Friday, June 17, 2022

George Gascón's Policies May Have Directly Led to the Murder of Two El Monte Police Officers (VIDEO)

Gascón's recall can't come soon enough.

At the Los Angles Times, "L.A. Dist. Atty. Gascón’s policy may have led to reduced prison time for man who killed El Monte officers":

The man who shot and killed two El Monte police officers Tuesday could have faced significantly more time in prison when he was last charged with a crime. But one of Dist. Atty. George Gascón’s most heavily criticized policies probably resulted in a lower sentence, according to documents reviewed by The Times.

Justin Flores, 35, who also died in Tuesday’s confrontation, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and methamphetamine when he was arrested by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies in 2020.

Flores had been convicted of burglary in 2011. Burglaries are strike offenses, which make suspects charged with later crimes eligible for harsher sentences. Flores’ earlier conviction means he had one strike against him when he was charged in 2020.

But the prosecutor assigned to the case, Deputy Dist. Atty. Larry Holcomb, said he had to revoke the strike allegation after Gascón took office, according to a disposition report reviewed by The Times. That’s because the new D.A. had issued a “special directive” that barred prosecutors from filing strike allegations on his first day in office.

Gascón’s policy regarding strikes was later deemed illegal by a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge, after the union representing rank-and-file prosecutors sued, seeking an injunction. In February 2021, Judge James Chalfant ruled Gascón’s policy violated California’s “three strikes” law, which requires prosecutors to file strike allegations whenever a defendant has a previous serious or violent felony conviction.

An appellate judge upheld Chalfant’s ruling earlier this year.

Flores pleaded no contest to being a felon in possession of a firearm in 2021, and prosecutors agreed to drop all other charges, records show.

Though the gun conviction alone could have sent him to prison for up to three years, by pleading no contest, Flores was instead sentenced to two years’ probation and 20 days in jail.

There is no guarantee Flores would have still been in jail Tuesday, when he shot and killed El Monte Police Cpl. Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana as they responded to a reported stabbing at the Siesta Inn.

But the removal of the strike allegation certainly cost prosecutors leverage when negotiating a plea, according to criminal justice experts.

Laurie Levenson, a professor of criminal law at Loyola Law School, said the blanket policy to disregard strike allegations was always going to run into trouble.

“If you are going to implement a blanket policy, you are always in danger of having a Willie Horton moment,” she said, “where that decision applied to one case results in a horrible outcome.”

Horton was convicted of first-degree murder in Massachusetts and sentenced to life in prison without parole. He escaped while on a weekend furlough program in 1986, then brutally raped a woman and assaulted her boyfriend.

The Horton case was used in an infamous attack ad against then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who was running for president in 1988 against George H.W. Bush.

Gascón has moved away from such blanket policies in recent months. Prosecutors can now request approval from a committee to either try juveniles as adults or pursue special circumstances allegations in murder cases, tactics Gascón had initially outlawed when he took office.

At least two such cases are now being reviewed by committees...

Still more.