Los Angeles County residents in favor of ousting District Attorney George Gascon may begin officially collecting signatures soon following weeks of new efforts against the embattled DA.
Since being sworn in in December following a decisive win over former LA DA Jackie Lacey in November 2020, Gascon has supported many controversial new changes in the county. His insistence that all crime enhancements during trials be removed, such as adding weapons charges to robberies that would add many more years of prison, as well as initiatives to try and end cash bail and ordering prosecutors to not attend parole hearings have also drawn considerable ire from many in the county, including many lawmakers and the California District Attorney’s Association (CDAA).
However, his largest change, referred to as the Gascon Directive, has drawn the most heated criticism. Under the directive, many criminals, even those with murder convictions, can receive possible resentencing after serving 15 years in prison. While there were also exceptions for those with COVID-19 in the directive, prisoner resentencing and release was mainly focused around those serving 15 years or more, those who are 60 or older in age, and those who were 17 or younger at the time of their offense who were then tried a a adult.
Gascon has also flipped on many positions, such as only limiting death sentences to life without parole to guaranteeing a parole hearing for all prisoners with murder charges within 20-30 years.
In response to victims and victims families who want tougher sentences and more stringent punishments, Gascon has retorted that they don’t represent the majority of families and that most don’t want extremely tough sentences.
“The pain and trauma of losing a loved one is immeasurable,” said Gascon in a recent statement to Fox News. “While a minority of victims want the maximum punishment imposed in their case, research shows these views are not shared by a majority of survivors of violent crime, as most survivors don’t find healing by putting another person in a cage.
“Additionally, studies show that excessive sentencing practices have exacerbated recidivism leading to more victims of crime.”
A growing movement against Gascon
This led many against Gascon to form Victims of Violent Crime for the Recall of District Attorney Gascon and formally launch a recall movement against the DA. Chaired by former Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine with a body of support including many lawmakers, District Attorneys, crime victims, and families of victims, Recall George Gascon has quickly made strides to reach the ballot by the end of this year.
The recall movement moved fast following the first 90 days of Gascon being in office, as by law Californian lawmakers cannot have a recall petition out against them for the first three months. Gascon received notice from the group earlier this month informing him that they would mount a signature campaign soon, ending one of the final steps before county approval to begin gathering.
A video released earlier this week by convicts with murder sentences in jail thanking Gascon for possibly getting them out of jail after only serving 15 years of a 40 year sentence has given the group an extra boost of support heading into the second-half of March.
“I know a lot of affected people who, if they hadn’t lost a loved one, wouldn’t even think about signing something like this,” said Bernice Okoye, who was shot nearly 20 years ago as a bystander during a gang-related shooting in Los Angeles. “The guy who did this to me could be out soon, as well as so many others. 60% of the state supports higher punishments, including the death penalty. Gascon has said that he has the numbers behind him, but he really doesn’t. People like me, we’re only more inclined for justice. It’s hard to find someone who lost a loved one by someone else’s hand who doesn’t want them in jail for the rest of their life.
“You never know what we really feel until it’s happened to you. Gascon doesn’t speak for us, but here he is saying it and trying to make rules and everything to make it how he wants it, not how the people want it. He’s got to go.”
Once approved, the recall petition will have 160 days to accumulate signatures from 10% of the registered voters of LA County, or around 580,000 people, to qualify for a recall election.
The Gascon recall effort would also join several other prominent recall efforts across the state in 2021. These include the Gavin Newsom recall campaign, which is all but certain to trigger a recall election as of Thursday, and the campaign to recall San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin, which was recently greenlit to begin signature collections earlier this week.