On November 3rd, George Gascon was elected District Attorney for Los Angeles County. During the campaign leading up to the vote, Gascon stated one of his goals as District Attorney would be to "implement programs to end mass incarceration by working to end money bail”. That sounds very noble and all, but there’s only one problem: the District Attorney is not elected to make or change laws, but to prosecute those who violate them.
During the same November 3rd election, California voters overwhelmingly chose to shelve Prop. 25, which would have ended money bail in California. The vote to keep cash bail wasn’t even close, with nearly 2 million more choosing to retain the bail bonds system as it is. Yet neither that stinging rebuke to the no-bail movement, nor the fact that he is not empowered to make or change laws stopped Gascon from trying to undermine both California law and the will of the voters on his first day in office.
Despite former Governor Jerry Brown’s cynical, 11th hour attempt to shove SB10 down the throat of California voters, cash bail remains the law of the land in California. That law requires all bails in the state to be set by way of bail schedules. These bail schedules are created each year by Superior Court judges, not by the local District Attorney.
As such, when representatives of the District Attorney’s office come face to face with defendants making their first appearance before a judge, bail for most of those defendants will have already been set by way of the bail schedule. As much as Gascon might object to this practice, it is how things are done in California.
In a small percentage of cases, defendants will arrive before a judge, claim they are unable to afford the bail set by the schedule and ask for a reduction. This is where Gascon’s publicly stated desire to eliminate the cash bail bondsman rears its ugly head. Gascon has directed his deputies in such cases to say nothing. That is, regardless of the nature of the crime, Gascon has told his assistant DAs not to object to a lowering of bail. Many will argue this is a clear dereliction of duty as the DA is supposed to weigh the merits of each case individually, and that might mean objecting to a lowering of bail for some individuals.
Because Gascon understands that he is treading on thin legal and constitutional ice when it comes to his goal to "end money bail", he has been very careful in choosing to tell his assistants to keep their mouths closed when questions regarding bail arise. He understands that one of the responsibilities of the DA is to make bail recommendations. But he’s also banking that he can slip his ‘silence is golden’ policy through based on the fact that there is nothing in California law that says he, or his assistants, must make a recommendation, only that they are empowered to do so when it is in the public interest.
So read the flowery headline in the Los Angeles Times following Gascon’s first day on the job when he unveiled his policy aimed at undermining the will of voters who chose to retain the current bail bonding system. Considering that Gascon A) has no power to eliminate bail, B) that most defendants his office encounters will have had bail set before they enter the courtroom, and that C) the most he can do is stay silent in bail reduction cases, the Times headline amounted to little more than wishful thinking.
A more accurate headline would have been "George Gascon Turns a Deaf Ear to Victims" because that is exactly what his prosecutorial silence does. By implementing a blanket policy of refusing to object to a lowering of bail he is essentially saying that victims of crime don’t matter. Considering that it is his job to represent the interests of those victims, he is in essence refusing to do the job he was elected to do.
No-bail zealots like George Gascon like to think of themselves as ‘progressive’. But what is progressive about ignoring the will of the voters in a democratic society? What is progressive about refusing to do the job you lobbied for and were elected to do? What is progressive about ignoring the fact that you are a public servant sworn to uphold the office you have the privilege of occupying? And what is progressive about ignoring the rights of victims? The answer is simple: nothing.
The lesson for voters in Jefferson County, Arapahoe County, Denver County and elsewhere is clear: be very careful about who you elect to the position of District Attorney. The anti-bail cabal has been active in Colorado for several years now, attempting by hook or by crook to eliminate bail and institute the type of “catch and release” policies that have turned the streets of states like New Jersey into open air jails.
Several Trojan horse anti-bail “activists”, frustrated with the fact that Colorado voters are in no hurry to eliminate cash bail, are now occupying several of the state’s 22 District Attorney Offices and have declared their intention to engage in Gascon-like stunts in an effort to put as many accused criminals as possible back on the street. They must not be allowed to succeed.