LA County DA Gascon reverses course, allows prosecutors to seek sentencing enhancements in 'extraordinary' cases

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Saturday, December 19, 2020
LA County DA reverses course on sentencing enhancements
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Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon said he was reversing course on some of the major changes he announced when he took office earlier this month.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon on Friday said he was reversing course on some of the sweeping changes he announced when he took office earlier this month.

In a memo, Gascon said that effective immediately he would now allow deputy DAs to seek sentencing enhancements for hate crimes, child abuse, elder abuse, sexual assault, sex trafficking and certain financial crimes.

Gascon said he was amending his original directive "to allow enhanced sentences in cases involving the most vulnerable victims and in specified extraordinary circumstances. These exceptions shall be narrowly construed."

In the letter, Gascon said he was making the change after listening to the community, victims and deputy district attorneys.

RELATED: Crime victims' families lash out at LA County DA George Gascon over new policies

After being sworn in on Dec. 7, Gascon's special directive essentially ordered his prosecutors to ignore any and all sentencing enhancements - meaning no extra prison time for gun crimes, gang-related crimes and hate crimes.

"Dismissing and not prosecuting hate crimes is essentially saying, 'We don't care about communities of color," said defense attorney Adrian Roxas.

Earlier this week, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz introduced a resolution opposing the idea of ignoring enhancements in hate crime cases.

"Many of them will wind up not being prosecuted and people will be enabled to be repeat offenders," Koretz said.

One of Gascon's deputy district attorneys, the lead prosecutor in the Gabriel Fernandez case, blasted the DA's policy for banning enhancements in child-abuse cases.

"I just don't understand why we're not trying to prosecute child murderers to the fullest extent of the law," Jon Hatami told ABC7, his voice cracking with emotion.

"He's making changes based on the feedback he's gotten and based on the concerns that he's gotten, to ensure that in cases involving vulnerable victims enhancements can and may be brought" said Max Szabo, a spokesman for Gascon's transition team.

Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously described Max Szabo as a deputy district attorney.