the same files improperly while she was actually with the LA Sheriff’s Department serving as a “constitutional policing advisor” and as a consult to the department’s Inspector General’s Office, two to three years before she joined Gascon’s team, though the complaint does not refer to that timeframe.

After she left the LASD she went back to the Public Defender’s Office getting hired by Gascon almost immediately after his election in 2020 to run the “Justice System Integrity Division,” an office that, among other things, probes potential and/or alleged legal violations by deputies and officers. The office also looked into past officer-involved incidents that did not result in charges being filed.

Teran’s attorney, James Spertus, was adamant that Teran broke no laws.

“She was charged with official acts while acting in her official capacity, so the charges are defective on their face,” Spertus said. “Every document underlying the charges was a public record taken either from court files or made public by California Senate Bill 1421. Ms. Teran committed no crime, and the official acts underlying the charges would be exempt even if the public records at issue were not public. For multiple reasons, this case should never have been filed.”

Spertus explained that accessing the documents in question was essentially part of Teran’s job.

“One of Ms. Teran’s official duties at the DA’s office was to oversee the DA’s internal database of officer misconduct findings to ensure compliance with the DA’s constitutional obligations under ‘Brady,’ and a person cannot be charged with a crime for fulfilling an official duty,” Spertus said.

“Brady” is a legal standard that holds that defendants have a right to see potentially exculpatory evidence, or evidence that helps them prove their innocence.  The LA DA maintains, as do most other prosecutors, a “Brady List,” which is essentially a list of potentially problematic officers, particularly if they have to testify in open court. In a nutshell, it’s a “really try not to rely on these officers in your prosecution” list and the defense must be made aware of, for example, the arresting officer’s presence on the list.

Why this is such a shock to the progressive system is because Bonta has long been an ally of Gascon’s and this could signal that the people who supported Gascon and poured millions into his campaign in 2020 are pretty sure he is going to lose to challenger Nathan Hochman in November.

That would jibe with the polling so far, with Gascon trailing Hochman by double digits.  Coupled with his very underwater favorable/unfavorable poll numbers, Gascon had a rough road ahead anyway.

For his part, Hochman took to X (Twitter) to outline his questions about the event, such as “How many convictions that Teran was involved with may now be reviewed and overturned as a result of her actions?” and “There is virtually no chance Gascon was unaware of the AG’s investigation of Teran. Why did he promote her to the No 3 position in the office (in charge of prosecuting law enforcement officers) while she was under criminal investigation?”

Additionally, Hochman wondered if, in fact, Teran accessed the records while she was with the sheriff’s office and brought them with her to download into the DA’s system.

“Did he discuss these records with her before he hired her in January 2021? At the time she allegedly loaded them into a DA database in April 2021 (according to the AG complaint)? Before he promoted her in January 2024? After he promoted her?” posited Hochman.

This incident has just made Gascon’s election road much rockier. Yes, of course, people should be prosecuted for potential crimes, but Bonta’s office has a great deal of discretion in who they do and do not charge.

For example, last year Gascon’s former chief of staff Joseph Iniguez  was let slide on public intoxication and potentially threatening the Azusa police officer who responded to the incident with, ironically, getting put on the Brady List, typically a career killer.

Iniguez sued Azusa, claiming to have a video of the event that would prove the officer was out-of-line but it is not clear if that was ever reviewed by Bonta’s office.  That being said, Bonta at the time said that “Given the totality of the circumstances, our office has decided not to pursue charges.”

If Spertus’ claim is even remotely true, then Bonta’s office went very far out its way to tap Teran, making the issue very political from its very beginning.  If Spertus’ claim is not true, wondered Hochman, “What smoking gun does the AG have against Teran? Bonta and Gascon are political allies; this case wouldn’t have been filed unless the AG had rock solid evidence.”

Also, while it is unknown when Gascon’s office heard of the charges being filed, it does not appear Bonta even gave him a courtesy “heads up,” as Gascon seemed to scramble to put a statement together that did not even specifically reference Teran and then, without making a public announcement, removed Teran from her job, which the Globe discovered yesterday afternoon when it was sent a photo of an internal memo:

With a warning, Gascon could have softened the political blow by immediately announcing Teran was “placed on leave, pending the investigation, we will all cooperate, blah, etc., blah…”

Why Bonta did not appear to give Gascon that opportunity could be related to a simple fact:  Bonta wants to be governor in 2026 and wants the world to know he and the trainwreck of a sinking ship that is Gascon were not close political allies, despite their long history of working together:

Momentarily putting aside the progressive political machinations, the allegations bring up another question: did Gascon know what Teran was allegedly doing?

“Either Gascon had no idea what she was doing and that makes him stupid, or he did know and allowed it to occur and that makes him worse than stupid,” said Marc Debbaudt, retired veteran prosecutor and former president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (the union that represents the DDAs.)

In other words, was Gascon stupid or evil? Anyway, neither are a good look going into an election.

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One thought on “Where Does Gascon Go From Here?

  1. Gascon needs to be held accountable for the chaos and criminality that he’s caused? Life time in jail might be appropriate?

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