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Attorney General Bonta’s LA prosecutions slap in face of local prosecutor

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(The Center Square) – California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the filing of charges against four individuals who allegedly were members of an organized retail theft ring that committed over $750,000 in thefts between August 1 and August 12. According to a court filing, two out of the four individuals were out on bail or on their own recognizance (no bail), with one of them out on bail or their own recognizance for more than one criminal case.

The suspects were arraigned at the Los Angeles County Superior Court and face charges of organized retail theft, second-degree burglary, grand theft, vandalism, carjacking, second-degree robbery, and unlawful possession of ammunition. While the filing does not distinguish between individuals out on bail or their own recognizance, it’s likely that the two individuals were out without bail under the county’s newly adopted cite-and-release programs for nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors, including most thefts.

Organized retail theft harms businesses, retailers, and consumers – and puts the public at risk,” said Bonta. “I want to thank our local law enforcement partners for their work in apprehending the suspects in this case. The California Department of Justice and its partners will continue fighting to keep our communities, businesses, and consumers safe from retail theft and other crimes.”

Normally, a case such as this would be prosecuted under Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, but this case is being prosecuted under the State of California Department of Justice’s Special Prosecutions Section. According to former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, this suggests both statewide and local leaders may not have had faith in Gascon, who authored the proposition that many critics blame for California’s rise in retail crime.

“It is highly unusual for Bonta to be using his powers of general jurisdiction to be prosecuting a criminal case. Bonta is inadvertently — or not — slapping Gascon in the face,” said Cooley in an interview with The Center Square. “This has happened before when criminal prosecutions have been taken to the U.S. Attorney because [local leaders] did not want Gascon to prosecute because of his policies.”

When elected to office, Gascon directed his prosecutors to no longer use sentencing enhancements, and later lost a civil case for not pursuing enhancements for serial offenders under California’s “three strikes law” for what are classified by the California state legislature as “serious” crimes. Furthermore, while serving as San Francisco District Attorney, Gascon authored Proposition 47, which made thefts under $950 classified as misdemeanors, so with a limited amount of lawyers and resources, such cases, as misdemeanors, are much less likely to prosecuted.

Bonta isn’t the first to slight Gascon. The embattled Los Angeles prosecutor was not invited to Los Angeles Mayor Bass’s press event launching a regional organized theft task force, suggesting the mayor may be attempting to distance herself from his increasingly unpopular “do not prosecute” position on many crimes.

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