By John McKinney
Brother John Crowe has been the leader of Rancho San Antonio for over 60 years. Rancho San Antonio is a youth rehabilitative facility that has the capacity to care for over 100 young men on its 19-acre campus. The facility provides substance abuse counseling, mental health treatment, and educational and skills development programs. The facility currently has a 70% vacancy rate due to criminal justice "reforms" that favor leaving delinquent youth on the streets as opposed to court-ordered treatment. Learn more about Rancho San Antonio by watching the video below.
When George Gascon took over as the District Attorney of Los Angeles County in December 2020, he announced sweeping changes to how juvenile cases would be handled. He began by nullifying the process by which older juveniles who commit serious and violent offenses could be transferred from “Juvenile Court into a Criminal Court.”
The law leaves the critical decision of where a juvenile should be prosecuted up to a juvenile court judge, but Gascon usurped the court’s role by refusing to put appropriate cases in front of judges for their consideration. Gascon took the extreme position that regardless of the gravity of the crimes, no one under 18 should ever be prosecuted in a criminal court. Without a transfer motion filed by the District Attorney, judges are powerless to transfer juveniles to a criminal court, even in cases where they have previously demonstrated an inability to rehabilitate within the juvenile system's limited jurisdiction. z
In 2021, Hannah Tubbs (formerly James Tubbs) was taken into custody for the 2014 forcible molestation of a 10-year-old girl in a Denny’s restaurant bathroom. After committing the crime, Tubbs was a fugitive for seven years and racked up convictions in three other states before being brought to justice. In keeping with his absurd “blanket juvenile policy,” Gascon refused to file a motion to transfer the then 26-year-old Tubbs to a criminal court. As a result of Gascon’s decision, Tubbs was sentenced to serve only two years in a juvenile facility with other minors.
Again, in 2021, Gascon refused to file a transfer motion in the case of a then 29-year-old man who had been convicted for a double murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for crimes he committed at age 17. The post hoc transfer motion was mandated after the passage of Proposition 57, which retroactively changed the standards for prosecuting juveniles as adults. While stubbornly holding fast to his blanket policy and philosophy that no matter the crime, no one under 18 should be prosecuted in a criminal court, Gascon allowed Victor Bibiano to be released after serving just eight years of his sentence. Less than a year after his release, Bibiano was arrested again, this time for the murder of 42-year-old Mario Rodriguez.
In another such case, Andres “Andrew” Cachu was sent back to juvenile court for a transfer hearing after he was convicted and sentenced to 50 years to life in a criminal court for the shooting death of Louis Amela. Cachu was only six years into his sentence when Gascon allowed him to walk free. Less than a year after his release, Cachu was arrested again, this time for fleeing from police while possessing a firearm and other charges.
In addition to his policy against transferring juveniles, to which he has recently made a few exceptions in response to public outcries, Gascon introduced a “lightest touch” philosophy for all juvenile offenders. Gascon’s policy includes never prosecuting juveniles for misdemeanor offenses and down-charging violent felonies to lesser crimes with lesser consequences. For example, juveniles who steal less than $950 worth of merchandise are not prosecuted. Juveniles who commit robberies or burglaries are routinely charged with low-level theft offenses. Furthermore, Gascon only allows juveniles to be charged with one crime even when the juvenile being charged has committed multiple violations.
Although “lightest touch” generally restricts charging juveniles with special allegations for using weapons or causing injuries during a crime, limited “unwritten” exceptions are made to these policies for high-profile cases, but only to avert negative and politically damaging publicity similar to what Gascon suffered in the Tubb’s case.
In addition to the dissemblance between charges and conduct, in most cases, prosecutors are also restricted from asking that juveniles be detained in custody. This policy has resulted in a flood of newly released juveniles being arrested and charged with new, serious and violent offenses while out of custody on pending violations of law. Gascon has put his personal political agenda ahead of what is in the best interest of minors and public safety.
Young prosecutors, and many of their immediate supervisors, fear that if they violate Gascon’s political agenda, they face career-damaging retaliation. In his first month as District Attorney, Gascon spitefully transferred a veteran prosecutor with over 30 years of experience for refusing to dismiss a case against a man charged with attempting to derail a train. In that case, Gascon’s vengefulness cost taxpayers $800,000 in a legal settlement. Currently, Gascon is facing eight lawsuits, but many more are likely to be filed due to his latest retaliatory transfers.
Gascon’s youth offender policy has been an epic failure for our communities, parents, and children. The facts say it all. In Los Angeles County, serious and violent juvenile case filings have risen nearly 300% between the first and second year of Gascon’s tenure.
In hundreds of cases, juveniles referred to diversion programs instead of prosecution are not only not receiving those rehabilitation services, but the District Attorney’s Office cannot even track the progress of the minors referred to treatment. Parents are calling the District Attorney’s Office to report that they have not been contacted by programs their children were ordered to attend.
Our local news broadcasts are filled with stories about young people involved in “Smash and Grab Thefts,” home invasions, burglaries, and murder. Under District Attorney Gascon, expect it to only get worse!