LOS ANGELES-George Gascon is an advocate for Criminal Justice Reform,. But what is criminal justice reform?
If Gascon, former San Francisco DA now running for Los Angeles County DA, has his way it would mean that no one would be charged with a criminal offense which did not fall under PC 665.7 ( California Penal Code.) He would mandate all those arrested participation in a Mental Health Program and enrollment in a substance abuse program even if there was not a documented history of substance or alcohol abuse or mental health issues. Granted there are many individuals that have mental health issues from the use and continued use of illegal drugs. But how can you help someone if they continue to abuse illegal drugs and refuse to accept that they have an addiction problem?
Let’s go back in time. On November 7, 2000 the voters of the state of California voted for Proposition 36 a criminal sentencing initiative also known as Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of2000 which required those individuals arrested for non-violent criminal offenses ( to and include those already under county probation and state parole supervision ) to be mandated to enroll into a drug treatment program instead of incarceration. What most people were not aware of is that the arrested individual had three bites of the apple. If an individual got arrested for a property related offense or a criminal offense which violated a Health Welfare and Safety code under the penal code or even for domestic violence under pc 273.5, simple assault and battery , and many more non-violent offenses under the California Penal code they would be referred to a Prop. 36 referral.
Even if the arrested individual did not have a documented history of substance abuse all they had to say was that they had an addiction problem. They would be placed under probation and monitored for their participation in a substance abuse program through a drug court program or if already under state parole supervision then by their assigned parole agent. If the individual failed to attend the program and was re-arrested for another felony non-violent criminal offense they would just be re-instated to the same program . This could take place with three additional arrests for new felony charges . Then depending on the individuals past criminal history or prior parole or probation status before being sentenced under Prop. 36 then they could receive a new state prison term or incarceration in a local county jail facility. Overall Prop. 36 was a failure and today as a result of Gascon's Prop. 47 most specialized county drug courts programs have been shuttered.
Also what Gascon has failed to tell all is that over 85 % of all Felony Criminal fillings are plea bargained down to lesser charges from the initial arrest charges. This is being done due in response to the massive case loads which have caused a major overload and burden to our California's criminal court system. Example when a gang member shoots a firearm into a rival gang members residence with the intent to kill or harm another and the intended victim and or other occupants of the structure refuses to testify in a court of law for various reasons then the charge is dropped to Negligent Discharge of a firearm a non-violent criminal offense and no longer a felony. Now maybe the accuser might receive a citation or nothing at all. Zero accountability. This is taking place daily within our Los Angeles county area. Recently we had two gang members shot at each other. One was killed and the other had a gunshot wound. Now I can see the one alive claiming self defense. Now both being ex felons if the gun held by the one who survived is worth less than$ 950.00 dollars maybe he is already out on the streets again ? After all being an ex felon in possession of a firearm is a non-violent criminal offense and if the firearm held is less than $ 950.00 dollars then a police officer can issue a court citation. All following under Gascon's Prop 47.
How can we forget how the Stanford student who was convicted under AB 109 for rape of an unconscious female Six months incarcerated in a county jail followed by 3 years formal probation supervision. There was a time that if one was convicted three times within a span of years for driving under the influence of alcohol then they would receive a state prison sentence. Now a conviction for Driving under the influence regardless of how many times may result in a local county jail sentence.
Lets take a look at those crimes as a result of Gascon's Prop 4 7 are no longer classified as felony criminal offenses. Vehicular Manslaughter, Felony Evading , Ex felon possession of a firearm, Shooting into inhabited dwelling, Corporal Injury Spouse ( As a result of the recent death of therapist Amie Harwick female activists and others are now calling for stricter laws and harsher sentencing laws surrounding Domestic Violence), Felony Hit and Run, Child Abuse , Elder Abuse and many sexually related criminal offenses., Assault with a Deadly weapon. Assault and Battery and many more criminal offenses. If criminal offenses are not listed under 667.5 of the California Penal code then they are not classified as a violent criminal offenses.
What Gascon has failed to tell residents, stakeholders is that his Prop. 4 7 removed the collection of DNA from those arrested for felony charges. Review the Sacramento Bee Editorial statements February 16, 2015 when former California State Attorney General Kamala Harris acknowledged her failure to inform California residents ( voters) of Prop. 47's impact on DNA collection. Harris because of his negligence filed an appeal with California Court of Appeals in her attempt to reinstate the collection of DNA samples from those arrested for felonies. Court of Appeals rejected Harris' appeal.
In January 2012 an 81 year old female while taking her daily walk was kidnapped, dragged into an alley beaten and raped. She subsequently passed away as a result of her injuries a few months after the attack. Jonathan Jackson had been arrested for Felony car theft and his DNA was collected and entered into the CODIS ( National Combined DNA Index System) . Jackson was subsequently arrested after his DNA matched the samples recovered from the 81 year old victim and he was charged with Kidnap, Rape and Murder. Seven years after these horrific crimes committed by Jackson on a 81 year old female he was found guilty of all three criminal offenses .If Jackson would have been arrested today his DNA would not have been collected and entered into CODIS and the death of this 81 year old would have been yet another unsolved murder case.
Gascon states that those individuals who commit non-violent crimes should not be incarcerated. They should receive treatment i.e. Mental Health care and or enrolled in substance abuse programs. Is Gascon stating that all individuals who involve themselves in non-violent crimes all have mental health issues or are addicted to illegal drugs or alcohol?
Listed are a few High notoriety cases which made the news of non-violent criminal offenders who went on to commit murders.
