Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, February 5, 2021


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D.A. Press Releases to Spotlight Gascón, Not His Office

Policy Departs From Approach Taken Under Previous District Attorneys


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office’s Media Relations Division has refused to respond to inquiries as to whether it’s true that an order has been issued that press releases on cases put the spotlight on District Attorney George Gascón, no longer mention the deputy handling the case, and not include the potential maximum sentence—but an answer came yesterday, with the issuance of a release conforming to those rules.

The METNEWS made inquiry by email on Jan. 27 and Jan. 28 as to whether the rumor of the format change was accurate. Public Information Officer Pamela Johnson responded on Feb. 1:

“Good morning. We have received your email inquiry. Thanks.”

First Sentence

It had been rumored that all future press releases on cases are to begin:

“George Gascon announced.”

The first paragraph of yesterday’s press release, by Assistant Media Chief Greg Risling, says:

“Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced today that the former mayor of Maywood and 10 others have been charged in a 34-count complaint alleging widespread corruption that includes soliciting and receiving bribes, misappropriation of public funds and embezzlement over a three-year period.”

The deputy district attorney handling the case is not mentioned. The potential sentence is not stated.

Traditional Format

A Jan. 26 press release by Johnson, using the traditional format, begins:

“A 44-year-old man has been charged with fatally beating his mother and stepfather with a baseball bat at their Hacienda Heights home earlier this month, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced today.”

It mentions:

“Deputy District Attorney Lisa Harris is the prosecutor assigned to case KA126512.”

It also relates:

“If convicted as charged, Garibay faces a maximum sentence of 57 years to life in state prison.”

Summary on Website

The Gascón administration, which began Dec. 7, has also departed from the norm in its depiction of the district attorney on the office website.

When Gil Garcetti was district attorney, a “history” section was added to that website. It has a brief description of each of the district attorneys, with a click-through to a more expansive biography.

Here are the descriptions other recent heads of the office:

Robert H. Philibosian | 1982 - 1984

Robert Philibosian was picked to replace John Van de Kamp after his election as state attorney general in 1982. [19 words.]

Ira Reiner | 1984 - 1992

When Ira Reiner was elected district attorney he was already a well-known public figure in Los Angeles. [17 words.]

Gil Garcetti | 1992 - 2000

Gil Garcetti was head deputy of the Torrance office when he was elected in 1992. Garcetti was District Attorney Ira Reiner’s former chief deputy district attorney. [26 words.]

Steve Cooley | 2000 - 2012

Steve Cooley joined the District Attorney’s Office in 1973 as a law clerk. He became a deputy district attorney later that year. [22 words.]

Jackie Lacey |2012 - 2020

District Attorney Jackie Lacey spent most of her professional life as a prosecutor, manager and executive in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. [24 words.]

The website says this of Gascón:

“George Gascón is the 43rd District Attorney for Los Angeles County. His historic campaign was endorsed by the Democratic Party, the LA Times and the LA Daily News, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Governor Gavin Newsom, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors, labor leader and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, and former Chief of the LAPD Charlie Beck. On Dec. 7, 2020, he was sworn in as the 43rd District Attorney of Los Angeles. [83 words.]

In connection with no district attorney other than Gascón is there mention of political supporters.

Statement by CDAA

The California District Attorney’s Association (“CDAA”) yesterday said it “applauds” the statement by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva that he will have his deputies attend parole hearings to oppose the release of dangerous felons, in light of Gascón’s policy against allowing his deputies to be present at such hearings or to voice opposition to their release by letter.

(However, a cadre of attorneys, including former District Attorney Steve Cooley, has already volunteered to perform task of representing victims.)

Greg Totten, chief executive officer of the CDDA and a former district attorney of Ventura County, said yesterday:

“Prosecutors are committed to keeping communities safe and to serving as a voice for crime victims. Crime victims should be a powerful force in California, but we are now seeing leaders trying to achieve their goals for criminal justice reform by silencing the voices of victims. We must find a balance between reforms that make sense for public safety and curtailing the rights of victims.”

Amador County District Attorney Todd Riebe, co-chair of CDAA’s Lifer/Parole Committee, remarked:

“Under Marsy’s Law, the California Constitution was amended to specifically recognize victims’ rights in criminal proceedings, including parole proceedings. Prosecutors are specifically designated as an appropriate person to represent the interests of victims at parole hearings, and they do so in every other county in the state, so we feel compelled to step in to help navigate the process for victims.”

On Wednesday, at a hearing not attended by prosecutors, parole was granted, pending a 120-day review, to Howard Elwin Jones, imprisoned at San Quentin since 1991 for the 1988 slaying of two teenagers at a party. Jones had been a gang member.

In one of nine “special directives” issued on his first day in office, Gascón said:

“This Office’s default policy is that we will not attend parole hearings and will support in writing the grant of parole for a person who has already served their mandatory minimum period of incarceration….However, if the [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] has determined in their Comprehensive Risk Assessment that a person represents a ‘high’ risk for recidivism, the DDA may, in their letter, take a neutral position on the grant of parole.”


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