Los Angeles County DA George Gascon has reportedly decided to disband a group of victim advocates and prosecutors in the DA’s office who notify crime victims or next of kin about upcoming parole hearings of their assailants.
Gascon said in a statement to Fox News Tuesday that the “Lifer Unit” will be disbanded by the end of the year because notifying the victims can be “triggering” to them, and that it bogs down resources. According to the liberal DA, notifying the victims is ultimately the responsibility of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“While a victim has a right to be notified, they also have a right NOT to be contacted,” Gascon’s office said in a statement. “Lawyers in the parole unit have been using Victim Service Representatives, paralegals, and Bureau of Investigation resources to contact victims and their next of kin who have not requested to be notified of parole hearings.”
The liberal DA banned prosecutors from attending those parole hearings as soon as he entered office.
His office told Fox News its attorneys are “needed in line operations to prosecute cases as we are greatly understaffed.”
Gascon’s office said the Lifer Unit was already downsized under the administration of Los Angeles County’s previous District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, adding that victims still have access to the supportive services of its Victim Service Representatives.
“Rather than having Deputy DAs attend parole hearings, the DA has mandated that Victim Service Representatives (VCRs) make themselves available to support victims,” the statement said.
Gascon’s office added that after consulting with “victim experts,” they believed that they were using a “trauma-informed approach.”
In a statement to me, DA @GeorgeGascon office says contacting victims & next of kin “can be very triggering”, the work is time consuming and “unnecessary”, and that the responsibility ultimately falls to the state.
Gascon already banned prosecutors from attending parole hearings pic.twitter.com/6fvap1qoCM
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) July 14, 2022
Deputy District Attorney (DDA) Julianne Walker sent Fox News reporter Bill Melugin a blistering statement accusing Gascon of not being truthful about his reasons for the move.
Walker also blasted Gascon for using the term “triggering,” which she said is “hurtful and offensive” to victims and families—the vast majority of whom are victims of gun crimes.
Walker said that while the unit was understaffed under the previous DA, DDAs were able to attend every parole hearing on a volunteer basis. She said that after Gascon was inaugurated, they had “the rug pulled out from under them,” and were barred from attending parole hearings the very next day.
“It was horrible to tell these families the news. Heartbreaking,” she wrote.
Walker went on to explain that CDCR victim request forms are supposed to be handed out to every victim of crime, family member of a victim, or a witness who testified against an offender, so they can request to be notified of a change to the custody status of the offender, but this did not “routinely occur.” And even if the forms were submitted, after ten or twenty years, they were often out of date, and no effort was made to locate the victims. Additionally, she noted, many victims “rightfully” believed that when the offender was sentenced to life imprisonment, he would die in prison, but changes in the law have allowed many of them to be paroled.
She also told Melugin that the Victim Service Representatives “are not lawyers and do not understand the legalities of the parole hearing.”
“Their skills are providing emotional support and services,” Walker told Fox News. “Gascon continually puts forth ‘services’ as if he is protecting their ‘rights.’ He is not. He is abandoning their constitutional rights and thinks a band-aid of some type of service like counseling will make up for his refusal to protect their rights.”
I received a lengthy message from Julianne Walker, a victim advocate in the “lifer” unit being disbanded. She says the Gascon admin statement isn’t truthful for a number of reasons, which she lists below. She has given me permission to publish her statement on the record @FoxNews pic.twitter.com/IwxbItKmmk
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) July 14, 2022
“What Gascon wants to do is he wants to make it so that not only the next of kin are unaware of these parole hearings, but he wants to make sure that prosecutors and district attorney’s offices don’t hear about them either,” Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney John Lewin told Fox News. “When that happens, that means that (Gascon) and his public defender cronies can, in essence, do what they’re doing in the dark, and no one will ever know.”
Gascon’s many critics say his policies have made the streets of Los Angeles more dangerous.
He is just one of several far-left extremist DAs whose campaigns were funded by left-wing billionaire George Soros, including Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Kim Foxx in Chicago, Alvin Bragg in Manhattan, Chesa Boudin in San Francisco. San Francisco voters recalled Boudin by a 60-40 percent margin, last month.
Gascon now faces a recall vote after a group turned in thousands more signatures than the law required.