Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón faced tough questioning during a district attorney debate over his policies on gang-related crime enhancements, including from a mother whose child was killed by a gang member.
When Gascón took over as district attorney, he barred prosecutors from pursuing enhanced punishments for gang members, according to Fox 11. Several of the deputy district attorneys who are running against him said at the debate on Thursday in Beverly Hills that they disagreed with this policy.
Emma Rivas, whose son was murdered in 2016, confronted Gascón about the impact his policies had on the killer’s sentence.
“My child was killed by a gang member, and you have more sympathy for that gang member who killed my child in front of my home. Can you explain to me, because I have been looking for you for four years,” she said.
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Gascón responded, “I am broken-hearted for your loss.”
The district attorney then defended his stance on criminal justice reform, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We as a country have been doing the same thing for generations.”
The debate moderator asked the candidates on stage to raise their hands if they supported gang enhancements, and everyone but Gascón raised their hand.
Candidate John McKinney called on Gascón to clarify his statement, “When you say the definition of insanity is repeating something that didn’t work, what are you referring to?”
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Another challenger, Jonathan Hatami, blasted Gascón’s policy. “When George Gascón took office, he ordered all of us to remove allegations and enhancements on every single case,” Hatami said.
During the heated back-and-forth and reactions from the audience, an activist accused Hatami of racism, an allegation he rejected.
“Emma is a person of color; her son was a person of color, and he was murdered. It’s not racist when you are fighting for justice,” Hatami said.
Hatami proceeded to cite several more examples of victims whose killers did not receive enhancements at the direction of Gascón.
Gascón has served as Los Angeles County district attorney since December 2020.