LA County prosecutor blasts policy change on juvenile cases amid controversy over trans child molester case

The new directive came two weeks after Hannah Tubbs, 26, was sentenced to two years in a juvenile facility for sexually assaulting a child in 2014

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A change by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon to modify a policy that bans trying juveniles as adults is merely a "PR stunt" in response to his decision not to transfer the case of a transgender suspect accused of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl several years ago to an adult court, one of his prosecutors said. 

A memo dated Wednesday from Chief Deputy District Attorney Sharon L. Woo, Gascon's second in command, said prosecutors must get special approval from their chain of command before opposing a motion by defense counsel to transfer a case from adult court to a juvenile court. Previously, prosecutors were allowed to object and the matter was never an issue, Deputy District Attorney Shea Sanna told Fox News. 

"This whole memo is a PR stunt so when they get questioned from the press… because Gascon has already said there's a blanket policy that no juvenile is going to be tried as an adult," he said. "Nothing has been changed. He doubled down and now they want to make it appear that there's some evaluation by asking Sharon Woo for permission to object."

LA COUNTY DA GEORGE GASCON SAY PROSECUTORIAL POLICIES BASED ON ‘SCIENCE’ AMID RENEWED CRITICISM

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon speaks at a press conference, December 8, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. A memo issued to his prosecutors this week requires them to seek permission to oppose defense counsel motions to transfer cases involving juvenile suspects from adult to juvenile court.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon speaks at a press conference, December 8, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. A memo issued to his prosecutors this week requires them to seek permission to oppose defense counsel motions to transfer cases involving juvenile suspects from adult to juvenile court. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images)

The new directive came two weeks after Hannah Tubbs, 26, was sentenced to two years in a juvenile facility for sexually assaulting a child in 2014 while in a women's bathroom. At the time of the crime, she was just two weeks from turning 18 and identified as male and went by James. 

The top prosecutor declined to motion that the case be moved to an adult court and Tubbs was tried as a juvenile, which elicited criticism from county elected officials and Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Because the case was handled in juvenile court, Tubbs is not required to register as a sex offender when she is released. 

Sanna was the lead prosecutor on the case before he was removed. 

Alex Bastian, Gascón’s special advisor, told Fox News the new directive was necessary so the DA's office can keep track of cases that could be brought back to Los Angeles County in the coming months. . 

"There are a series of California Supreme Court decisions that will be decided in the coming months and we anticipate numerous cases returning to our jurisdiction as a result," he said. "We want to be aware of these cases as they return so that we can add another layer of review to evaluate each case individually."

Hannah Tubbs began identifying as female after being arrested in connection with a 2014 child molestation case, according to prosecutors.

Hannah Tubbs began identifying as female after being arrested in connection with a 2014 child molestation case, according to prosecutors. (Los Angeles County)

The state's high court is expected this summer to rule on a case that could increase the number of cases under Proposition 57. The 2016 voter-approved measure allows judges to determine whether juveniles should be prosecuted and sentenced as adults. 

Sanna said the aim of the memo is to control prosecutors and so Gascon and senior-level officials in his office can be notified when cases similar to Tubbs' case are being handled so they aren't caught by surprise. Moreover, it's an effort to give the appearance of some type of independent evaluation, he said. 

"Check back in six months and I bet not one request to object will be granted, Sanna said. "And he just put all the defense attorneys on notice."

"Only the worst of the worst cases is when a juvenile is tried as an adult. To hear that the DA is not going to object to the suspect being transferred back to juvenile court, it re-victimizes the victim," he added. "The administration never ever, ever addresses the victim. It only addresses the defendant or the defense attorney."

Gascon has vowed to not try juvenile suspects as adults, citing research that said a child's brain does fully mature until they are in their 20s. Such blanket policies have left victims in the lurch, Sanna said. 

Former Los Angeles Police Chief Chief Beck announced last week that has pulled his support of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon amid criticism of his progressive directives. 

Former Los Angeles Police Chief Chief Beck announced last week that has pulled his support of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon amid criticism of his progressive directives.  (Getty Images)

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In addition to the backlash from Tubbs' case, Gascon is also facing a second recall attempt and recently lost the support of former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck

"I based my support for the election of District Attorney George Gascón on the hope he would advance public safety in Los Angeles and because of our close personal relationship of over 30 years," Beck said in a statement last week. "After observing the negative effects of his policies and practices on public safety, I am compelled to rescind that endorsement."