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LOS ANGELES – A leading voice in the movement to oust Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor told Fox News the race to collect the number of signatures required to put a recall question on the ballot will come down to the wire.
“I believe that we will get the required signatures to get the recall of [District Attorney] George Gascon on the ballot,” Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami said. “However, it is going to be a photo finish.”
“It will be very close,” he added. “It is going to require the entire movement to keep working together until the last day, which is something I and all of us intend to do.”
This is the second recall attempt Gascon has faced since he took office in December 2020. A 2021 attempt didn’t gather enough signatures by the filing deadline to go to a vote.
“We have a district attorney right now who’s causing havoc and mayhem in Los Angeles,” Hatami told Fox News. “He’s hurting public safety here in Los Angeles.”
“His policies are making it more dangerous for individuals,” he continued.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon speaks at a press conference, December 8, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Two veteran prosecutors are suing him over demotions they allege were in retaliation over their opposition to his reform policies. More lawsuits are expected to be filed alleging similar allegations, their attorney said. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)
Gascon’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
The recall campaign announced it has gathered roughly 350,000 signatures to date. Organizers need to collect 566,857 signatures total – 10% of registered voters in the county – by the July 6 deadline.
Hatami, a child abuse prosecutor with 16-years of experience in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, has been vocal about his support for booting Gascon.
“I think probably 99% of the people in Los Angeles would make a better DA than George Gascon,” Hatami told Fox News.
After riding a wave of progressive candidates campaigning to head some of the nation’s busiest DA offices, Gascon ousted his predecessor, Jackie Lacey, and immediately issued a series of directives that have come under heavy scrutiny.
Some include ordering his deputy district attorneys to stop seeking enhancement allegations, which can significantly extend prison sentences, not seeking the death penalty and barring prosecutors from charging juveniles as adults, regardless of the severity of the allegations.
A Recall George Gascon sign and Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon. The group leading the recall effort said Wednesday it was getting more signatures in hopes of getting the recall question on a ballot. (Getty Images collage) (Getty Images)
“I had heard about George Gascon and the type of person he was,” Hatami said. “But I guess in my heart, I thought … somebody who was a DA in San Francisco, who was a police officer for 30 years, he wouldn’t do this.”
The directive related to juveniles has since been modified after the case of Hannah Tubbs, a 26-year-old transgender woman who at 17 sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl. Tubbs was sentenced to two years in a youth facility and was caught on a jailhouse phone call bragging about the light punishment.
“It broke me … to give somebody who molested a child six months to two years. It’s heartless,” said Hatami, who told Fox News the victim’s family had reached out to him on the case. “He is not a good person. This is not political. He may say it is, but it’s not.”
Violent crime is up 7.2% from this time last year, according to Los Angeles Police Department data. Total arrests are down 15.1%.
During a press conference in December, Gascon defended his progressive policies.
“Rather than turning every tragedy into a political football and blame game, I ask that those people please join us,” said Gascon. “We can do better, we will go further if we all work together.”
LA Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami (Fox Digital)
Despite working in the same building as Gascon in downtown Los Angeles, Hatami told Fox News he has never met his boss.
“I don’t know how to describe the working relationship because most bosses that I’ve had have taken the time to come out and meet their employees,” Hatami said. “I’m one of the top child abuse prosecutors here in Los Angeles, and George Gascon has never tried one single case, and so you would think somebody like that would come down here and meet with me.”
“I’ve publicly said I’ll debate him, if he wants to do that,” Hatami continued. “My door is always open.”
Louis Casiano contributed to this report.