Embattled Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon’s own prosecutor is criticizing his leadership for not pursuing charges against teens pulled over for DUIs, as a new recall effort is underway.
Jonathan Hatami, a deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County, said in doing so, Gascon has “failed” juveniles, who could get the message that there are no consequences for their actions, will never reach court-ordered alcohol programs and could then get behind the wheel again to kill themselves or others.
“You’re basically telling a 16- or 17-year-old if you drink and drive, you’re just not going to get in trouble,” Hatami said in a recent on-camera interview with KCBS-TV. “George Gascon says he wants to protect kids and he cares about kids. Well, if George Gascon really wants to protect kids, if he really wants to do that then sometimes what you have to do is protect kids from themselves. And as a parent, I know that and all parents know that. And George Gascon has essentially failed in this.”
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“They’re not going to be provided with any programs and the next time they could kill somebody or they could kill themselves. That’s not a reform,” Gascon said. “If juveniles really have alcohol issues or alcohol problems, we should be able to provide them with programs through the court. The court should be able to monitor that. If you can’t complete those programs there needs to be some sort of punishment.”
Hatami noted that Gascon’s office will not pursue DUI charges against teens caught drinking and driving and, therefore, these juveniles won’t reach court-ordered programs for alcohol-related treatment. The DMV, however, might have discretion to revoke their driver’s licenses.
His remarks come days after petitions to recall Gascon were approved for circulation, according to Ballotpedia. Los Angeles County’s registrar approved the new recall petition late last month, permitting organizers to start collecting signatures after last year’s recall fell short, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Hatami sued Los Angeles County in September alleging he’s been defamed and denied promotions because he has been a vocal critic of Gascon’s progressive directives, Los Angeles Daily News reported.
Gascon has been widely criticized for his controversial juvenile diversion program launched in December. In a memo to staff, he directed prosecutors not to pursue charges against minors for a wide range of offenses, including sexual battery, burglary, vehicle theft, assaults or robberies, barring they did not result in serious injury or were committed while in commission of a firearm, The Times reported.
“I don’t think any reasonable or experienced prosecutor would issue blanket policies, but George Gascon has no experience,” Hatami said. “He has no experience in adult court. He has no experience in juvenile court. He has no experience in any court. And so that’s really what the problem is here.”
Hatami explained that although a statewide no-bail policy is in effect in California, district attorneys in each county still have the power to send their assistant district attorneys into courtrooms to argue before a judge to hold certain offenders if they have a prior record or could be considered a danger to the public or themselves. But that’s the opposite direction Gascon has taken, Hatami said.
“The state has zero bail, but George Gascon has also doubled down on that zero bail. He has a zero-bail policy,” Hatami said Monday. “So, on a child abuse case, on a domestic violence case, even on a sex trafficking of a minor without force, George Gascon is presumptive zero bail. Now any good and rational DA would send their [assistant] Das into court and do a bail deviation.”
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“What’s happening now is individuals are being arrested for smash-and-grab burglaries, for robberies for follow-home robberies, for train robberies and they’re just being released in hours,” he continued. “And it’s really demoralizing to the police and what it’s doing is causing more crime for society and making it more dangerous for all of us.”
Fox News Digital reached out to Gascon’s office for added comment.