LA DA George Gascon seeks California Supreme Court appeal in battle over charging of three-strikes cases

The Second Appellate District Court previously found Gascon 'overstates his authority' and must obey state law

FIRST ON FOX: Embattled Democratic Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon is once again looking to appeal a court's findings that he "overstates his authority" and must charge cases as required under California’s "three-strikes" law.

Court records show that Gascon’s attorneys filed a petition for review on Tuesday with the California Supreme Court.

In June, an appeals court upheld portions of a lower court’s injunction that said Gascon cannot refuse to charge three-strike cases, which can dramatically increase prison sentences for some of the most serious repeat offenders.

The Second Appellate District Court ruled that voters and the California Legislature "created a duty, enforceable in mandamus" that requires prosecutors to plead prior serious or violent felony convictions under the state’s three strikes law, which increases penalties for repeat offenders.

LOS ANGELES DISTRICT ATTORNEY GEORGE GASCON ‘OVERSTATES HIS AUTHORITY,' CAN'T IGNORE CALIFORNIA LAW, COURT RULES

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon speaks at a press conference, December 8, 2021, in Los Angeles. 

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon speaks at a press conference, December 8, 2021, in Los Angeles.  (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

Gascon on Thursday called the appellate court's decision "a dangerous precedent" and argued that it amounted to "taking the charging decision out of a prosecutor's hands."

"The Three Strikes law imposes Draconian penalties on defendants who were previously convicted of certain prior felonies," he said. He also claimed that long sentences "increase recidivism rates, have little-to-no deterrent effect and keep people in prison long after they pose any safety risk to their community."

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His critics have argued the opposite – that certain defendants deserve to be punished with imprisonment and have proven to be dangerous if released.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, the city of Los Angeles has seen its homicide rate rise more than 25% year to date in 2022 compared to 2020. And In Gascon’s first full year in office, the City of Los Angeles saw 397 homicides – a 14-year high. 

And Gascon has received harsh criticism for policies that allowed a 26-year-old child molester to get less than 6 months in a juvenile facility. He also secured a five- to seven-month sentence in "juvenile probation camp" for a wrong-way hit-and-run driver who mowed down a mom and her infant son on a Venice Beach side street.

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After Gascon took office in December 2020, he implemented a series of directives to unilaterally reform how cases are prosecuted. The measures included barring deputy district attorneys from prosecuting strikes and other sentencing enhancements.

"The district attorney overstates his authority," the Second Appellate District ruling reads. "He is an elected official who must comply with the law, not a sovereign with absolute, unreviewable discretion."

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon speaks at a press conference, December 8, 2021, in Los Angeles, California. 

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon speaks at a press conference, December 8, 2021, in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images)

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"George Gascon dictated a blanket policy on December 7, 2020, whereby strike priors for forbidden to be filed on any case," said Jon Hatami, a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County. "He has also ordered all prosecutors to remove strike priors on any existing cases. That meant child murderers, serial rapists, child molesters, sex traffickers, and police killers who were career criminals."

The edict blocked deputy DAs from using existing state law to fully prosecute repeat offenders, he said. They couldn't look at old evidence or even ask Gascon for exceptions.

"We had to remove any strike priors from existing cases and not allege them on new cases," Hatami said. "Two courts have said that order was illegal and unethical. George will now spend taxpayer money to fight those decisions to the California Supreme Court because of his political ideology and beliefs, instead of doing what's right, just and fair, which is following the law, the evidence and the facts."

READ THE SECOND APPELLATE COURT'S RULING:

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Gascon's attorney, Stephanie Yonekura, did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment.

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County, a group of assistant DAs in his office, sued him in December 2020, arguing that the policies violated their rights and state law.

"Mr. Gascon now claims last month's appellate ruling was ‘an unprecedented decision with untold consequences," said Eric George, the lawyer representing the LA ADDA in its lawsuit. "Compare that to his PR spin last month that the ruling somehow, and I quote, ’affirmed his ability to pursue his policy goals in the furtherance of justice."

 He added that "Gascon is as disingenuous as he is radical when it comes to sound law enforcement."

"Each of the four respected jurists who have considered the matter has validated our client's claims, and we are confident the California Supreme Court will take no action to interfere with the injunction against Mr. Gascon," he said.

The LA ADDA group has also overwhelmingly endorsed a recall effort seeking to oust Gascon from office over his controversial policies as the city sees a spike in violent crimes.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon addresses police accountability and the actions taken by his office to restore trust in the community during a press conference on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Los Angeles, CA. 

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon addresses police accountability and the actions taken by his office to restore trust in the community during a press conference on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Los Angeles, CA.  (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

California's Three Strikes Law was enacted in 1994 after voters approved Proposition 184 by an overwhelming majority. It required defendants convicted of a new felony to serve twice the normal prison term. If they were convicted of a felony after two or more strikes, the law mandated that they serve at least 25 years in prison to life. The law has since come under criticism from some who say it treats defendants too harshly and has led to high incarceration rates for minorities.

The appeal comes in the same week that Gascon announced he would be disbanding the unit in his office tasked with informing victims of serious crimes of parole hearings for the people who had harmed them.

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Gascon’s office told Fox News Wednesday that notifying the victims can be "triggering" to them, that the task consumes resources, and that it is the responsibility of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to reach out instead.

"When an elected DA refuses to follow the law, won't consider facts, evidence or circumstances of the case and is guided by politics over justice, you have George Gascon," Hatami said. "Someone who has accepted chaos and lawlessness over public safety.

Fox News’ Louis Casiano contributed to this report.