D.A. removes prosecutors, outraging parents of murdered boys - Gascon Must Go
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D.A. removes prosecutors, outraging parents of murdered boys

George Gascon’s recent removal of the prosecutors in the Rebecca Grossman case illustrates how unqualified he is to lead the country’s largest local prosecuting agency.

The Los Angeles criminal justice community was stunned this week to learn that Gascon had removed the prosecutors who won murder convictions against Grossman, citing a conflict of interest created by criminal charges being filed against his No. 3 in command.

This fiasco would never have happened if Gascon had promoted qualified leaders to help him run the office, instead of these three:

Diana Teran – Gascon hired her from the Public Defender’s Office and quickly promoted her up the chain of command to his No. 3 in charge, even though he knew she was under criminal investigation by the AG. She was promoted over dozens, if not hundreds, of more qualified prosecutors. Last month, AG Rob Bonta announced he had charged Teran with 11 felonies committed while on duty at the DA’s Office.

Joseph Iniguez – Gascon promoted the inexperienced and unqualified Iniguez to his No. 2 in charge based on what insiders say was his unwavering loyalty to Gascon’s soft-on-crime mission. At the time, I am told, Iniguez had prosecuted four felony trials, losing two of them. In 2020, Iniguez was briefly a candidate for D.A., only to withdraw and support Gascon, earning his unwavering support.

The Iniguez promotion almost immediately backfired. In 2021, Iniguez was arrested by Azusa police on suspicion of public intoxication. The AG reviewed the case, but the statute of limitations expired before any charges were filed. Now, Iniguez is in the news again as the person who banished Grossman’s prosecutors amid a dispute over how to handle Diana Teran’s conflict of interest (more on that later).

Tiffiny Blacknell – A lifelong public defender, Gascon hired her and promoted her to chief of staff even though she has never before prosecuted a case. She also has admitted looting during the Rodney King riots and has described LAPD as “barbarians,” and “an occupying army.”

These are the people making crucial decisions about public safety and criminal justice in Los Angeles County – well, not so much Teran, as she is on leave while awaiting trial on 11 felonies.

Now that we know who is in Gascon’s inner-circle, here’s some relevant background about Gascon: He’s never prosecuted or defended a criminal case in his life. He’s never had a client. So he’s catastrophically incompetent and woefully unqualified to make the complex and life-changing decisions that the District Attorney must make.

That’s unfortunate, because the L.A.D.A.’s office has some of the most talented and dedicated prosecutors in the country.

I have nothing but admiration for the trial prosecutors who secured two murder convictions in February against Rebecca Grossman, who was speeding 81 mph when her SUV struck two young boys in a Westlake Village crosswalk, killing them.

In March, Grossman brought on James Spertus as her post-conviction attorney. Unbeknownst to the court, or the courtroom prosecutors, Spertus was simultaneously representing Diana Teran in the AG investigation. This is important because Teran was actively managing the Grossman prosecution – creating an obvious conflict of interest.

At that point, Teran and Gascon had only one choice: They had to disclose to the court that Spertus was also Teran’s attorney, and let the court decide how to handle this conflict of interest. A post-conviction motion for new trial could include allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, meaning that Spertus might have to implicate Teran, his own client.

But instead of doing the right thing, Gascon and Teran stayed silent. For weeks and weeks. Until the AG filed its shocking criminal case against Teran and the LA Times reported that Spertus was defending Teran.

With Teran on leave because she’s an accused felon, Iniguez now had to deal with the Teran conflict. He decided rather than asking the court to resolve this potential conflict, he would replace the prosecution team. That infuriated Deputy DA Garrett Dameron, who supervised the two trial prosecutors in Grossman’s case.

“In my nearly 24 years in the office, this decision is shocking and unprecedented. I also believe it is contrary to professional ethics and to thwart our clear duty of candor to the court,” Dameron said in an angry email to Iniguez. “At the very least, this extraordinary decision jeopardizes the successful completion of the case and the impartial administration of justice.”

Replacing the prosecutors was not the right decision, not by a longshot.

Had Gascon ever tried a case, he might be more familiar with how to handle potential conflicts of interest. Had Iniguez tried more than four felony cases, maybe he would have handled the situation better. Had Blacknell ever prosecuted a case, maybe she could have provided some guidance.

But that’s not how Gascon operates. Instead of his line prosecutors, who collectively have thousands of years of experience, he relies on political cronies that he’s elevated to power, people who have the least experience in the office.

As a result, the decision to remove the prosecutors inflicted new pain on the grieving parents of the boys who Grossman killed. “We as the victims, we feel like we’re being punished by their being removed without any reason we could understand,” the boys’ mother, Nancy Iskander, said.

Shame on you, Diana Teran, and shame on you anyone else at the DA’s Office who knew that she was represented by Spertus, including Gascon, and chose to remain silent. You chose to protect Teran instead of the victims. That’s not incompetent, it’s corrupt.

Shame on you, Joseph Iniguez, for deciding to remove the prosecutors – instead of asking the defense lawyer with a conflict to step aside.

The worst part about this: Gascon makes decisions like this all the time, re-victimizing grieving victims over and over.

If this is the way they’re dealing with a case that has media scrutiny, imagine how they’re dealing with cases that aren’t on the front page of the LA Times? Let’s end the madness on November 5. #GasconMustGo #HochmanForDA