Two days ago, I published a post about the killing of two El Monte police officers, citing a tweet from Bill Melugin alleging that the killer of those officers might be buried with all expenses paid by the District Attorney’s office. I also embedded tweets from Melugin alleging that the killer was free due to Gascón’s policies, which mandated a probationary sentence for a felon with a firearm charge, despite the killer having a strike on his record. I noted that the L.A. Times had not said a word about either matter.
There are updates to this story that merit a new post. First, Gascón has denied that his office will pay for the cop killer’s funeral:
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón on Thursday denied reports that his office will pay the funeral costs for the suspect in the El Monte police shooting under a policy he introduced.
“Those rumors are unfounded and incredibly disrespectful to the families and colleagues of the two fallen officers,” Gascón said in a statement. “We also hope people will stop playing politics with trauma and that we can all get serious about how we prevent serious violence before it begins.
To be clear, in the tweet I embedded in my post, Melugin was not passing along a “rumor” but merely observing that the written policy itself suggests that the D.A. would pay for the funeral:
Gascon’s policies also suggest his office may pay for the funeral of the cop killer. When he took office, he issued a policy stating his office would pay the funeral expenses of people killed by police, “regardless of the state of the investigation or charging decision.” @FoxNews pic.twitter.com/ZLcXpI4ivX
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) June 16, 2022
As you can see (if you click on the tweet and read page two of the policy, which does not appear in this embed), the policy states that the D.A.’s Bureau of Victim Services “will also contact the families of individuals killed by police and provide support services including funeral, burial and mental health services immediately following the death regardless of the state of the investigation or charging decision.” (My bold emphasis.) Gascón’s denial does not explain how he reconciles this policy, which appears to be mandatory and does not appear to set forth any exceptions, with his action in refusing to pay for the cop killer’s funeral.
Meanwhile, the Times has now published an article titled Top stories L.A. Dist. Atty. Gascón’s policy may have led to reduced prison time for man who killed El Monte officers:
Justin Flores, 35, who also died in Tuesday’s confrontation, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and methamphetamine when he was arrested by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies in 2020.
Flores had been convicted of burglary in 2011. Burglaries are strike offenses, which make suspects charged with later crimes eligible for harsher sentences. Flores’ earlier conviction means he had one strike against him when he was charged in 2020.
But the prosecutor assigned to the case, Deputy Dist. Atty. Larry Holcomb, said he had to revoke the strike allegation after Gascón took office, according to a disposition report reviewed by The Times. That’s because the new D.A. had issued a “special directive” that barred prosecutors from filing strike allegations on his first day in office.
Gascón’s policy regarding strikes was later deemed illegal by a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge, after the union representing rank-and-file prosecutors sued, seeking an injunction. In February 2021, Judge James Chalfant ruled Gascón’s policy violated California’s “three strikes” law, which requires prosecutors to file strike allegations whenever a defendant has a previous serious or violent felony conviction.
Gascón’s spokesman tried to put the blame on the line deputy and his supervisor for not seeking an exception. The supervisor is having none of it:
“The sentencing directive is presumptive. We empower DDAs to rebut that presumption if they believe extraordinary circumstances exist,” Santiago wrote. “Special Directive 20-08 states that ‘if the charged offense is probation eligible, probation shall be the presumptive offer absent extraordinary circumstances warranting a prison commitment.’ No such request was made in this case.”
But Deputy Dist. Atty. Martin Bean, who supervised the case and signed off in [sic] a disposition, said in an email to The Times that “Special Directive 20-08, which was issued at the moment the District Attorney was sworn in, required all strike priors to be dismissed. No exceptions were permitted by the directive.”
I thought these developments were significant enough to merit a new post.
As always, I make these statements based on publicly available news reports, as part of my First Amendment right to comment on matters of public interest. I do not speak for my office on this blog.