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As Recall Petition Starts Collecting Signatures, Gascón Spokesperson Questions Who's Behind Effort

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The effort to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is now in the signature collecting stage, after the Los Angeles County Registrar Thursday approved the petition.

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(credit: CBS)

Gascón handily defeated former District Attorney Jackie Lacey on a platform of criminal justice reforms, but his opponents have been working since February to get the recall petition approved.

Recall supporters had to wait 90 days after he was sworn in before they could start the process, which included getting signatures for the intent to recall. Now that the recall has been approved, they need to collect signatures from 579,062 registered L.A. County voters by Oct. 27, 2021 to get it on a ballot.

"I think that I'm a first-hand victim with what's going on in his policies and directives," Cynthia Carrera, who's brother was killed in 2019 in an alleged gang shooting, said. "My brother and his friend were murdered by two juveniles and one adult, so I get a sense that maybe they were being initiated into a gang. I don't know."

Since December, Gascón implemented changes that upset some families of victims — including directing his prosecutors to not seek the death penalty or sentencing enhancements in most cases. He has also said he does not want juveniles to be tried as adults.

Most recently, the handling of the Anthony Avalos case has drawn criticism after his office dropped the death penalty as a possible sentence for the two charged in his death. According to prosecutors, Anthony's mother and her boyfriend whipped him with a belt, poured hot sauce on his face and mouth and repeatedly dropped him on his head before he died. They have both pleaded not guilty.

"In Anthony's case, the really difficult thing about that is George Gascón never met with the family, he's never sat down with me and gone over the evidence," Jonathan Hatami said. "He's never met with the medical personnel who tried to treat Anthony or the witnesses who saw what happened."

Hatami is suing Gascón for a hostile work environment among other allegations and said the D.A.'s policies were disrupting the justice system.

"Many individuals know there's no more life without the possibility of parole," he said. "They know because of elder parole they can get out early."

Additionally, the city councils of 14 cities in L.A. County have passed votes of "no confidence" against the new D.A., including Diamond Bar, Azusa and Santa Fe Springs just this week.

But Maxwell Szabo, a spokesperson for Gascón's political campaign, said the election showed people wanted change — a change, he said, Gascón was delivering.

"Surveys repeatedly show that the majority of survivors of violent crime in L.A. County support policies that favor rehabilitation over simply more incarceration," he said. "And I just don't believe, frankly, the fact that this group is supposedly victim-led. There are a number of victims who are supporting the recall effort, but really it's being led by a small number of, you know, conservative politicians in Los Angeles County."

High-profile defense attorney Alexandra Kazarian supports Gascón, but said his office needs to do a better job of communicating its new directives.

"He really is just making good on his campaign promises," she said. "And I think that he told everybody exactly what his plan was and he's doing what he said he was gonna do."

The effort is being supported by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and former District Attorney Steve Cooley among others.

If successful, an election would be held sometime next year.

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