NORWALK, Calif. – Organizers of an effort to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón plan to submit hundreds of thousands of petition signatures to county elections officials Wednesday in hopes of putting his fate in the hands of voters.
Gascón has been under fire from critics virtually since taking office, when he issued a series of directives many have blasted as being soft on crime. The directives include a rule against seeking the death penalty, a ban on transferring juvenile defendants to adult court and prohibitions on filing sentencing-enhancements in most cases.
Gascón has repeatedly defended his policies, saying his stances were well-known during his campaign and his election signified public support of his agenda.
Organizers of the recall effort must have 566,857 valid petition signatures to force a recall election. The group announced recently that it had surpassed that amount, but the petition drive continued, with organizers saying they wanted to gather as many as 700,000 signatures to ensure enough valid names were on the list.
It was not immediately clear how many signatures will be submitted on Wednesday, which is the deadline for the petitions to be turned over to the county.
In a statement Tuesday, recall organizers said residents “have spoken in a resounding way,” noting the sheer number of people who have signed petitions and pointing to 37 cities in the county that have taken “no- confidence” votes in Gascón.
“On Wednesday, we will be submitting the required signatures to initiate a recall,” according to a statement from the Recall DA George Gascón campaign.
“The sheer magnitude of this effort, and time and investment required to get to this point, show how strong the public desire is to remove George Gascón from office. From day one, this recall has been led by the very victims who Gascón has abandoned, ignored and dismissed. When the recall qualifies, he will not be able to ignore them any longer.”
Gascón, asked about the recall during a Tuesday news conference, declined to comment.
Gascón has softened on some of his hard-line directives in recent months, and a state appeals court panel recently sided with a lawsuit filed by his own prosecutors trying to block orders against filing sentencing enhancements or prior-strike allegations.
The recall drive gained some late fuel following questions about prosecutors’ handling of a criminal case against a man who last month fatally shot two El Monte police officers. Critics said gunman Justin William Flores had a history of arrests but was given a plea deal last year that allowed him to avoid any jail time for possession of a weapon, ammunition and methamphetamine.
Gascón had a news conference to defend the handling of the case, saying the plea deal was appropriate under the circumstances.