Gascón critic wins $1.5M in 1st retaliation suit to go to trial
A jury today awarded $1.5 million to a Los Angeles County veteran prosecutor who said she was denied important jobs in retaliation for complaining about directives set forth after the 2020 election of District Attorney George Gascón.
The Los Angeles Superior Court trial involving plaintiff Deputy District Attorney Shawn Randolph was the first of nearly 20 such cases that have been filed by prosecutors with similar allegations to be tried. The jury split the verdict at $750,000 each for Randolph’s past and future emotional distress.
Outside of the courtroom after the verdict, Randolph said Gascón’s tenure at the helm of the District Attorney’s Office has been “an epic failure of leadership.”
Beth Correia, one of Randolph’s lawyers, said the case “shined a light on what’s been happening in the DA’s Office.” She said her recommendation to other plaintiffs awaiting trial is to “hang tough.”
Both Gascón and former District Attorney Jackie Lacey testified during the trial. Attorneys for the county declined to comment on the verdict.
Filed in October 2021, Randolph’s complaint stated that she previously 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.
But 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 stated.
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 stated. 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 stated.
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 stated.
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 stated.
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 stated.
In their court papers, county attorneys stated that the transfer did not result in a demotion of Randolph and that she kept the same salary.
“Plaintiff has not sought or received any medical care or treatment for her purported emotional damages,” county attorneys argued in their court papers. “Plaintiff remained a head deputy and maintained the same pay she received before her transfer. In addition, plaintiff has not and cannot show that she suffered embarrassment.”
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