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Open Letter to George Gascon From LA County DDA’s: “You Have Shown an Epic Failure in Leadership”

On Thursday, December 31, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon sent a year-end email to his Deputy District Attorneys (DDA’s), a type of “rally the troops” message. It didn’t go over very well, to say the least.

RedState has been provided with an open letter replying to Gascon’s email, written by a long-time Los Angeles County DDA, by multiple sources. These sources tell RedState that the opinions expressed in this letter represent the opinions of hundreds of LA County DDA’s, none of whom wanted to have their name on the record (for apparent reasons). Significant portions of it will be published in this piece, but since it is very lengthy there isn’t room to publish it in its entirety – but the entire letter can be found here.

One DDA who spoke to RedState on condition of anonymity summarized the open letter thusly:

Gascon’s like a guy who walks toward you with a middle finger extended. Then he smiles and says “let’s be friends” — as he slowly and deliberately extends his other middle finger.

It begins:

District Attorney Gascon, today you issued a New Year’s Eve Message to the members of this office.

You remind us that, in your eyes, there are “. . . questions about much of the work ‘we’ have done in the name of public safety.” You say, “To work with you is an honor.” You invite us to challenge you with facts and creative ideas. You urge us to question your direction when we disagree. You ask that we join you in “re-imagining” the role of the District Attorney’s Office. Your words and your invitations land hollow, and, quite frankly, insult us.

You were elected on November 3, 2020, yet you made no effort to reach out to the prosecutors in this office to allay legitimate fears they had as to the drastic change they imagined could be coming and to help them open to a change in leadership. On the date and literally time of your swearing in, you issued 61 pages of unintelligible sweeping policy directive…with no forewarning and before we even were introduced to you, and while you gave a political speech [to BLM], a speech that paid little, perhaps no, lip service to victims and those harmed by crime. We watched you with our arms crossed across our chests.

Regarding the Special Directives Gascon issued on the day of his swearing-in, the DDA’s point out that Gascon had a wealth of experience and expertise in the office regarding the intricacies of criminal trial and appellate practice yet failed to avail himself of these resources, leading him to both massively disrespect the very people whose respect he needs for success and to attempt to incorporate legally and morally dubious policies:

You are the District Attorney for a 2,000 person Office of the District Attorney, the largest in the nation, with an unsurpassed number of subject matter experts in all aspects of the criminal justice system. You had access to experts in gang crime, sex crime, major narcotic crime, cybercrime, asset forfeiture, juvenile, mental health, victims of crime, Brady compliance, ethics, conviction review, re-sentencing of violent offenders, and Habeas practice, among many other disciplines, and the most experienced cadre of crime-charging professionals imaginable. And yet, you did not consult any of them in developing sweeping policies that literally gut the criminal justice system in Los Angeles County. Instead, you enlisted criminal defense attorneys, even those with pending cases whose criminal clients will directly benefit from directives they wrote for you.

The policies you propose are outlandish, radical, and legally and ethically dubious at best. They evidence that you and the defense attorneys that you engaged to write them for you have no practical experience in the vast complexities of prosecutorial work. Your written policies are an embarrassment, indeed, a joke.

In various media appearances Gascon has cast those who oppose his policies as people who either benefit from the “mass incarceration epidemic” or who “cling to notions of punishment” instead of community safety. The reply:

No, sir, we do not cling to notions of “punishment,” as you accuse us of doing. In my long career, I cannot remember a time when I sought to “punish.” Instead, the prosecutors of this office strive daily for justice. Justice is a concept individual to each specific set of circumstances surrounding an offender, the crime he commits and the harm he causes. It encompasses a consideration for the voice of our victims, a desire to ensure others are not harmed in future, restitution, and a fair outcome for the accused that is commensurate with the crime. It is a complex array of considerations that we put to each individual case, that we teach our new DDAs and that we proudly, and sometimes at great personal cost, consider professionally, personally and often take home with us in our personal time so that we may land on the right and just course. You do not understand this. You demand fidelity to policies that have no regard for the individual circumstances of each case or each offender. This, sir, is not justice. That you require us to adopt your definition of justice makes us sick, we turn away from you.

