Two Los Angeles prosecutors are suing L.A. County, claiming that District Attorney George Gascon demoted them from their jobs as bureau directors after more than 30 years of service in the D.A.’s Office for opposing what they call Gascon’s “unlawful” reforms.
In the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Monday and obtained by Los Angeles, former bureau directors Maria Ramirez and Victor Rodriguez are seeking unspecified damages for lost wages, overtime, and pension benefits.
“Both Plaintiffs were Directors of Bureaus and were removed from their positions in retaliation for disclosing violations of law and/or refusing to violate law concerning unlawful practices and policies of the District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles, George Gascon, and/or other high officials in the Gascon administration,” the suit states.
Ramirez was the Director of Bureau of Specialized Prosecutions and Rodriguez was the Director of Bureau of Branch and Area Region II and part of Bureau of Branch and Area Region I—until both prosecutors were demoted to Head Deputy positions, they say, after a series of disagreements with Gascon about investigating and prosecuting crimes.
The lawsuit states that almost as soon as Gascon took office in December 2000, he “hastily forwarded to Bureau Directors directives that substantially changed the way crimes were to be prosecuted.”
In Ramirez’s case, she says Gascon ordered her to ease sentencing for youthful offenders no matter how heinous and violent their crimes.
The suit specifically cites Gascon’s Special Directive 20-09, which it calls “a policy that effectively abolished the ability of prosecutors to file certain crimes against juveniles, if the crime also qualified as a strike [penalty enhancement]. The Directive prohibited prosecution of juveniles for more than one crime even if they committed multiple crimes against multiple victims in one incident.”
Ramirez claims she was essentially ordered not to file “strike” offenses against
juveniles. She says that adhering to the order would have required her to provide “a false and misleading description to the court of the crime(s) that was/were actually committed.”
In cases with multiple victims of a young offender, Ramirez says following Gascon’s policies would put prosecutors in a corner where they were “forced to randomly select only one victim and charge one crime pertaining to that chosen victim.”
Among Ramirez’s objections to Gascon’s policy were her “concerns that at trial, if the randomly chosen victim was not available and the case not therefore provable, the case could be dismissed, and the juvenile would have no accountability.”
“All these filings would constitute fraud on the court and, among other things, violate Plaintiff’s ethical and prosecutorial obligations under the law,” the suit alleges.
“Because of Plaintiff Ramirez’ disclosures and refusals to violate the law,” the filing continues, “she was demoted from her position to the Head Deputy of Target Crimes. Plaintiff went from supervising hundreds of employees to supervising 11 employees.”
Rodriguez, meanwhile, says that although Gascon wanted to offer extreme leniency to violent young suspects, cops who found themselves accused would be given no quarter regardless of the evidence—or lack of evidence—the filing claims.
Rodriguez says that during a March, 2021 meeting with Gascon to discuss a police-involved shooting in which two people were killed, Gascon’s confidential assistant, first-year law student Anna Kozma, suddenly announced, “I am ready to convict the officers.”
Kozma demanded her no-trial justice, the suit asserts, “After a presentation which showed no inconsistencies in the statements by the officers and witnesses claiming that the suspect reached for a gun.”
According to the suit, Gascon’s special advisers Alisa Blair and Tiffany Blackwell then chimed in, with Blair stating that the cops should be prosecuted “because too many African Americans have been killed by police officers” and Blackwell suggesting that the officers should at least be charged with “voluntary manslaughter.”
Rodriguez was “appalled” by the conversation “since there was insufficient evidence that the officers had committed a crime.” He told the group that he wasn’t against investigating the shootings further but added that, as things stood “there was not probable cause for a filing because there were no specific facts to support the charge.”
“Filing against the officers without probable cause violated Professional Rule of Responsibility” as well as several Amendments to the California Constitution and the Penal Code, the lawsuit alleges.
Following the meeting, Gascon complained to his then-Chief of Staff that his prosecutors “followed the law too much,” the complaint states, adding that it was, “A fitting comment by a district attorney who has never practiced law, and an explanation as to why plaintiff Rodriguez and others were demoted.”
Citing ongoing litigation, the District Attorney’s Office declined to comment to Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. news, food, and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.