Members of the association representing Los Angeles County prosecutors voted overwhelmingly in support of an effort to recall their boss, District Attorney George Gascón, the organization announced Tuesday.
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining group for more than 800 deputy district attorneys in the county, had previously invited Gascón to speak to the organization as it considered whether to back the recall, but he declined.
The ADDA contends that Gascón has “refused” to speak with his prosecutors since taking office to explain policies that have sparked the recall drive.
Roughly 83.3% of ADDA members took part in the vote, with 97.9% voting in support of the recall, according to the group.
“This vote is by those who are intimately familiar with how Mr. Gascón’s policies actually play out on a day-to-day basis,” ADDA President Michele Hanisee said in a statement announcing the vote. “We believe the vote of our members will resonate with the voters of Los Angeles as they decide whether to recall Gascón from office and restore public safety as the priority of the District Attorney’s Office.”
A new effort to oust Gascón from office began in December, just months after a similar recall campaign fell short. Recall organizers must collect 566,857 signatures from registered voters in Los Angeles County by July 6 to force a recall vote.
The city councils of more than 30 cities in the county have issued “no confidence” votes involving Gascón.
Last September, organizers of the prior recall attempt said the effort was hampered by COVID-19 pandemic health mandates, along with a “premature start” and vowed to re-launch their bid to recall the county’s top prosecutor, who was sworn into office in December 2020.
Despite the failure of the original effort, organizers said they remained committed to recalling Gascón, who has come under fire from critics for a progressive agenda that has included directives against seeking the death penalty and dropping sentence-enhancing allegations in some criminal cases.
Gascón has repeatedly defended his policies, saying his stances were well-known during his campaign and his election signified public support of his agenda.
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys filed a lawsuit in December 2020 challenging Gascón’s directives to eliminate three-strikes allegations and some sentencing enhancements, alleging the moves are “unlawful.”
A judge ruled mostly in favor of the association last February, but subsequently put the case on hold while Gascón appeals. A trial date is scheduled to be set for the case in April.
Late Friday, Gascón issued a memo walking back some of his most- debated policies — bans on special-circumstance allegations that could result in life-without-parole prison terms and on transferring cases involving juvenile defendants to adult court.
In a news conference done via Zoom on Tuesday, Gascón’s special adviser, Alex Bastian, declined to forward a reporter’s question to the district attorney for his response to the association’s vote.
But Gascón acknowledged that the case of a 26-year-old transgender woman, Hannah Tubbs, who was prosecuted under his office policy as a juvenile for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in a restaurant bathroom in 2014 when Tubbs was 17, would be handled in adult court if he had to do the case all over again.
The district attorney said he became aware through a reporter last Thursday of a jailhouse call with Tubbs, which Gascón said was “extremely disturbing to me because it showed a level of callousness and a level of disrespect for humanity from an individual that I had previously felt that given her conditions and when the crime had originally occurred she needed to be prosecuted as a juvenile.”
“I, as a result of reviewing the contents of that particular jail call, I came to the conclusion that this person was gaming the system,” he said. “I had not had that information available. Neither did my executive team until we found out, you know, through a particular news outlet.”
The district attorney said last week’s changes in policies will give the office “the vehicle for exceptional cases and exceptional conduct.”
When Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore was asked during the news conference if he still had confidence in Gascón’s approach to the criminal justice system, the police chief said the two have “frequent conversations.”
“He is the elected district attorney. I’ve known George for 30-plus years and I respect him,” Moore said. “But we don’t agree on all matters and we don’t disagree on all matters … What’s important to me, and I recognize the political tone of these questions, is that I stay out of that conversation.”