Your mission is foolhardy, because you seek to change a fiction. We reject your definition of us.

Apparently on Gascon’s first day he called a meeting of senior DDA’s, to speak to them about policies he’d already implemented (which never goes over well). This description of the meeting is hilarious, because it shows just how obtuse Gascon is. These legal professionals were attempting to gently point out some problematic areas of his new policies – something he should have listened to and respected so he wouldn’t be in the position he’s now in – but, he’s either too blinded by ideology or stupid to get it.

Also on your first day you called a meeting with all of your managers. You told 135 of the most experienced leaders within this office that they had been “making mistakes” as prosecutors all these years. Ironically, in this same meeting your ignorance of the law and the implications of your policies were on stark display. One by one, leaders showing courage respectfully asked you questions, demonstrating their intricate knowledge and expertise within their disciplines, gently suggesting to you the dire consequences your policies will wreak and practical implications that no rational leader would ignore, even in the face of a desire for extreme institutional change. You dismissed each one.

You showed us you do not care about the consequences of your policies. You showed us you do not care to learn and understand about the work that we do for justice, for victims, for safety.

We learned this first day that there can be no “re-imagining” with you, sir. You seek to implement one man’s view. The arrogance you demonstrate in disregarding the incredible wealth of legal minds available to you suggests that you are pathological and cannot be trusted.

In his communications to staff, Gascon has asked for input and discussion and to be challenged, but his actions has proven that he doesn’t really mean that, the DDA’s say:

You speak as if you care for input and ask to be challenged, but you provide no answers and you instill terror in those that work for you by allowing those with adverse interests to the cases we are responsible for to fill out forms to turn us in if they don’t get what they want. We are subjected, countywide, to those same people reminding us that if we do not follow your new policies, they will report us to you. They demean us daily, and you aid and abet it.

You do not have our backs; you will never have our loyalty. You have the backs of the defense bar and criminals that hurt and harm.

As we reported previously, DDA Jonathan Hatami has publicly spoken out about his concerns with Gascon’s directives and policies – only to be publicly retaliated against by Gascon and called “delusional.”

You publicly issued a statement to the media calling one of your most ethical, hard-working and respected prosecutors “delusional” and questioned his fitness to practice law because you did not like that he acted according to what he believed prosecutorial ethics required. Isn’t this what any leader would want of his prosecutors? You issued a demeaning statement to the media asserting that this incredibly courageous prosecutor, who is now beloved to those that know and didn’t know him, has now learned what happens when he ignores a directive of his boss.

Do you believe your behavior encourages any one of us to embrace you and your ideas? We hate you for this. It increases our solidarity against you.

It didn’t have to be this way, they said.

You wanted to lead this Office in a new and different direction. You could have. DDAs are reasonable people, and in my experience, most lean liberal on social issues. Great numbers of us were moved by the call for social justice change and understand that change within the justice system is a part of that. DDAs were open to new and different ideas.

Obviously, the morale within the office is at rock bottom. Many DDA’s don’t believe it can ever be repaired.

You are nearly a month into your term and you do not have a functioning executive team….DDAs view you as a fraud and a self-interested politician who is uneducated in law and policy and does not care about public safety or the needs of victims. You are deeply disrespected. We think you are a small man interloping behind Jackie Lacey’s desk.

You have shown nothing but an epic failure in leadership. You have created such harm within that it is irreparable to your position and to your mission. No District Attorney can succeed when the 1000 DDAs he “leads” feel devalued and disregarded, disrespect him, his ideas and his methods. You could have come in and sought collaboration, mutual respect and engaged in communication. Instead you instill fear, display distrust, and insult the DDAs of this office and the victims of crime that we passionately seek to protect. Your message today rings hollow and insults. You will be left to “reimagine” on your own, and, sir, with this mere three week “look back,” I cannot wish you good luck “looking forward.”

It seems that internal and external opposition to George Gascon is growing exponentially by the day.

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