Former chief of staff sues L.A. D.A. George Gascón for retaliation




  • In US
  • 2022-12-02 23:16:49Z
  • By LA Times
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón at his office in downtown Los Angeles in February 2022. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón at his office in downtown Los Angeles in February 2022. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)  

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón's former chief of staff has sued him for retaliation, alleging she was bumped from her post for an inexperienced replacement, the latest in a string of lawsuits filed by subordinates against the progressive prosecutor.

Victoria Adams, an assistant district attorney who has spent more than 35 years working for the office, filed the complaint Thursday, accusing Gascón of demoting her after she questioned a number of his policies and decisions, including the handling of the controversial Hannah Tubbs case.

A holdover from ex-Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey's administration, Adams described herself as the lone person with "management experience" brought into Gascón's inner circle after he was elected in December 2020, according to the suit. But she quickly found herself at odds with many of the progressive prosecutor's other close advisors, a group of former public defenders and allies from his previous post in San Francisco whose promotions and hiring have drawn condemnation from line prosecutors.

Adams alleged she was replaced as chief of staff by Joseph Iniguez, a much less experienced line prosecutor, after telling Gascón a number of policies he enacted on his first day in office were illegal, including procedures involving cash bail, the prosecution of juveniles and the use of sentencing enhancements. Only one of Gascón's policies has been deemed illegal by a judge: his refusal to seek sentencing enhancements for prior violent felony convictions against defendants.

Greg Smith, the civil attorney representing Adams, declined to comment beyond the contents of the filing. A spokeswoman for Gascón did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The filing is the latest sign of widespread discord between Gascón's confidantes and most of the prosecutors working under him. At least eight other prosecutors have sued Gascón for retaliation or defamation, alleging they too were punished for questioning his policies. The union representing most line prosecutors nearly unanimously backed a failed attempt to recall the district attorney from office, and more and more, prosecutors seem unafraid to criticize Gascón in the media, an approach that was virtually unheard of under Lacey.

Earlier this year, Gascón also transferred two of his most high-profile critics, John McKinney and John Lewin, out of the Major Crimes Division shortly after each won convictions against real estate heir Robert Durst and Eric Holder Jr., the man who shot and killed beloved L.A. rapper Nipsey Hussle. While neither man has sued Gascón, McKinney has announced intentions to run against his boss in the next election cycle, while Lewin regularly appears on Fox News to bash the liberal district attorney.

Adams also alleged she was punished for questioning the way Gascón handled the prosecution of Tubbs, a transgender woman accused of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in a Palmdale restaurant bathroom in 2014. Tubbs was not arrested until years after the crime, but she was 17 at the time of the attack, which led Gascón to invoke his policy of not trying juveniles as adults.

Under the terms of a plea deal, Tubbs was sentenced to two years in prison, drawing widespread outrage. Gascón has since apologized for his handling of the case after tapes and documents emerged detailing horrific comments made by Tubbs on jailhouse phone calls. He also created a committee to allow prosecutors to seek to try some juveniles as adults in the fallout from the Tubbs case. Tubbs has since been charged with a 2019 murder in Kern County.

According to the suit, Adams clashed with Gascón and Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Sharon Woo because the original prosecutor on the case, Shea Sanna, had been barred from appearing at an April 2022 hearing related to Tubbs' detention after the plea deal was struck. Adams believed the prosecutor replacing Sanna would not be informed enough about the case to make a proper representation at the hearing. But she was rebuffed by Woo and Gascón.

Sanna himself is also now the subject of an internal investigation stemming, in part, from comments he made about Tubbs.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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