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Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva is calling out District Attorney George Gascon over a claim that the sheriff’s office “agreed” to the controversial charges and lenient sentencing of a wrong-way driving teen who mowed down a mom and her infant while high on drugs in a stolen car.
“We were never consulted as we were not the investigating agency,” the Los Angeles official wrote on Facebook and Twitter early Saturday. “Sheriff’s investigators would never be OK with the lightweight sentencing in this hit-and-run case. Stop empowering and encouraging criminal behavior. Hold them accountable #VictimsMatter.”
The teen suspect, now 17, pleaded guilty to two charges of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury and a single count of hit-and-run, all felonies. He tested positive for drugs at the time of the crash and was speeding the wrong way down a one-way residential street in a stolen car when he veered into the woman and her 8-month-old. He had initially been charged with DUI and could have faced other charges.
Surveillance video recorded the entire Aug. 6, 2021 hit-and-run incident in Venice, California. (Los Angeles)
The teen received a sentence of five to seven months in a juvenile probation camp, which prosecutors have described as “less than a military school and a little bit tougher than a summer camp.”
“As the car approached me and my child, I stopped walking and moved the stroller and myself up against a building on the right side of the road to ensure that we gave the reckless driver plenty of room to pass,” the mother, who asked to be identified only as Rachel, said in her victim’s impact statement. “As the car got dangerously close to us, [the juvenile suspect] turned the wheels in our direction and accelerated as he aimed to kill us.”
Video shows he plowed them over and tried to flee before another driver in a pickup truck slammed into the car and knocked it into a phone pole.
After striking Rachel and her 8-month-old, the wrong-way driver collided with a pickup truck. (Los Angeles County)
Gascon’s office told Fox News Digital Friday that the sentence was “an appropriate resolution.”
Villanueva’s office appeared surprised by the DA’s statement Friday and told Fox News Digital that the hit-and-run itself occurred within the Los Angeles Police Department’s jurisdiction and was handled by LAPD detectives and Gascon’s office.
“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department did not agree to charges we did not file,” a spokesperson said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says deputies making arrests, but cases ‘fall apart’ when they reach DA Gascon (Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews)
The female victim, in her impact statement, said she was disgusted with the DA’s policies and for approaching the case with the “lightest touch possible.”
“George Gascon doesn’t value my life or the life of my child, or any other victim out there and would rather reward the monsters like [the juvenile suspect] by demonstrating to them that their actions have no consequences,” she wrote. “DA Gascon is telling him and every other thug in LA County that it doesn’t matter if you try to murder people. Why are Gascon’s policies prioritizing the livelihood of rotten monsters when my child, my baby, who is incapable of protecting himself, is left to fend for himself, and is essentially being told his life doesn’t matter?”
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon speaks at a press conference, December 8, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. A memo issued to his prosecutors this week requires them to seek permission to oppose defense motions to transfer cases involving juvenile suspects from adult to juvenile court. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Gascon’s office has come under fire for months for what critics say is a soft approach to prosecuting crime. He has maintained that his reforms are aimed at creating a fairer criminal justice system.
Gascon is facing a second recall effort, which has the support of deputy prosecutors in his own office. The petition surpassed 500,000 signatures earlier this week, and organizers say they need just 67,000 more by July 6 to secure a ballot.
On Thursday, a California appeals court upheld an injunction barring Gascon from refusing to charge “three-strike” cases, which dramatically increase prison terms for repeat felons. The judge told him he has to uphold the law.