- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 28, 2021

A group of crime-victim families in Los Angeles has launched a recall effort against newly installed District Attorney George Gascón.

The families who gathered on the courthouse steps Saturday insist Mr. Gascón has failed to pursue violent felons or gone lightly in prosecuting them. He was elected last year behind a torrent of cash from a PAC funded largely by left-wing activist billionaire George Soros, and on a platform that promised to ease up on prosecutions and what he labeled overly-aggressive sentencing.

“Our family is heartbroken,” said Maria Barron, whose nephew, Anthony was tortured and murdered last year.  “These people — these monsters — deserve to stay (in prison); they don’t deserve to be free.”

Anthony’s mother, Heather Barron, 30, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, 35, have been charged with the torture and murder of the 10-year-old boy and, at present, the pair are facing the death penalty on charges sought by Mr. Garcon’s predecessor.

Mr. Gascón, who took office in December, is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty who will not allow assistant district attorneys to pursue such cases, and the Barron family is concerned he will seek lighter sentences against Ms. Barron and Mr. Leiva.

The deputy district attorney handling the case, Jonathan Hatami, declined comment. Mr. Gascón’s office did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Saturday’s announcement comes two weeks after a California judge sided with deputy district attorneys in L.A. who sued Mr. Gascón for failing to follow state law in terms of sentencing. The deputies said Mr. Gascón erroneously viewed legally required steps for California prosecutors as tools of his discretion.

“He’s now instructing his deputies to not prove up allegations at preliminary hearings so that he can get around the rules for allegations and enhancements,” said Siannah Collado, a former Los Angeles prosecutor serving as an advisor to the families and a spokesperson for the recall effort.

Ms. Collado gave the example of a juvenile killer just two weeks shy of his 18th birthday that Mr. Gascón would refuse to try as an adult.

“So he’s out at 25 -— six years for murder,” she said. “Families are outraged by this and it’s like they are retraumatized by the prosecution.”

Mr. Gascón issued special directives immediately upon taking office that, in addition to prohibiting death-penalty filings, forced prosecutors to ignore sentencing enhancements and aggravating circumstances. Prosecutors also stopped pushing for cash bail for defendants.

He is one of several district attorneys elected in the last four years with financial backing of Mr. Soros’ PACs. All are pursuing a left-wing agenda they say will rectify decades of systemic racism but that opponents see as too soft on crime.

The cities where they have taken office — Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis and others — have experienced huge increases in homicides and shootings that overwhelmingly involved victims who are people of color.

Mr. Gascón’s opponents cleared their first hurdle Saturday by obtaining more than 20 signatures to file a recall petition; they must now get signatures from 10% or more of registered voters in Los Angeles County — roughly 600,000 — in 160 days to trigger a special election, Ms. Collado said.

The Facebook group Recall George Gascón now has almost 40,000 members.

While recall proponents face an uphill battle, recalls have gathered momentum recently in California. A petition to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has gathered more than 1.85 million signatures and seems headed toward a special election. California voters last recalled a governor in 2003 when they ousted Democrat Gray Davis from Sacramento and replaced him with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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