LA County Sheriff Wants to Send Personnel to Parole Hearings in Absence of Prosecutors

Sheriff Alex Villanueva wrote a letter to District Attorney George Gascon, who puts a halt to LA County prosecutors opposing parole for inmates, sentenced to life, and have already served the given mandatory minimum period of incarceration.

Villanueva questioned in that letter when a prisoner is scheduled for a parole hearing, and that he “cannot understand why your office is barring prosecutors from attending parole hearings.”

District Attorney George Gascon who took the office on 7th December, has been barred the prosecutors from attending parole hearings for inmates sentenced to life. While Sheriff Villanueva vowed that representatives from his department would appear for the victims’ families to give them “a voice.”

NBC News reported, a county prosecutor joined victims’ family members whenever the notorious killer Charles Manson or one of his convicted followers would come up for parole to argue against the release at a state prison over the last 40 years. Earlier this month, Kay Martley was stunned to learn she would be making the case on behalf of her murdered relative alone, when joined a California Board of Parole Hearings video conference to attend parole for convicted Manson “family” killer Bruce Davis.

The Sheriff wrote, “The purpose of this correspondence is to notify you if prosecutors will no longer be allowed to attend parole hearings, the LASD will attend parole hearings in the absence of your prosecutors,” and “At the request of family members, the LASD will do everything possible to give victims a voice at the table to address their concerns.” Sheriff Villanueva also confirmed that his department will continue to “write letters in opposition” as well as virtually or in-person to attend parole hearing whatever appropriate.

A special adviser to Gascon, Mr. Alex Bastian, wrote in a statement in response to the letter, “When heart-wrenching crimes occur, victims and their families are changed forever. That is why District Attorney Gascon has directed our office’s victim advocates, who are trained to provide trauma-informed care, to support victims during parole hearings”.

He also added, “They are available to attend any hearing where victims want them present,” and “Sheriff’s deputies, like prosecutors, do not have all the pertinent facts and evaluations at their disposal. The parole board does — and its sole purpose is to objectively determine whether someone is suitable for release.”

Gascon issued a directive on so-called “lifer parole hearings” on the same day that indicated that the office’s “default policy is that we will not attend parole hearings and will support in writing the grant of parole for a person who has already served their mandatory minimum period of incarceration, defined as their MEPD (Minimum Eligible Parole Date), YEPD (Youth Parole Eligible Date) or EPD (Elderly Parole Date).”

Also, it was mentioned in the directive “if the CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) has determined in their Comprehensive Risk Assessment that a person represents a `high’ risk for recidivism, the DDA (deputy district attorney) may, in their letter, take a neutral position on the grant of parole.”

According to the directive, the office will continue to “meet its obligation to notify and advise victims under California law and is committed to a process of healing and restorative justice for all victims” and that “currently, sentences are being served that are much longer than the already lengthy mandatory minimum sentences imposed.”