LANCASTER — The City Council approved a vote of no confidence in Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón on Tuesday night, following similar actions by the cities of Beverly Hills, Pico Rivera and Santa Clarita.
The City Council voted 4-0-1, with Councilman Darrell Dorris abstaining. The cities of La Mirada and Whittier also approved votes of no confidence in Gascón on Tuesday night.
A spokesperson for Gascón office did not immediately return a request for comment.
The Lancaster Council cast its vote after hearing arguments in favor and against the proposed resolution.
Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami, who worked in the Antelope Valley for more than 10 years, spoke in favor of the proposed resolution.
The resolution cited three policies Gascón implemented after he took office in December following his victory against incumbent Jackie Lacey in the Nov. 3 election. Those policies include the elimination of cash bail for any misdemeanor, and the elimination of sentence enhancements.
Hatami is a 15-year veteran prosecutor who prosecutes child abuse cases. He won a conviction in the torture and murder case of Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale by the eight-year-old boy’s mother and her boyfriend.
He spoke as the father of two young children, the husband of a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff and a child abuse prosecutor. He clarified that he does not represent the official position of his office.
“The policies and directives implemented by George Gascón adversely affect the public safety of Lancaster,” Hatami said. “They don’t help or support the residents of the Antelope Valley. Basically these policies provide comfort and support to criminals and wrongdoers.”
Hatami added the majority of his past cases, including the case of Gabriel Fernandez, would have ended differently had Gascón been in charge at the time.
“Justice would not have been served for many abused and murdered children under these current policies and directives,” Hatami said.
Under Gascón, Hatami said there is no punishment or deterrent from stopping a criminal from continuously re-offending. The misdemeanor directives also adversely affect the prosecution of sex trafficking cases.
Hatami also talked about Sgt. Steve Owen, who was killed execution style by a parolee outside a Lancaster apartment complex on Oct. 5, 2016. He met Owen in 2007.
“He really cared about the kids; he really cared about the children in Lancaster,” Hatami said.
The parolee pleaded guilty last week and is set to be sentenced May 17 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“If another deputy in Lancaster is killed, we will not seek a special circumstance under George Gascón policies, and that means that person could be paroled at some point,” Hatami said. “Going forward, George Gascón won’t seek life without the possibility of parole in any case, no matter what the circumstances.”
Gascón also removed a hardcore gang deputy district attorney from the Antelope Valley branch, Hatami said.
“What does that say for what George Gascón thinks about Lancaster, thinks about Palmdale?” he asked.
Several community members urged the City Council to vote against the proposed resolution.
“I believe that our DA was elected in a free and fair election, over two million voters did choose him to fight for racial injustice,” caller Christian Green said. “So as a professor that teaches African-American studies and intro to criminology, we have to think about what constitutes a criminal, who are labeled criminals.”
Caller Arthur Calloway met Gascón last year during a candidate forum and said the district attorney is doing everything he said he would.
Another caller who was formerly incarcerated now leads a nonprofit organization that helps people come out the system and be reinstated into society as taxpayers.
“A lot of these votes that you guys are trying to do, I look at as being negative because Gascón hasn’t had the chance to do his job,” the caller said.
Dorris asked if there was a middle ground, and questioned whether it was political.
“I have African-Americans on both sides of the fence right here, and mostly African-American mothers that have suffered from gang violence or violent deaths that are hearing now that sentences are drastically lower,” Dorris said. “They’re being overturned; they’re going back to court.”
Hatami agreed, and said most deputy district attorneys do too.
“I think we’re asking for a middle ground,” he said. “When you make blanket policies, there’s no middle ground.”
He added he supports reforms, but the reforms have to go according to the law and take into consideration victims, families and public safety.
Vice Mayor Marvin Crist said Sgt. Owen’s widow, Tania Owen, supported the resolution.
“We have to protect our police officers if they’re going to protect us,” Crist said. :So to me it’s not political; it’s not a Republican; it’s not racial. It is, ‘Let’s start protecting everybody, and part of that is you don’t get to execute our officers.’ ”
Mayor R. Rex Parris said the council’s job is to protect the well-being of the people who live and work in Lancaster. He motioned to vote no confidence in Gascón.
“That could change if he were to give us some indication that he cares at all about what we think and what we do and how to work with us,” Parris said.