District Attorneys in California are criticizing Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor for not arguing for the continued imprisonment of the man granted parole Friday for the 1968 killing of Robert F. Kennedy.
A two-member board voted in favor of releasing Sirhan Sirhan for the fatal shooting of Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after Kennedy delivered a speech. Kennedy was walking through the hotel kitchen and greeting employees when Sirhan, now 77, shot him.
Sirhan, a Christian Palestinian from Jordan, has said he was angry at Kennedy for his support of Israel. Friday was his 16th appearance before the parole board. The decision still needs to be approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
George Gascon, a former police officer who was elected as Los Angeles County district attorney last year on a progressive platform, declined to send a prosecutor to the parole hearing.
“This is one of the most notorious political assassinations in American history and the killer is being considered for release without benefit of a representative on behalf of the people of California,” Vern Pierson, El Dorado County district attorney and president of the California District Attorneys Association, said in a statement. “That is disgraceful.”
“It’s a deviation from historical precedent. Over the last 50 years in every county in California including Los Angeles, DAs routinely appear in these hearings to provide information to the parole board,” he added. “Even in San Francisco, where the DA is considered by most to be the most progressive, prosecutors regularly appear at lifer hearings. There’s a saying that 90% of life is showing up—Robert F. Kennedy was a visionary Attorney General and historical giant, yet Gascón cannot even bother to show up?”
Before Gascon took office, the district attorney’s office routinely sent prosecutors to parole hearings to argue against the early release of offenders.
The ended with Gascon, even when the inmate was involved in notorious killings, who has enacted a series of changes such as revoking cash bail and the banning of death penalty cases and scrapping gang enhancements.
Gascon’s office has said opposing parole for some offenders does more harm than good and can result in unjustifiably long prison sentences. He is facing a recall effort over his policies.
In a statement to Fox News, Alex Bastian, a special advisor to Gascon said: “The role of a prosecutor and their access to information ends at sentencing.”
“The parole board however has all the pertinent facts and evaluations at their disposal, including how someone has conducted themselves over the last few decades in prison,” he added. “The parole board’s sole purpose is to objectively determine whether someone is suitable for release. If that someone is the same person that committed an atrocious crime, that person will be correctly not be found suitable for release.”
Greg Totten, CEO of the CDAA, said the remarks from Gascon’s office are “further proof that Mr. Gascón has neither the competence nor the integrity to run the nation’s largest district attorney’s office.”
Fox News has reached out to the office of San Diego County Prosecutor Summer Stephan, a harsh critic of Gascon. In January, she warned that his actions could have ramifications across California.
“What happens in LA affects all of California,” she told Fox News. “Los Angeles is the largest jurisdiction in the state and in the country. I am very concerned about any negative ripple effects from Los Angeles and I’m concerned about people committing crime sprees in San Diego and continue to LA where they’re going to not face the legal consequences.”
In the absence of prosecutors, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva in February said he would send representatives from his department to parole hearings to argue on behalf of victims.
Gascon is facing a recall over his policies, which have been championed by criminal justice reform supporters but harshly criticized by law enforcement and victims’ rights advocates.
Desiree Andrade, whose son was brutally murdered in 2018, organized the “Recall George Gascon” movement after his policies allowed her son’s killers to have their sentences reduced.
“I’m feeling let down by the justice system,” she recently told “The Ingraham Angle. “These gentlemen are now facing 25 years and only having to do 80% of that time which is 20 years. That is not enough. My son has a sentence; his sentence was death. I will never see my son again. How is it even a thought that they will be out in time to create families of their own and do everything that my son was cheated from?”
Fox News’ Angelica Stabile contributed to this report.