Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon is continuing his one-man assault on the city, and according to our sources, he has now decided that victims and families of victims of violent crimes should no longer be notified when the convict comes up for parole. They should just read it in the newspaper like everyone else.
I never bought Gascon’s “progressive” prosecution arguments and his equity-based reforms, but he shows his true colors with this latest move: He loves criminals, and hates their victims. There is no other conclusion that can be drawn from this decision.
We have learned that Gascon has pulled the plug on the “Lifer Unit,” the group of deputy district attorneys charged with notifying victims of crime or relatives of victims (VNOK, or “victim’s next of kin”) of their victimizer’s parole hearings.
A Twitter user who wishes to remain anonymous posted the following Tuesday:
Two sources have confirmed that the leaked email came from a member of the Lifer Unit.
Although information on the LA Lifer Hearing Unit is sparse, the San Diego District Attorney’s office explains the idea thusly:
Convicted defendants sentenced to indeterminate prison terms of life with the possibility of parole have a right to a parole hearing. These inmates will not be released unless parole is granted at the hearing. The [San Diego] Lifer Hearing Unit was formed in 1995 to ensure that victims of violent crime are given a chance to be heard at these proceedings, and to help prevent improvident grants of parole.
In other words, should someone close to you get murdered, and the killer sentenced to prison, you should be informed when the perp is up for parole, and you should be allowed to attend the hearing to make a victim impact statement. Not so in George Gascon’s world.
Deputy District Attorney Marc Debbault, who is also President Emeritus of the LA County Association of Deputy District Attorneys, responded to the move on Facebook Tuesday:
Former prosecutor and child advocate Kathleen Cady responded to Debbault:
Gascon is violating the California Constitution again. Victims have an absolute right to be notified of parole hearings (Cal Constitution Art I, Section 28((b)(15)). …
His administration then froze out DDAs access to state prison records so victims are not prepared for what they might hear during the parole hearing. Iniguez [Gascon’s chief of staff who was recently busted for public intoxication]has instructed DDAs [deputy DAs] and VSRs [Victim Services Representatives] that they can not refer victims to pro bono attorneys who stand ready to assist them. Now, he will not even assist with notifying victims that a defendant is up for parole. Many of these defendants had been sentenced to hundreds of years to life or Life Without the Possibility of Parole so victims didn’t register for notification because they didn’t believe a parole hearing would ever occur… [emphasis mine]
Gascon laid the groundwork by establishing a new “Resentencing Unit” in April 2021, which drastically lowered the bar to receive parole. Many more convicts received parole hearings—and were released—as a result. Now he takes the time to punish the victims of all those crimes. Cady explains:
They will not have an opportunity to appear and speak at the parole hearing or ask for parole conditions – like he shouldn’t be paroled in my neighborhood. Gascon must go. Victim’s Rights Matter.
The mood in Gascon’s office is, quite simply, fearful. We spoke to more than one Deputy District Attorney, and they did not want to be quoted even anonymously. Suffice it to say, they live in terror of the DA’s petty but vicious retribution against those who don’t march to his directives.
We did find out, however, that the plan is to not only stop letting families of victims know when a con might be up for parole, but also to also stop anyone from notifying the original prosecutors either. The purpose: to let as many hardened criminals out onto the street as possible, as quickly as possible. If you have to sit through objections from prosecutors and impact statements from victims’ families, it just slows the process down.
It sounds like a diabolical plot from a Netflix movie. But it’s happening in the real world.
Dennis P. Zine was willing to speak with us, however. He’s a former LAPD Supervisor and spent 12 years on the LA City Council. He wrote in a text:
Yes, it’s all part of Gascon’s plan to turn Los Angeles into a place welcoming all types of crimes. Murder, Robbery, Burglary, Smash and Grab and GTA [Grand Theft Auto] to name just a few. If Gascon is not recalled[,] crime will continue and only get worse.
Hopefully, George will be booted, however. As we’ve reported, the Recall Gascon effort earned enough signatures to qualify for the November 8 ballot. RedState has written extensively on the violence Gascon has brought; let’s hope we can finally be rid of this scourge on Los Angeles. His latest assault on victims just cements his legacy.
We leave you with the full text of the leaked email with the names redacted:
Thank you to all of you who were able to make the meeting today. For those that were not (my apologies for the short notice), Administration has directed that we wind down the Lifer Unit. Administration has determined that it is “not appropriate” for the LADA to notify victims of crime and victim next of kin of those that were murdered that parole hearings are scheduled for the inmates that harmed them and their loved ones.
We will continue to do the work on all cases assigned through October, 2022. There will not be a November calendar issued, nor any additional forthcoming assignments.
DDAs XXXXXXXX, XXXXXXX and XXXXXXXX have been transferred. XXXX and XXX (XXX) XXXXXXXX will be available for some time for referrals to assist victims who affirmatively reach out to us or request DDA assistance through the normal process through October cases. If you have a case in need of a DDA or where a victim/VNOK is requesting assistance, please forward an email to XXXXX and XXXXX. One of them will reply indicating that they can take the case.
Supervisors of the BOI and BVS have been notified and will reassign folks as they determine appropriate.
I want to thank all of you for your dedication to this important work. It has been a wild ride since DDAs stopped attending hearings to try to continue this important support for victims. You rolled with every change, and the changes were not substantial. Your teamwork was impressive, working across Bureaus and Divisions. You worked tirelessly to meet important deadlines so victims/VNOK were not shut out of attending hearings. When so much about the system and our institutions seems heartless, you had heart, you fought on.
It has been my great pleasure to work with you.