Prosecutors in Los Angeles County continue to criticize their boss for his approach for holding suspected criminals accountable following the high-profile deaths of two women and a range of directives that critics say are too lenient.
Eric Siddall, a prosecutor who also serves as the vice president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys of Los Angeles County, said District Attorney George Gascon has tied the hands of his prosecutors by not allowing them to properly fight for crime victims.
"It would be like someone said 'You have a (Apple) MacBook, but I want you to use an abacus to solve this mathematical problem,'" Siddall told Fox News. "The district attorney is not always on the side of victims of crime."
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Since taking office in December 2020, Gascon has come under intense scrutiny for his progressive directives that critics say embolden criminals. Some of his orders include the elimination of sentence enhancement charges, zero-bail policies and not prosecuting juveniles as adults for many crimes. The most recent backlash stems from the sentencing of a transgender woman who recently pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl when she was a teenager.
The suspect, Hannah Tubbs, now 26, faces a short stay in a juvenile detention center or probation.
In recent days, law enforcement officials and opponents have raised concerns about the potential handling of two murder cases involving two women who died days apart.
Sandra Shells, 70, a nurse, was sitting at a bus stop in downtown Los Angeles on Jan. 13 when she was violently attacked. She fell back, hit her head on the ground and died Sunday from her injuries.
The suspect, a transient identified as Kerry Bell, 48, has been charged with murder.
On the same day Shells was attacked, Brianna Kupfer was stabbed to death while working in a Los Angeles luxury furniture shop. The 24-year-old graduate student was found dead by a customer.
Shawn Laval Smith, 31, a homeless man with a long criminal history, was arrested Wednesday for the slaying and was being held on $2 million bond.
Gascon's policies have raised fears that both men will not be prosecuted to the fullest extent.
"It is tragic and heartbreaking that Brianna Kupfer was murdered while she worked," Gascon said in a statement. "It is a tremendous loss for her family and friends, the community and Los Angeles County. We are working with LAPD and will review the case as soon as it is presented to us."
In another statement issued Tuesday, Gascon said he planned to "hold accountable the person responsible" for Shells' death.
Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino echoed concerns about Smith's potential prosecution while also referring to Tioni Theus, a 16-year-old girl whose body was found dumped along a freeway.
"Brianna Kupfer's suspected killer has been arrested by the Pasadena PD," he tweeted. "Now praying that Tioni Theus' killer is also captured. In both cases, I am calling on DA Gascon to do his job and ensure a criminal like this never sees the light of day!"
In addition, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, a Gascon critic, recently bypassed Gascon's office and presented instead to federal prosecutors the case of a slain Los Angeles police officer who was killed during a robbery while house hunting with his girlfriend.
And In December, Union Pacific Railroad, which plays a chief role in the region's supply chain, asked Gascon to address concerns about organized theft aboard its trains.
"Criminals are caught and arrested, turned over to local authorities for booking, arraigned before the local courts, charges are reduced to a misdemeanor or petty offense, and the criminal is released after paying a nominal fine," Adrian Guerrero, general director of public affairs for the freight line, wrote in a letter to Gascon. "These individuals are generally caught and released back onto the streets in less than twenty-four hours. Even with all the arrests made, the no-cash bail policy and extended timeframe for suspects to appear in court is causing re-victimization to UP by these same criminals."
"In fact, criminals boast to our officers that charges will be pled down to simple trespassing - which bears no serious consequence," he added. "Without any judicial deterrence or consequence, it is no surprise that over the past year UP has witnessed the significant increase in criminal rail theft described above."
Despite the pledge and assurances that his office side's with crime victims, Gascon is the subject of a second recall effort. Several cities across the county have also approved no-confidence votes on the chief prosecutor.
"I think the public has had its fill. I think they have seen when you're a failure and I'm not sure that they're willing to extend it another three (years)," Siddall said.