A veteran prosecutor is suing Los Angeles County, alleging she has been denied important positions in retaliation for complaining about directives set forth after the November election of District Attorney George Gascón.
Deputy District Attorney Shawn Randolph‘s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, filed Tuesday, seeks unspecified damages. A representative for the District Attorney’s Office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
At the time of Gascón’s election, Randolph was the head prosecutor in charge of the District Attorney’s Office’s Juvenile Division, in which she supervised about 50 lawyers and 50 civilian workers, the suit states. On Feb. 1, she was transferred the parole division, a “dead-end position for a head deputy,” the suit states. Randolph was denied transfers to head the District Attorney’s branch offices in Torrance and Long Beach Superior Courts even though she was the most qualified applicant for each position, the suit states.
After Gascón was sworn into office Dec. 7, he released numerous directives, including a policy that, among other things, mandated that Randolph use alternative theories of prosecution that minimized a juvenile’s criminal conduct, no matter how violent the offenses, the suit states.
“In essence, plaintiff was directed not to file strike offenses against juveniles and this directive creates a false and misleading description to the court of the crimes that were actually committed,” the suit states.
If a 16- or 17-year-old juvenile robbed a victim by putting a gun to the victim’s head, Randolph could not prosecute the juvenile for robbery because that is a strike offense, the suit states. Randolph was directed to instead file against the juvenile for a lesser crime such as assault by using force that is likely to cause great bodily injury, according to the suit. The ability of a prosecutor to file a strike offense such as robbery has a deterrent effect because if the juvenile commits another serious or violent felony as an adult, his or her sentence can be doubled, the suit states.
“Gascón’s policy effectively required prosecutors to unlawfully hide the truth from the courts by mischaracterizing many violent offenses,” the suit states.
The directive also mandated that Randolph could not file any enhancements for egregious violent conduct, according to the suit. Randolph repeatedly disclosed to her superiors that juvenile petitions made under Gascón’s policy were not truthful and that filing such petitions before a court violates the ethical and statutory duties of a prosecutor, the suit states.
Randolph additionally complained that under Gascón’s directive, violent juvenile murderers could not be tried as adults and that Gascón violated the law by refusing to permit the victims’ family any input into the decision not to try them as adults, the suit states. In one case, a 17-year-old boy allegedly killed his 16-year-old girlfriend and her sister, then set their apartment on fire attempting to cover up the crimes, the suit states. Under Gascón’s directive, the juvenile could not be tried as an adult and would be released from custody when he turns 25 years old, according to the suit.
“Gascón’s directive deprived the victims’ grieving family from any input or comments concerning the murderer’s release from custody at age 25,” the suit states.
Although Gascón later met with the family of the slain girls, the session was “an empty gesture” because Gascón had said he would not reverse the directive,” the suit states.
In February, Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami, a 15-year veteran of the district attorney’s office, filed a legal claim against Gascon, Los Angeles County and Max Szabo, Gascon’s spokesman, for defamation, libel, racial discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The claim alleges Gascon said on a podcast before the election, “Some people will be unhappy and, like, either become internal terrorists or they’ll leave. And I know certainly how to deal with both.”
Hatami, of Middle East descent, says calling him a terrorist is racist and discriminatory.