Judge Villeza Reconsiders His Assent to Withdrawal of Special Circumstances, Enhancement Allegations, Determines That Separation of Powers Doctrine Does Not Compel Acquiescence in Gascón’s Policies
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rob B. Villeza—who in January granted a motion made pursuant to a special directive to deputies by District Attorney George Gascón and allowed the prosecution to drop special circumstances and sentencing-enhancement allegations in a murder case—has reconsidered the matter and ordered resurrection of the original information.
In granting the motion in January, pursuant to Penal Code §1385, Villeza made the requisite finding that the lessening of potential consequences for defendant Raymond Gonzales was “in furtherance of justice,” deferring to Gascón’s policy on a “separation of powers” basis. But in an order issued May 24, of which the METNEWS gained knowledge on Friday, the judge said, on reflection:
“If the prosecutor’s policy preferences alone were deemed sufficient to justify dismissal of an existing charge or enhancement, then section 1385 would not require the court to find that dismissal would be in furtherance of justice.”
Gascón issued seven special directives on Dec. 7, the day he was sworn into office. On Feb. 8. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant issued a preliminary injunction, sought by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, barring implementation of some of the policies as “unlawful,” declaring:
“The unlawful conduct includes barring deputy district attorneys from charging enhancements they statutorily are obligated to charge, barring deputy district attorneys from complying with their ministerial duty to exercise case-by-case discretion to maintain or move to dismiss charges, mandating that deputy district attorneys move to dismiss special circumstance allegations that cannot be dismissed by law, and mandating that deputy district attorneys attempt to unilaterally abandon a prosecution where a judge denied a motion to dismiss.”
However, the preliminary injunction did not affect actions already taken by judges in response to motions deputies had been compelled to make.
Lack of Standing
Reconsideration was sought in Gonzales’s case by the victims’ family members. They lack standing to make motions, Villeza said, but proceeded to act on his own motion.
“[T]o avoid the unfairness and injustice of a legally incorrect ruling…, this court will reconsider whether the policy considerations set forth in the Special Directives provide a legal basis for the court to conclude that dismissal of the special circumstance and sentence enhancement allegations is in furtherance of justice under section 1385. Without due consideration of the facts of this case or defendant’s particular circumstances, the court concludes it does not.”
Villeza went on to say that the evidence, summarized in the findings made after Gonzales’s preliminary hearing, “amply supports the special circumstance and sentence enhancement allegations,” noting:
“The defendant is accused of shooting to death two men while they were sleeping, to steal money one of the victims collected in an insurance settlement. He then used the gun to carjack a mini-van to transport and dump the bodies in the desert. The People offer no mitigating facts or personal circumstances of the defendant to support the dismissal motion.”
Under the order, special circumstances and gun and gang allegations are restored. Gonzales is charged with two counts of first degree murder and carjacking.
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