LOS ANGELES – A veteran prosecutor suing Los Angeles County, alleging she has been denied important positions in retaliation for complaining about directives set forth after the 2020 election of District Attorney George Gascón, should be denied depositions of Gascón and his chief of staff, lawyers for the county argue in new court papers.
Deputy District Attorney Shawn Randolph’s Los Angeles Superior Court retaliation lawsuit, filed in October 2021, states that at the time of Gascón’s election, Randolph was the head prosecutor in charge of the District Attorney’s Office’s Juvenile Division, in which she supervised about 50 lawyers and 50 civilian workers.
In February 2021, Randolph was transferred to the parole division, a “dead-end position for a head deputy,” and denied transfers to head the District Attorney’s branch offices in Torrance and Long Beach Superior Courts even though she was the most qualified applicant for each position, the suit states.
On Oct. 3, county lawyers filed motions asking Judge Terry A. Green to deny Randolph’s attorneys’ efforts to depose Gascón and his chief of staff, Joseph Iniguez. The county attorneys state that both men are top-level executives and agency heads known as “apex” witnesses who are not subject to depositions absent compelling reasons and that Randolph can get the same information from other people.
“There are no positions at the District Attorney’s office that lie higher than George Gascón’s in the District Attorney’s Office hierarchy,” the county lawyers state in their court papers. “Therefore, there can be no genuine question that George Gascón is at the apex of the District Attorney’s Office for purposes of the apex doctrine.”
Randolph does not allege that she complained to Gascón and “does not state in any manner whether she directly spoke to Gascón or whether (he) was directly involved in (Randolph’s) allegations of retaliation at all,” the county lawyers further state in their court papers.
The county attorneys make the same basic argument regarding Iniguez’s proposed deposition and state that since Randolph alleges that she reported her complaints to her immediate supervisors, the information she seeks can be obtained from them as well as through written discovery instead of the “duplicative and harassing” questioning of Gascón and Iniguez. A hearing on the county lawyers’ motion is scheduled Oct. 25.
According to Randolph’s suit, upon being sworn into office on Dec. 7, 2020, Gascón released numerous directives, including a policy that, among other things, mandated that Randolph use alternative theories of prosecution that minimized a juvenile’s criminal conduct, no matter how violent the offenses.
“In essence, plaintiff was directed not to file strike offenses against juveniles and this directive creates a false and misleading description to the court of the crimes that were actually committed,” the suit states.
If a 16- or 17-year-old juvenile robbed a victim by putting a gun to the victim’s head, Randolph could not prosecute the juvenile for robbery because that is a strike offense, the suit states. Randolph was directed to instead file against the juvenile for a lesser crime such as assault by using force that is likely to cause great bodily injury, according to the suit.
The ability of a prosecutor to file a strike offense such as robbery has a deterrent effect because if the juvenile commits another serious or violent felony as an adult, his or her sentence can be doubled, the suit states.
The directive also mandated that Randolph could not file any enhancements for egregious violent conduct, according to the suit.
Randolph repeatedly disclosed to her superiors that juvenile petitions made under Gascón’s policy were not truthful and that filing such petitions before a court violates the ethical and statutory duties of a prosecutor, the suit states.
Randolph additionally complained that under Gascón’s directive, violent juvenile murderers could not be tried as adults and that Gascón violated the law by refusing to permit the victims’ family any input into the decision not to try them as adults, the suit states.
In one case, a 17-year-old boy allegedly killed his 16-year-old girlfriend and her sister, then set their apartment on fire attempting to cover up the crimes, the suit states. Under Gascón’s directive, the juvenile could not be tried as an adult and would be released from custody when he turns 25 years old, according to the suit.
Although Gascón later met with the family of the slain girls, the session was “an empty gesture” because the District Attorney had said he would not reverse the directive,” the suit states.