Two Los Angeles County prosecutors sue George Gascon over demotions after opposing reforms, lawsuit says

The top prosecutor faces opposition on multiple fronts over policies that have angered elected officials, law enforcement and some of his own deputy district attorneys.

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Two veteran Los Angeles County prosecutors are suing their boss, claiming they were demoted by District Attorney George Gascon because of their opposition to his reform directives that have spurred a second recall attempt and backlash from elected officials and law enforcement. 

Maria Ramirez and Victor Rodriguez were both senior prosecutors and bureau directors who supervised hundreds of employees before being demoted in retaliation for their concerns about the way crimes were being prosecuted, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.  

They are seeking unspecified damages. Gascon's office declined to comment on the lawsuit to Fox News, citing pending litigation. 

"Both plaintiffs were directors of bureaus and were removed from their positions in retaliation for disclosing violations of law and/or refusing to violate law concerning unlawful practices and policies of ... George Gascón and/or other high officials in the Gascon administration," the suit states.

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Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon speaks at a press conference, December 8, 2021, in Los Angeles, California. Two veteran prosecutors are suing him over demotions they allege were in retaliation over their opposition to his reform policies.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon speaks at a press conference, December 8, 2021, in Los Angeles, California. Two veteran prosecutors are suing him over demotions they allege were in retaliation over their opposition to his reform policies. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

Both have over 30 years of service with the district attorney's office and aspired to be assistant district attorneys, the lawsuit said. The DA's office has six bureau directors who each report to an assistant district attorney and manage all services provided by the office in various geographic regions of Los Angeles County.  

They provide support and supervision to head deputies, assistant head deputies, deputies in charge, special assistants and management secretaries, according to the suit. 

Gascon took office in December 2020 and implemented a series of reforms that have come under fire. The directives include not trying juveniles as adults, not seeking the death penalty or sentencing enhancements, among other measures. Gascon recently walked back his juvenile policy after controversy over a convicted sex offender who gloated about her light sentence on a jailhouse phone call. 

One of his earlier directives "abolished the ability of prosecutors to file certain crimes against juveniles, if the crime also qualified as a strike," the lawsuit said. It prevented prosecutors from prosecuting juvenile suspects of more than one crime even if they committed multiple crimes against multiple victims in one incident, according to court documents. 

For instance, if a defendant robbed three people at gunpoint, prosecutors were prohibited from filing three robbery charges, the lawsuit said. They were allegedly forced to randomly select one victim and charge one crime pertaining to that victim. 

"Plaintiff Ramirez disclosed to District Attorney George Gascon and his immediate staff that his Youth Justice Directive was unlawful because it violated California’s Marsy’s law, and would cause untruthful charging practices by line prosecutors, violating their ethical obligations when following the directives," the lawsuit states. 

Ramirez told Gascon and others in his administration about an "unethical and unlawful disposition of a case through a backroom deal that shortened the life sentence of a murderer" to seven years in prison. 

She was demoted Sept. 7, 2021, because of the "disclosures and refusals to violate the law," the lawsuit said. 

Rodriguez met with Gascon on March 3, 2021, to discuss the possible prosecution of police officers involved in an officer-involved shooting that killed two people. Also at the meeting was a first-year law student, who said she was "ready to convict the officers" after a presentation that showed "no inconsistencies in the statements by the officers and witnesses claiming that the suspect reached for a gun," the lawsuit states. 

"Plaintiff Rodriguez was appalled by the discussion that was taking place since there was insufficient evidence that the officers had committed a crime," the lawsuit said. "Plaintiff Rodriguez was not against a further investigation of the facts to see if a filing was necessary, but under the facts as presented, he told the group that there was not probable cause for a filing because there were no specific facts to support the charge."

After the meeting, Gascon allegedly complained to the DA office's then-chief of staff that management "followed the law too much."

The suit said the remark was a "fitting comment by a District Attorney who has never practiced law, and an explanation as to why Plaintiff Rodriguez and others were demoted."

In June 2021, Rodriguez defended a subordinate who filed a statement in opposition of the re-sentencing of a violent inmate in opposition to Gascon's blanket policy that prosecutors not provide the court with negative information in re-sentencing hearings, according to the suit. 

After refusing to punish the subordinate, Rodriguez was demoted on the same day as Ramirez and transferred to the DA's office in Alhambra, nine miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The subordinate was demoted to a filing deputy, the suit said. 

The lawsuit comes as Gascon faces backlash, including his own prosecutors, from his policies on multiple fronts after just over a year in office. In February, the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the professional association for prosecutors in Los Angeles County, said nearly 98% of its members voted to support a second recall attempt to oust Gascon. 

In addition, multiple cities in Los Angeles County have approved no-confidence votes against him. 

Recall George Gascon sign/ George Gascon

Recall George Gascon sign/ George Gascon (Getty Images)

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"George Gascón’s retaliation against two long-standing and highly respected prosecutors for questioning the legality of Gascón’s directives, and how those directives put the safety of Los Angeles residents at risk, shows Gascón’s lack of leadership," Eric Siddall, vice president of the LAADDA, said in a statement. "A true leader listens to the experts and works with them. Gascón’s smallness is a problem for the people of Los Angeles County."