Woke LA DA George Gascón has 10,000-case backlog, ‘toxic’ attitude driving staff away:
Posted For: Willie Wonka, HMFWIC
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is an “authoritarian” and “toxic” manager whose ultra-woke approach has led scores of prosecutors to quit and 10,000 cases to pile up, sources tell The Post.
Justice is not being served in the most populous county in the nation because Gascón has driven talent away, demoted top lawyers and fights anyone who doesn’t share his views, according to multiple sources who have worked for him.
One former LA prosecutor said Gascón’s policies have eroded trust with the public the office serves, through generous plea deals allowing criminals to get out of jail or prison without serving hard time or declining to prosecute crimes at all.
“In my career as a prosecutor, I’ve never had victims’ families actually hate us until I came into this office,” a former deputy DA told The Post.
“We are hated by all the victims because of lack of prosecution and low sentences because of his policies.
Gascón is so focused on justice for black and brown defendants, but the victims and their families are also black and brown. Where is the justice for them? We are making them victims of the criminal justice system yet again.”
Cuba-born Gascón, 69, assumed office in Los Angeles in 2020 after eight years serving as the DA of San Francisco. He has been divisive from the start and has survived two attempts to recall him from the position.
“The reputation of the office has been destroyed and people know he’s hostile to his employees,” said Eric Siddall, vice president of the LA County Association of Deputy District Attorneys.
“He has an authoritarian management style, and engages in retaliatory acts against employees who don’t share his ideology.”
Sources claimed the District Attorney’s Office has over 200 open positions, which has contributed to the huge backlog in cases, which sources say is up to 10,000 which have yet to be filed.
“There are many reasons why a case is not filed immediately,” DA officials told The Post. “A delay in filing a case doesn’t preclude the prosecutor from filing later.”
The DA’s Office also disputed the hiring figure, claiming they only have a total of 139 positions available and blaming “retirement and a previous hiring freeze,” but would not comment on the number of cases piled up.
“Some prosecutors have left for other jurisdictions. We have also hired prosecutors from other jurisdictions,” DA Office officials told The Post.
Former Los Angeles County DA Steve Cooley, who ran the office from 2000 to 2012, told The Post that recruitment was never previously an issue, but the office has recently started to “hemorrhage” talent.
“In my lifetime, that has never occurred before. There are usually 10 to 15 times more applicants than any one open position,” Cooley said.
“I’m stunned from the historical sense, but knowing what a toxic manager and boss George Gascón is, I’m not surprised because some of the people he’s brought in are just odious people. Who would want to come and work here under such conditions?”
Gascón has previoulsy defended his policy decisions, saying a “tough-on-crime approach failed” and that he was “trying to dramatically change a system that has served no one, not the victims of crime, not those who are accused and not the public.”
Those still serving the DA feel underappreciated as they struggle under the weight of their caseload.
“You have mid-career-level prosecutors doing the heavy lifting and are tired of being treated like s–t,” said one prosecutor on the condition that they remain anonymous.
“The problem is, people started leaving because they became so fed up with his policies, so those of us who stayed are carrying two or three times the caseload.”
Around 20 cases have been filed by high-ranking members of the DA’s Office who claim they were removed from their posts because they criticized Gascón’s policies.
One of those was a retaliation suit filed by Shawn Randolph, former head of the juvenile division, who pushed back on a decree from Gascón banning prosecutors from trying under-18s as adults.
Randolph was transferred to the parole division, which her attorney said was a “dead-end career move,” and a jury agreed, awarding her a $1.5 million verdict last month, according to the Los Angeles Times,
One of the office’s star prosecutors, John McKinney, was preparing to try the murder of Briana Kupfer, the UCLA graduate student who was stabbed 26 times and died in January 2021, when he was reassigned from the elite Major Crimes Unit to supervise misdemeanor cases out of East Los Angeles.
McKinney — who handled the high-profile murder case of rapper Nipsey Hussle — told The Post the move was in retaliation for speaking out against Gascón’s policies.
“I’m not doing any trials and I’m supervising two lawyers. That’s how small the office is,” McKinney said. “And because there are only two lawyers, anytime they go to trial, I basically become that first-year misdemeanor DA in court. So I’m in court on average, three days a week, and I go back and do what I used to do 25 years ago instead of trying complicated murder trials.”
While frustrated, McKinney sees it as an opportunity to mentor the younger attorneys he is supervising. He said his small unit is also outnumbered two to six because there are more public defenders and defense attorneys than prosecutors handling cases.
“The popular perception — and this could be true in other places around the country — is that it’s the public defense bar that’s suffering from understaffing and underfunding,” he said. “The reality in Los Angeles, however, it’s the prosecution that’s suffering, and clearly it has gotten worse since Gascón has taken office. Morale is very, very low right now at the DA’s Office.”
McKinney — who has started a campaign to run for DA himself in 2024 — added that some in the office were disappointed after the second attempt to recall Gascón failed in August 2022. Los Angeles County election officials said the campaign didn’t collect enough valid signatures and disqualified 30% of the ballots submitted.
“Grateful to move forward from this attempted political power grab — rest assured LA County, the work hasn’t stopped,” Gascón tweeted on Aug. 15.
Others joining the race to replace Gascón when his term ends in 2024 include Deputy DA Jonathan Hatami, former US Assistant Attorney General Nathan Hochma and Head Deputy District Attorney Maria Ramirez.