First two cases in which DNA played a major role . The Grim Sleeper , Lonnie David Franklin Jr. was convicted for murders of 10 black females all killed in South Los Angeles. Franklin was identified as a result of familial DNA. Franklin had a family member who had been arrested for a non-violent criminal offense and his DNA had been collected which subsequently led to the arrest of Franklin. Franklin may have killed up to 26 females. The second being the arrest of 32 year old Geovanni Borjas for the kidnapping , rape and murders in 2011 of two young females from the Lincoln Heights area of Los Angeles. Borjas like Franklin was identified as the killer as a result of familial DNA. His father had been arrested for Domestic Violence and his DNA was collected and placed into CODIS. Today this would not have taken place under Gascon's Prop 47. Borjas has not yet been convicted for the crimes of which he has been accused of and his next court date is scheduled for May 8, 2020 Los Angeles Superior Court.
February 2004 two Los Angeles Police officers were on routine patrol ( what ever routine is ?) when they were flagged down by a female in the street stating that she had been assaulted by her boyfriend. The two officers responded to a South Los Angeles apartment where the boyfriend was . Without warning the boyfriend shot and killed Los Angeles police officer Ricardo Lizarraga. The male suspect was identified as 32 year old Kenrick Johnson who at the time was under active state parole supervision.
His commitment offense was for a non-violent criminal offense. Parole documentation also noted that Johnson was an identified gang member. On this same date another LAPD officer was shot but recovered from his injuries. Former LAPD Chief Bratton stated it correctly that these gang members are sociopaths and that there are to many guns on the streets. Kenrick Johnson subsequently took his own life while housed in the Los Angeles County Jail. Today if Kenrick Johnson was arrested for his non-violent criminal offense he would simply be referred to some type of treatment care regardless if he had a mental health issue or a drug addiction problem.
In July 2009 17 year old Lily Burk was kidnapped and subsequently murdered by parolee Charlie Samuel. Samuel on the date of the killing had been residing in a substance abuse treatment program. He was given a day pass this date being on a Friday to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV was closed ( furlough day). Samules who was on parole for a non-violent criminal offense kidnapped Lily Burke and killed her on this same day. He was subsequently identified as a result of fingerprints and DNA. If Samuels would have been arrested today for his non-violent criminal offense which sent him to state prison there would have been no DNA in COD IS because of Prop 47. Samules entered into a plea agreement and received a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
In November of2010 Earl Ellis Green age 44 another non-violent criminal offender shot and killed 27 year old Riverside Police officer Ryan P. Bonamino. Review of Green's criminal arrest history which spans more than two decades notes multiple arrests and convictions for spousal assault, car thefts, drug dealings, receiving stolen property and one arrest for battery on a police officer. All of these arrests and convictions fall under non-violent criminal offenses. Green was under active state parole supervision on the date and time that he shot and killed police officer Bonamino.
Today as a result of PROP 47. Green would not have been held accountable for his criminal behavior prior to the killing of police officer Bonamino. On the date of the killing Green had stolen a truck and been pursued by Bonamino. A foot pursuit followed into Fairmount Park. Bonamino fell onto the wet grass . Green then found Bonamino on the ground and then smashed the police officers head three times with a metal pipe. Green then took possession of the injured police officers gun and as Bonamino stood up with his hands protecting his face Green shot him point blank in the officers head. Green then fled from the location taking the officers gun with him. Green even with his extensive criminal history was classified as a non-violent criminal offender. Green was subsequently apprehended and found guilty of murder and received the death penalty.
Prior to the passage of Prop 4 7 we had AB 109. which was supported by Gascon. Two very publicized cases was that of Ka Pasasouk who was released from California state prison early as he was classified as a non-violent criminal offender ( he was however classified as a gang member per. Prior state parole written documentation.). He was arrested out of state for the execution type murders of four innocent individuals which took place on December 2nd 2012 in the Northridge. Pasasouk subsequently received the death penalty for the four murders.
Then we have Tobias Summers who like Pasasouk was released early from state prison and classified as a non violent criminal offender. Summers then made illegal entry into a home on March 27, 2013 located in Northridge where he kidnapped a ten year old female. He then threatened the ten year old with a knife and then repeatedly sexually assaulted her in his car, a storage yard ,a drainage tunnel and a vacant house. Summers was subsequently arrested and charged with 38 felony counts including sexual assault, sodomy, kidnapping and burglary. Three years later Summers was found guilty of all counts and received a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Both of the above were under Los Angeles County Probation as Per. AB 109 and both were offered multiple services. Both AB 109 and Prop. 4 7 fell under the California Criminal Justice Reform Act.
Proposition 57 also fell under the California Criminal Justice Reform Act. If you recall former Governor Jerry Brown stated that not one individual currently incarcerated with the California state Prison for a prison commitment for sexually related criminal offense would be released early from state prison. Just last week the Appeals court made a decision that those inmates incarcerated for a sexually committed offense which does not fall under 667.5 of the Penal Code can now be released early from state prison. Remember that George Gascon also supported Prop. 57.
Now is George Gascon the right person to be elected for Los Angeles County District Attorney?
What is so sad is that the voters of today no longer take the time to do fact finding. People should think for themselves and not follow the recommendations of their friends , co-workers or of political parties.
One should ask why is a certain male individual pouring in millions of dollars into Gascon's campaign?
What does he want in return?
(Caroline Aguirre is a retired 24-year State of California law enforcement officer, LAPD family member, community activist and Neighborhood Watch captain. Aguirre is a CityWatch contributor.)