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Gascon reverses direction on Palmdale assault case

George Gascon, currently in search of an experienced person in trauma conflict resolution

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón—who implemented a policy that resulted in a transgender woman being ordered to serve two years in juvenile custody for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in a restaurant bathroom—has conceded that the sentence “may not” be adequate.

The county’s top prosecutor, who backed away last week from two of his most criticized directives, including one that eliminated the option of trying juveniles as adults for serious crimes, said in a statement Sunday that he became aware after Hannah Tubbs’ sentencing about “extremely troubling statements she made about her case, the resolution of it and the young girl that she harmed.”

“While for most people, several years of jail time is adequate, it may not be for Ms. Tubbs,” Gascón said of the 26-year-old defendant who was 17 at the time of the 2014 attack in Palmdale. Tubbs’ case was handled in juvenile court as a result of a directive the district attorney issued the day he was sworn into office.

He noted that the defendant was arrested years after the crime “rather than the usual case, where a child is arrested close in time to their crime” and that Tubbs had “several charges in other counties after the juvenile offense but never received any services, which both her past behavior and that subsequent to her arrest demonstrates she clearly needs.”

“If we knew about her disregard for the harm she caused, we would have handled this case differently. The complex issues and facts of her particular case were unusual and I should have treated them that way. This change in policy will allow us the space to do that moving forward,” the district attorney said in his statement.

Gascón vowed in his December 2020 directive that the District Attorney’s Office would “immediately END the practice of sending youths to the adult court system.” But he abruptly changed his position on that with a series of memos Friday to office staff, including one in which he noted that “in exceptional circumstances, criminal jurisdiction may be appropriate for youth offenders” and that juveniles may be selectively transferred to the adult court system in the “most egregious cases that warrant a state prison Commitment.”

Supervisor Kathryn Barger called the outcome of Tubbs’ case “unsatisfactory,” saying in a Jan. 27 statement that the judge’s hands were “tied … due to the fact that the DA’s office failed to file a motion to transfer Tubbs to adult criminal court, which is where she rightly belongs.”

The policy changes come as the county’s top prosecutor has come under fire from families of some crime victims, as well as Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, and some prosecutors from his own office.