In a RedState exclusive, Bob Hoge reported on Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon's abrupt closure of his “Lifer Unit.” This unit was charged with notifying victims of crime and relatives of victims (also known as “victim's next of kin” or VNOK) of the perpetrator’s parole hearings. It was the Lifer Unit used specially trained deputy district attorneys with retired people who have vast experience with parole. These contracted retirees have a wealth of historical information and expertise that is not able to be sustained due to the high turnover of D.A.s offices.
The investigation was ongoing. Hoge was able get statements recorded on the record by ex-Los Angeles Police Supervisor and City Councilmember Dennis P. Zine, the Deputy District Attorney Marc Debbault, and former prosecutor and advocate for children Kathleen Cady, many Los Angeles County DDAs were too scared to even be interviewed without revealing their identities.
We spoke to more than one Deputy District Attorney, and they did not want to be quoted even anonymously. Suffice it to say, they live in terror of the DA’s petty but vicious retributions against those who don’t march to his directives.
Fox News correspondent Bill Melugin published the letter on his Twitter feed detailing the demise of the Lifer Unit. Julianne Walker, one of the Lifer Unit's DDAs that had been “reassigned” responded to Melugin's thread after the RedState exclusive was published. She was in agreement with Melugin's request to make use of this information on the record as she disproves what was stated by the D.A.'s office.
It's a bombshell.
I received a lengthy message from Julianne Walker, a victim advocate in the “lifer” unit being disbanded. She says the Gascon admin statement isn’t truthful for a number of reasons, which she lists below. She has given me permission to publish her statement on the record @FoxNews
Hi Bill: This is Julianne Walker, a DDA in the soon to be disbanded Lifer Unit. I’ve see [sic] the “response” from Gascon and would like to quickly give you these points:
1. The Lifer Unit was not downsized to only 3 lawyers under DDA Lacey. The contract employees, retirees with vast experience in the parole arena, were not rehired, let go due to County wide budget shortfalls due to COVID.
DDAs were still sent to every parole hearing, but were staffed by “volunteer” DDAs as we have done for many years in the past. Victims who I had prepped and was attending their hearings that first week of Gascon’s inauguration and policy drops barring DDAs from attending the very next day had the rug pulled out from under them. It was horrible to tell these families the news. Heartbreaking.
RedState has written extensively about this.
2. The CDCR Registration form is supposed to to be provided to every victim/ family at or before sentencing. However, it did not and still does not routinely occur. Even when a family has registered 15, 20, 25 years ago, the information is often out of date, and CDCR makes no effort to find the current contact info. The onus is put entirely on the traumatized victims and their families. Also, the victims and their families rightfully believed under the laws in existence at the time that there never would be a parole hearing and the offender would die in prison. But changes in the law, done without victims, families and really the entire public’s knowledge have allowed for early parole dates. If the DA’s office doesn’t notify these people who have not registered, or update the info for those that have, CDCR is not telling them. It is very rare that people tell us they do not not want to be kept informed. The usual response is to question how the parole hearing is coming up at all. And then ask why DDAs aren’t allowed to go. And finally ask about information we can no longer share with them since Gascon blocked our access to CDCR inmate files.
In Hoge's coverage, Kathleen Cady confirmed that Gascon did indeed block this access:
His administration then froze out DDAs access to state prison records so victims are not prepared for what they might hear during the parole hearing. Iniguez [Gascon’s chief of staff who was recently busted for public intoxication], has instructed DDAs [deputy DAs] and VSRs [Victim Services Representatives] that they can not refer victims to pro bono attorneys who stand ready to assist them. Now, he will not even assist with notifying victims that a defendant is up for parole. Many of these defendants had been sentenced to hundreds of years to life or Life Without the Possibility of Parole so victims didn’t register for notification because they didn’t believe a parole hearing would ever occur…
Walker is then able to highlight the specific cruel treatment that Gascon has shown to victims and their concerns.
3. The Gascon administration does not have a trauma informed approach. Just look at this response and how insensitive it is to the victims and their families, the fast [sic] majority of which are victims of gun violence, to use the term “triggering”. Our Lifer Unit has pointed this out that such terminology is offensive and hurtful, yet they continue to use it. Further, how is it possibly trauma informed to deny victims and their families current information and the legal expertise of a DDA at the hearing and in preparation of their statements?
The savage behavior Gascon shows towards the victims and the families of the victims has been thoroughly documented within these pages.
4. Marsy’s Law is very clear in a specific subsection that says the victims and their families have a right to be informed of proceedings, including parole hearings, and that section is NOT limited to “if they request.” I can forward that section, but trying to get to you quickly.
The precise subsection is included from the California Constitution, Article I section 28(b)(b)(7) as well as 28(b)(b)(8):
“In order to preserve and protect a victim’s rights to justice and due process, a victim shall be entitled to the following rights:
“(7) To reasonable notice of all public proceedings, including delinquency proceedings, upon request, at which the defendant and the prosecutor are entitled to be present and of all parole or other post-conviction release proceedings, and to be present at all such proceedings.
“(8) To be heard, upon request, at any proceeding, including any delinquency proceeding, involving a post-arrest release decision, plea, sentencing, post-conviction release decision, or any proceeding in which a right of the victim is at issue.”
5. Victim Services Representatives are not lawyers and do not understand the legalities of the parole hearing. Their skills are providing emotional support and services. Gascon continually puts forth “services” as if he is protecting their “rights” He is not. He is abandoning their constitutional rights and thinks a band aid of some type of service like counseling will make up for his refusal to protect their rights.
I could go on and am happy to address any questions you have on the record.
My colleague Levon Satamian pointed out that Gascon is feeling the pain of being in the midst of a potential recall and has decided to bring charges against the perpetrator of Olympian Kim Glass. While this is great news for Glass, it's not enough, and it's too late for the victims and their families that continue to endure the burden of the crime-related justice system nightmare.