As of yesterday, in the race to pick Los Angeles’s next District Attorney, it became mathematically impossible for Jackie Lacey to avoid a runoff with George Gascón. That means they’ll face a runoff in November, if we have a November (but that’s another story).
First, a little history: In 2012, Gascón press released a series of false statements making me seem 100% guilty and turning my fatal bicycle accident into the “crime of the century.” This showed no respect for the accused or for the deceased. Instead, Gascón followed only his own political ambitions by sending a message to the already much-maligned cycling community—turning me into a felon in order to serve as his messenger.
His lack of respect for the law, his willingness to lie to the public repeatedly, and his other moral and ethical failings left me $100,000 in the hole, with a career and reputation in shambles and a felony on my record, all so that he could stand behind a podium and say “the rules of the road apply to everyone.” All to appease the raging bikelash he started because of the lies he spread in the media. And when Gascón’s own video evidence exonerated me in court—instead of letting the truth set me free—he dug in deeper and demanded a felony or a year in jail, strong-arming me into a settlement. I reluctantly accepted, in order to stop the anguish Gascón was causing the victim’s family through his 18 month shitshow and because I knew I could never win against a cheater who was determined to see me punished for a crime he invented—by peddling fake stories about it to the media.
Most defendants don’t speak up when they are falsely accused or convicted. Many can’t because they’re in jail and/or lack the resources to tell their stories. Gascón knows this, which is why he feels empowered to bend and break the law to serve his political ends, without concern for fairness, without concern for justice. I spoke out against Gascón’s malfeasance by publishing a book in 2018, Bikelash: How San Francisco created America’s first bicycle felon and by releasing all of the information about my case—including his exonerating surveillance video evidence—on a public forum. Also, using my own time and money, I campaigned against Gascón, distributing fliers, running Facebook attack ads and making three trips from SF to LA to encourage voters to stop listening to his snake-charming words and start looking at his record. Although I was not paid or even encouraged by Rachel Rossi’s campaign, when asked, I suggested voting for her, a public defender with a similar reform-minded record—minus all of Gascón’s and Lacey’s baggage.
Rossi did better than I expected, but not well enough to earn a second place spot. And Lacey couldn’t earn 50% +1, so now LA is facing two bad choices: Lacey (the devil you know) and Gascón (the devil you don’t).
Lacey, an establishment law-and-order Democrat, has sent 22 defendants to death row, all of them people of color. Since 2012, she has charged exactly one cop in over 400 LAPD officer-led shootings. She touted her support for substance abusers and the mentally ill, but only had 80 defendants complete mental health diversion programs—when over 3,000 were eligible. Meanwhile, she refused to prosecute Ed Buck, a prominent white Democratic donor, for two deaths (and one near-death overdose) of young black men he lured into his drug den and injected with meth. On the eve of the election, Lacey’s husband brandished a gun at Black Lives Matter protestors, yelling “I will shoot you.” In spite of all this, she has the nerve to call herself a moderate reformer, a message that fell flat on (slightly) more than half of LA voters
Gascón, a former cop and lifelong Republican who later became a darling of the Democratic Party, carpetbagged his way to LA in an attempt to escape scathing reviews by everyone who worked with him in San Francisco. He has hidden a record similar to Lacey’s under a cloak of progressivism, making him a dangerous District Attorney—and a persistent, unrelenting liar. In the 24 SFPD-led shootings in San Francisco while he was DA, Gascón charged zero cops, claiming in a recent presentation at USC that the “firing squad” who assassinated Mario Woods was just looking out for their “brother officers,” a bizarre reference he learned in the 1990s while a member of one of the most corrupt police forces in history, the LAPD. In another high-profile accidental death, he grossly overcharged Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate with first degree murder, which led to an acquittal. He also talked a big game about mental health treatment but did nothing beyond a series of recommendations. When asked to respond to a series of racist SFPD texts, he convened a “Blue Ribbon Panel” which again gave recommendations, but disciplined no one and again, did nothing. Meanwhile, the POA President gave a sworn deposition calling Gascón a racist since he himself referred to his former LAPD “brother officers” as “dumb black guys” and said that the drug trafficking problem in California was caused by “fucking Mexicans.” This fell right in line with other racist statements he made as SF’s Police Chief, calling Arab Americans terrorists and musing about how they might try “parking a van in front of [The Hall of Justice] and blowing it up.”
This November, if we have an election, Los Angeles will be faced with two bad choices for District Attorney. Although it pains me to ask people not to vote in this race, I would recommend abstaining from voting for either DA as way of sending a message of “no confidence” to both of these deplorable candidates.
If we make it to 2021, one of them will unfortunately become Los Angeles’s DA. And I’m already sorry about that. But please don’t say that I didn’t warn you or try to stop this. I did, and I tried, and it just wasn’t enough.