Police-bashing LA District Attorney forms new team to reexamine fatal use-of-force incidents


LOS ANGELES, CA– On Wednesday, June 16th, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon announced the formation of an independent team to reexamine fatal use-of-force incidents by law enforcement and recommend further action when appropriate, according to reports.

Gascon said:

“Significant concerns have been raised by law enforcement officials, civil rights attorneys, activists and others regarding the handling of numerous police use-of-force cases,” 

He went on to say:

“In order to restore trust and move forward as a community, I am convening this group to thoroughly review the evidence and make recommendations on cases that we may need to examine more closely.”

The Factual Analysis Citizen Consulting Team (FACCT) is a group composed of civil rights attorneys, scholars and constitutional police practices experts who will identify, prioritize and review use-of-force cases, including those in which there is contrary forensic evidence or witness testimony, evidence from a civil or criminal case or impeachment evidence, CBSLA reported.

To make matters worse, part of the process will be placed in the hands of students. As part of the process, once a case has been identified, FACCT will work with law students from UC Irvine. The law students will review the case files and present their findings to FACCT members. FACCT will also be assisted by students from USC’s Dornsife Trial Advocacy Program.

FACCT members will not suggest whether charges should be filed. Instead, the team will present findings and additional evidence that may be contrary to the prior decision to decline to prosecute.

The final decision on whether an additional investigation is necessary, if criminal charges need to be filed, or if the incident should be assigned to a special prosecutor, will lie with the District Attorney’s Office. 

There may be compelling or dispositive confidential or otherwise unavailable evidence that FACCT does not review, according to reports.

Gascon said:

“Until there is a standard that mandates a shooting is lawful when it is absolutely necessary and the last resort, we are going to continue to have unnecessary shootings that cause public outcry and skepticism,” 

He added:

“We eventually need to create legislation that gives the county the ability to create a separate entity that can independently review these cases.”

On the day of Gascon’s inauguration in December, he sent a letter to the county’s police chiefs announcing his intention to launch FACCT.

CBSLA reported that the FACCT team will rely on the individuals listed in three categories below:

Civil rights attorneys, scholars and activists:

— Shimica Gaskins, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund, California, and former acting deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy of the U.S. Department of Justice;

— Je Yon Jung, civil rights attorney; former senior trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau;

— Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and constitutional scholar

— Barry Litt, civil rights attorney and partner at McLane, Bednarski and Litt, LLP;

— Paula Minor, Black Lives Matter, Los Angeles organizer and activist;

— Carlos Montes, Centro CSO-Chicano activist and organizer; Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council board member

— Melanie Ochoa, senior staff attorney for Criminal Justice and Police Practices, American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California;

— Olu Orange, director of the University of Southern California Dornsife Trial Advocacy Program and Agents of Change Civil Rights Advocacy Initiative; civil rights attorney at Orange Law Offices, P.C.;

— Robert Saltzman, Commissioner, Los Angeles County Probation Oversight Commission and West Hollywood Business License Commission; former commissioner, Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners; former associate dean, USC Gould School of Law.

Academic law clinics/programs:

— Professor Paul Hoffman, director Civil Rights Clinic and partner at Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris, & Hoffman, LLP;

— Professor Katie Tinto, director Criminal Justice Clinic and Clinical Professor of Law; former public defender, Alternate Public Defender’s Office of Los Angeles County;

— Melanie Partow — lecturer, Civil Rights Clinic and civil rights attorney.

Police practices experts and advisors:

— Theron Bowman, former chief of police Arlington, Texas; former deputy city manager/director public safety for Arlington; and CEO, Theron L. Bowman Inc.;

— Allwyn Brown, former chief of police, Richmond, California and LERT Ops lead at Tik Tok;

— Roger Clark, former lieutenant, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and CEO, Police Practices Consultant, Inc.

— Frank Fernandez, president of Blueprints 4 Safety; former deputy chief and chief of operations for Miami Police Department; and former public safety director for Coral Gables, Florida.

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Prosecutor claims LA County DA Gascón ‘limiting charges’ against MS-13 gang member in brutal attack

April 2, 2021

LOS ANGELES, CA – A member of MS-13 was charged this week with assaulting a transgender woman Thursday in MacArthur Park, but the prosecutor says he was blocked from charging a gang enhancement under orders from the District Attorney.

Gabriel Orellana, 19, was charged with one count of battery likely to produce great bodily injury following his arrest for the assault.

The suspect, along with another man who has not yet been arrested or charged, allegedly approached the woman, and shouted derogatory remarks before knocking her to the ground and striking her repeatedly in the head and torso, according to Deputy District Attorney Richard Ceballos.

