DA candidates united in opposition to incumbent Gascon

Nathan Hochman (left photo) is a former federal prosecutor. David Milton (2nd left photo) is a retired judge. John McKinney (3rd from left photo) is a 25-year deputy district attorney. Debra Archuleta (right photo) is a superior court judge. Photos by Elka Worner

by Elka Worner

Four of the 11 candidates in the race for Los Angeles County District Attorney blasted incumbent  George Gascon for his liberal policies at a debate Saturday, Jan. 13 at the Peninsula Center Library. All claimed Gascon’s policies have increased crime and made people feel less safe in their communities. 

“It’s time ladies and gentlemen to restore order to the chaos that’s been inflicted on all of us, our families, our small businesses and our communities,” said Superior Court Judge Debra Archuleta. “George Gascon needs to go.”

The forum was sponsored by the 66th Assembly District Republican Central Committee. Chairwoman Janice Webb said Gascon was invited to the event but did not respond. The nonpartisan primary election for District Attorney is March 5. Unless a candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the two top vote getters will face off in the November election.

Candidate Nathan Hochman described Gascon as  the “incredibly well funded George Gascon-slash-George Soros.” Hochman has 34 years of criminal justice experience, including seven years as a federal prosecutor taking on drug dealers, gang members and international money launderers.

“Is this a shock that someone like George Gascon could have failed so miserably?” Hochman asked. “Of course not, because George Gascon has never personally prosecuted or defended a case in his entire life.”

Deputy District Attorney John McKinney, who has worked in the office’s elite Major Crimes and Hard Core Gang divisions, said he has seen the adverse effects of Gascon’s policies. Those include not prosecuting juveniles as adults in serious cases, not filing possession of drug cases, and not allowing gun enhancement charges for people who commit crimes. 

“We have this new brand of criminal justice reform that has led to an increase in crime, including an increase in homicides,” he said. “We need to effectively prosecute repeat offenders.”

Retired Judge David Milton said he is the only Republican in the race and “the candidate criminals fear most” because he will enforce the law. Milton, who spent 24 years on the bench, said would stop “smash and grab” and “flash mob” theft by charging perpetrators with burglary or robbery, not petty theft, even if the amount stolen is less than $950.

“We’re going to stop this nonsense,” he said. “These are burglaries and robberies. There’s no reason they should be filed as misdemeanors, no matter what the value is.”

Judge Archuleta said gang members are deliberately sending 16- and 17- year olds with guns to commit smash and grab robberies, with some thieves bringing along calculators “to make sure they’re stealing under $950 at Target or Nordstrom.”

“We are now an international embarrassment because of this organized retail theft,” she said. “We’ve got the World Cup coming in 2026, and the Olympics coming in 2028, and all eyes are already going to be on us, and I want it to be for the right reasons.”

McKinney said it’s important to send a strong message to criminals in smash and grabs. If they’re caught, they’re going to state prison, he said.

“They’re not going to county jail. The DA has to advocate for prison,” he said. “Once they see their little friends go off to prison, then posting these videos on Instagram won’t be so funny anymore.”

Several of the candidates railed against Gascon for not accepting $2 million dollars from the governor to form a retail theft task force. Hochman also said Gascon has failed to address the fentanyl crisis, which he said is the number one killer of 18- to 35-year-olds.

“George Gascon, by not doing this, has blood on his hands,” Hochman said. “People are going to die today because of his inaction and that absolutely has to stop.”

Hochman said he would treat fentanyl dealers as “fentanyl murderers” and launch a massive education campaign for middle and high school students and their parents to alert them to the dangers of the drug.

Both McKinney and Archuleta called Prop. 47 an “abomination.” The ballot measure passed by voters in 2014 reduced the penalties for certain lower-level drug and property offenses. If elected, Hochman said, he would co-author a proposition to reverse the most negative effects of Prop. 47.

“We will turn this spiral of lawlessness…into a spiral of lawfulness. We will bring back the rule of law, accountability, and consequences for one’s actions,” he said.

Judge Milton also disagreed with Gascon’s zero bail policies. The policy, adopted last October, eliminates cash bail in Los Angeles County for all but the most serious crimes. 

“It exposes us to further risk of harm by perpetrators,” he said. “Also, we need a guarantee that the suspects return for their court appearances.”

The candidates agreed Gascon has not done enough to combat crime.

“Are we safer today than we were three years ago?” Archuleta said. “The answer is unequivocally no.” ER


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