Republican members of Congress are lambasting Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon after the prosecutor rolled out a "diversion" program that could allow 17-year-olds who rob someone at knifepoint or commit sex crimes to skirt criminal charges.
Gascon initially announced his Restorative Enhanced Diversion for Youth (REDY) program in November, but an internal memo to his prosecutors last week, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, provides more insight into which criminals under age 18 would be eligible.
Minors accused of burglary, vehicle theft, assaults or robberies, arson or sexual battery can be selected for the program – as long as they are not suspected of committing the offense using a firearm and no one was seriously injured. Juveniles accused of murder or rape cannot be recommended for the program, but even Deputy Dist. Atty. Jonathan Hatami has taken issue with Gascon's language, as it doesn’t specify that minors accused of committing crimes while wielding a knife or blunt instrument would be ineligible.
"I'd like for him to step down. He's not going to change his ways if he's truly interested in public safety," Rep. Mike Garcia, a Republican serving California's 25th Congressional District, told Fox News Digital. "We'll find someone who's on the side of the victim, rather than the criminal."
The latest program is "a continuation of really this theme that he's got of trying to take care of the criminals before he's trying to protect the law-abiding citizens," Garcia said Wednesday. "It really subverts the Constitution in regard to due process. This effectively takes minors who have committed very serious felonies out of the court system before they're even charged and gives them an opportunity to go into this restorative rehabilitation program."
According to Gascon's office, eligible minors will avoid criminal charges "by agreeing to participate in an individually tailored program designed to address the underlying issues that contribute to criminal behavior, such as mental health needs or substance use."
But the congressman took issue with the lack of court oversight – no corrections or parole officers – to monitor juvenile offenders’ behavior during the program and after their release. Garcia said minors will be "recycled through the system again and ultimately put back on the streets with no accountability."
"The whole point of law and order and the whole point of the criminal justice system and having punishments is to deter people from committing crimes," Garcia said.
The program, he argued, will only worsen the mass retail theft and smash-and-grab robberies plaguing retail stores in Los Angeles, as teenagers know that instead of already banking on being released with no bail, there’s now a chance they won’t even be charged.
Gascon is "behaving like the penguin from Gotham City, who's enabling the criminals. He's giving them the incentive, and then he's not holding them accountable," Garcia said. "It's a perfect storm on the heels of BLM and the defund police movement and the riots that we saw even in L.A. County last year. Zero bail policies being initiated and now Gascon. You know what we've created as a perfect environment for crime."
Part of the youth program has "community-based service providers" assess participants to connect them to immediate services and "prepare them for restorative justice conferences with crime victims" – something Garcia said flies in the face of victims’ rights.
"A young girl, age 15, who is sexually assaulted now has to go face this 17-year-old guy who may have had problems in the past and most certainly will have problems in the future," Garcia said, posing a hypothetical scenario. "And it's in an effort to help him instead of helping her, and there's no thought being put into the victim's rights."
Los Angeles isn’t the only city floating progressive programs for juvenile offenders. Chicago, for example, to address rampant carjacking, uses "Criminal Trespass to Vehicle Workshops" which involves showing teens video series of crime victim interviews.
In first announcing the program in November, Gascon said "it will help repair the immense harm that criminal behavior inflicts on our community by giving crime victims the opportunity to actively participate in the restorative justice process." Fox News Digital reached out to the district attorney's office Thursday but did not immediately receive a response.
Garcia was not alone in his criticism of Gascon’s progressive initiatives.
Gascon’s "policies are letting people to get away with breaking the law and putting everyday citizens at risk," Rep. Young Kim, a Republican representing California’s 39th District, said in a statement to Fox News Digital. "They continue to embolden criminals, undermine victims, hurt our communities. His policies along with zero-bail policies in California like Proposition 47 are endangering workers, families and businesses."
Gascon took office on Dec. 7, 2020 – on the heels of the defund police movement and massive demonstrations and rioting that hit Los Angeles and other U.S. cities after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Garcia, whose district includes many retired law enforcement, said his opponent in 2022, Christy Smith, a Democrat, like other politicians, supported defunding police. But now she’s backtracking.
"I think a lot of these politicians frankly don't have to be very far left to make that mistake," Garcia said. "These politicians, including my political opponents, who I'm running against marched in these defund the police movement, and they need to be held accountable. I guess it's no coincidence that now they're all trying to do a 180 on this issue because it's election season, and they know the average voter really doesn't like this idea."
"The average American doesn't necessarily care about the Republican Party or the Democrat Party. They care about their own security," Garcia said. "They want to know that when they dial 9-1-1, the cops are going to show up and help them. When these progressive, woke politicians start bending the knee to organizations that are fighting for the rights of criminals, that's when we get into this trouble."