The woman was taken to a local hospital where she received stitches for open wounds.

Ceballos said that the crime should have been charged as a gang-related crime, but Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has ordered his prosecutors not to seek sentence enhancements.

Ceballos said:

“It was clearly a gang case. The gang allegation should have been filed. But I wasn’t allowed to do so.”

After being elected in December, Gascón prohibited the use of sentencing enhancements in most cases, which has drawn criticism from his own prosecutors and from victims’ rights advocates.

He has since reinstated enhancements “in cases involving the most vulnerable victims and in specified extraordinary circumstances.”

Orellana pleaded not guilty in court Monday. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 6, according to District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago.

LAPD officials have expressed concern about violence against transgender women at the park. The attack was the latest of at least four attacks against transgender women at MacArthur Park since August. MS-13 considers the park part of their territory.

Two days before the attack, the police held a “midnight stroll” with community leaders through the park, offering food and resources to transgender residents. LAPD Chief Michael Moore told the city’s civilian Police Commission last week:

“Midnight stroll has been a strategy that the department has worked with the transgender community for some years, typically much later in the evening and typically in the Hollywood area of our city.

“But given the outlandish attacks on two transgender women that occurred in the MacArthur Park area just months ago, and the underlying incidence of gang violence and intimidation in that community, we thought that it was appropriate to have that outreach and that engagement in that park.”

LAPD Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala, the department’s liaison with the LGBTA community, said she has been in several meetings with advocacy groups and service providers to gain ideas on how the department can address the violence.

Girmala said:

“They’re asking for the ability to be out in public, to not feel that every time they’re out there, no matter what time of day it is, that they are being judged or feeling vulnerable.

“(MS-13), they’re in and out of that park and probably saw what they would think is a target of some kind,” she said of the attacks. “That’s something we’re feeling and hearing from the community.”

Ceballos has been a vocal opponent of Gascón’s reforms. The 30-year prosecutor, who had a brief run for District Attorney before pulling out and endorsing Gascón, said he thought Gascón would take a more conservative approach. C

eballos said that did not happen:

“[Gascón acted] almost like, ‘I’m the savior, the messiah of LA’s criminal justice system and I’m going to do this without really consulting anyone.  That was probably one of the dumbest things he could have done.”

District Attorney Gascón has been under fire for a series of police reforms he unilaterally instituted after taking office.

In February, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant issued a preliminary injunction requested by the union that represents prosecutors to stop the DA from blocking sentencing enhancements in cases involving the Three Strike Law.

The judge said:

“The Special Directives violate the Three Strikes law by prohibiting prosecutors from pleading and proving prior convictions in new cases. Prosecutors have a ministerial duty to allege all prior convictions under the Three Strikes law.

“The Special Directives violate Respondents’ duty to prosecute violations of general laws under Government Code section 26500, which is mandatory, not discretionary.”

In a rare instance of support for a prosecutor, the American Civil Liberties Union defended Gascón’s reforms during court arguments, saying the enhancements are often used to force defendants into pleas bargains:

“Although most prosecutors review their cases and exercise their discretion to charge only the appropriate charges and enhancements, some overcharge their cases, piling on counts and enhancements.

“For example, prosecutors routinely file gang enhancements for the most mundane crimes committed by gang members even though the crime was not committed for the gang’s benefit. This practice of overcharging and routinely filing felonies is particularly prevalent in juvenile cases. Prosecutors routinely choose to charge the most egregious of charges that impact the most vulnerable of clients.”

The widow of LA County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Owen, who was murdered in 2016, now chairs a campaign to recall Gascón. Tania Owen, a retired officer, said:

“My husband for 29 years fought for victims’ rights to the point where he actually laid down his life for victims. I can tell you that no victim I ever encountered has ever said: ‘We don’t want these individuals held accountable and responsible to the full extent of the law.’”

California Penal Code 186.22 titled the “California Gang Sentencing Enhancement” makes it a crime to “participate in a street gang and to assist in any felony criminal conduct by the gang’s members.”

The enhancement states:

“Anyone who commits a felony for the benefit of a gang will receive a mandatory prison sentence . . . in addition and consecutive to the penalty s/he receives for the underlying felony.

“Depending on the circumstances of the offense, Penal Code 186.22(b) PC could mean an additional two (2) to fifteen (15) years, or even twenty-five (25)-years-to-life, in prison…even if you’re not a gang member, and even if you aren’t the individual who was most directly responsible for committing the underlying felony.”


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