Gascon Poleaxed by Fraudulent Crime Scare

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Here were the facts about crime in Los Angeles in 2023. The number of homicides plunged. The number of violent crimes plunged. The number of victims shot plunged. The number of property crimes dropped. The number of hate crimes plunged.

According to a report by the LAPD on crime in the city and by extension the county crime had dropped almost by record numbers. L.A. was no fluke. The crime drops in the city mirrored that of the nation. Other big cities showed similar major drops in gun violence and property crimes.

But to hear the hysteria fanned crime wave sensationalism fanned by Fox News, conservative talk show gabbers, much of the GOP and especially the eleven candidates who lined up to oust one L.A. County District Attorney George Gascon would think L.A. and the nation were under an Al Capone Bonnie and Clyde John Dillinger era unprecedented crime siege.

The fraudulent crime hysteria whipped up by this bunch is the reason, and only reason, that Gascon has been under non—stop attack since the moment he raised his hand to take the oath of office. The only reason he has been the target of countless recall efforts, and a parade of current and former prosecutors sniffed blood and queued up in the March 5 election to try and grab his job.

It was a foregone conclusion that one of the single minded, single issue, law and order crowd that sniffed Gascon’s titanic vulnerability would emerge from the pack and force him into a run-off. Former federal prosecutor and one time GOP Attorney General candidate Nathan Hochman got the nod. He will face Gascon in the November general election.

Predictably he wasted no time in going for Gascon’s alleged soft on crime went for the crime jugular. He flatly railed in a statement, “It’s time we had a DA who fights for victims, not criminals.”

The blunt fact is that Gascon’s alleged sin is that he tried to deliver on his long-standing promise to crack down on police misconduct cases. Given the severe limitations and loops it takes to nail bad cops, Gascon has made a credible effort to keep that pledge. He further infuriated many by trying to keep another part of his promise which is to dial back the hard line, take no prisoner assembly line prosecution of mostly poor Black and Hispanics for non-violent, petty crimes.

This flies in the face of what prior L.A, County DAs, and indeed most DAs, see as their mandate in fighting crime. Gascon poured more oil on the crime hysteria ploy by publicly apologizing and supporting the exoneration of several men falsely accused of murder and who spent years behind bars due to that miscarriage of justice.

Gascon is one of an increasing number of reform-minded DAs nationally who believe that equal protection under the law is something more than just noble words on a scrap of paper. This means enforcing the law in a fair, impartial, even-handed, and — most importantly — just way. 

The recall efforts against him closely paralleled the attacks on Gascon from the slew of his election challengers. These were well-funded and well-orchestrated campaigns by prison guard associations, police unions and associations, victims’ rights groups, disgruntled deputy DAs, DA’s association, and a legion of conservative talking heads to nail Gascon.

Their alleged beef with him was and still is that his reforms will swing the prison and jail gates wide open and unloose hordes of dangerous criminals back on the streets. It is a near textbook Trump-style scare and fear-mongering campaign stuffed with the usual healthy dose of half-truths, distortions, and out-and-out lies about Gascon’s proposed reforms. 

The tunnel vision approach to the criminal justice system of Gascon’s numerous opponents has made them virtually immune to any talk of reform which would mean finding ways to provide services and support to at-risk individuals to prevent criminal activity and reduce the chance of recidivism. Traditionally, DA’s have another mandate. That is to turn as blind an eye as possible to police misconduct. Cops who beat, maim, and even kill under the color of law in even the most dubious circumstances know that they have a virtual open pass from DAs who will not prosecute them. The pass holds even when the rare times that police officials request a prosecution, the answer is still no. 

DAs know that if they forget that and start holding cops that break the law accountable, there will be a loud howl from police unions and associations. They will suddenly find themselves the target of a relentless big-money campaign to dump them from the office. Few DAs have the stomach to risk that. 

No surprise then that DAs have been the loudest proponents of three-strikes provisions state legislatures routinely rushed through several get tough three-strikes laws. With few exceptions, DAs also were the loudest in protesting any relaxing or outright repeal of three-strikes laws.

Gascón is in the political fight for life. He may well be done in by the fraudulent crime mania crowd. That will not change the fact that he brought the long and much needed breath of reform fresh air to the job of District Attorney.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book Is Biden Really Too Old?: The Politics of Age and Ageism in America  (Middle Passage Press). He also is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.



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