LA County prosecutors' union files civil lawsuit over DA Gascon's new directives

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The union representing Los Angeles County prosecutors filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging newly seated District Attorney George Gascon's directives to eliminate three-strikes allegations and some sentencing enhancements, alleging the moves are "unlawful."

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County contends the directives -- handed down the day the county's top prosecutor was sworn into office just over three weeks ago -- violate state law.

A directive that calls for dismissing, withdrawing or not filing special circumstance allegations that could result in a life prison sentence without the possibility of parole for defendants charged with murder is among those targeted in the lawsuit, which also challenges Gascon's directive to dismiss gang enhancements and firearm allegations that can add more time to prison sentences.

The prosecutors' association asked a judge for a temporary restraining order barring Gascon and the District Attorney's Office from "forcing compliance by this county's deputy district attorneys with unlawful portions" of the recently enacted directives. But attorneys withdrew the request when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan expressed skepticism about the need for an immediate order and the union's claim of imminent irreparable harm.

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The association will instead seek a preliminary injunction in a hearing set for Feb. 2 before Judge James C. Chalfant.

In a lengthy statement released several hours after the lawsuit was filed, Gascon said he has "spent my life ensuring those who pose a threat to our community are held accountable and kept away from the rest of us'' but added that "enhancements and strike allegations have never been shown to enhance our safety'' during those years.

The district attorney said he has "asked deputy district attorneys entering an appearance 'for the people' to end excessive sentencing practices'' and that the new approach "will take some fine-tuning and a tolerance for change.''

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