Sister of gang violence victim slams LA DA Gascón’s push to eliminate juvenile strikes

Sister of gang violence victim slams LA DA Gascón’s push to eliminate juvenile strikes

Aja Courtney, who reportedly lost her brother in a gang-related shooting, argued on Sunday that Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón’s policies are “giving way to more violence.”

Courtney made the comment on “Fox & Friends Weekend,” two days after Gascón argued that eliminating juvenile strikes “will make our community safer.”  

Gascón – joined by Los Angeles Assembly Member Miguel Santiago, a Democrat – unveiled legislation on Friday that would stop strikes committed by minors from later being used against them in adult proceedings, according to a news release.

The release noted that, under California’s current Three Strikes law, specified felonies that are found true in a juvenile court proceeding are permitted to be alleged as a strike prior in a future adult criminal proceeding – in an effort to enhance a defendant’s potential length of time behind bars.

“The human brain is not fully developed until we are somewhere in the mid-20’s,” Gascón said Friday.

Courtney slammed Gascón’s argument, calling it a “misguided notion.”

“Anybody who has children understands that children know at very early ages what’s right from wrong,” she said.

“A juvenile system is based on rehabilitation, not on punishment,” Gascón also said on Friday, adding that “criminalization of young people leads to higher levels of recidivism, which means that it creates more insecurity in our community.”

Courtney blasted the legislation on Sunday, arguing that eliminating the strikes sends a message to criminals that they can commit crimes without any consequences.

“What we’re saying by not punishing these criminals is that it is OK to continue to commit these offenses,” Courtney said. “Gangs are going to take that as a green light to continue putting these young people out on the street and committing these offenses – and that’s what we’re trying to stop.”

She stressed that, “there was no excuse and no reason for my brother to be gunned down,” but “he was and it was the result of gang violence, and that has to stop.”

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Jalen Yoakum was 17-years-old when he gunned down Ontario Courtney, 40, when the latter’s car broke down in South Los Angeles in September 2017, Fox Los Angeles reported. While waiting for assistance, members of a local street gang shot Courtney several times, prosecutors said. 

Late last month, Gascón’s office reportedly halted efforts to prosecute the alleged gang member accused of murder as an adult, despite the viciousness of the crime and his claim of allegiance to the gang while in juvenile detention.

The move by Gascón is one of a number of new reforms that have won favor with criminal justice advocates and angered prosecutors, law enforcement, and victims’ rights advocates. 

Yoakum was one of the alleged shooters in Courtney’s case, authorities said. He was initially set to be prosecuted as an adult under former District Attorney Jackie Lacey. Upon taking office last year, Gascón unveiled a series of reforms that included ending the charging of juvenile suspects as adults. 

Gascón reportedly withdrew a motion filed by his predecessor’s office to prosecute Yoakum as an adult, also withdrawing gang and gun enhancements against him. In his first 100 days, Gascón’s office reportedly has withdrawn 77 motions to transfer minors to adult court, and has touted his reforms as a way to reduce recidivism and other inequities in the criminal justice system. 

Yoakum pleaded guilty to the murder charge last month, and is expected to be released from prison by age 25 because he is being charged as a minor, FOX LA reported.  

Aja Courtney pointed out on Sunday that Yoakum had “prior offenses that were escalating in violence, and part of the problem is that the system didn’t catch him from age 12 to 17 before it culminated in murder.”

She argued that Gascón’s policies “are giving way to more violence because at the end of the day, we’re talking about violent offenders that are being allowed to be on the street and you’re [Gascón] saying you’re going to wipe their strike offenses so then they get a clean slate at 18-years-old when we know they have a history of committing violence.”

A spokesperson for Gascón did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

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Gascón, who is facing a recall effort, announced on the day he took office in December a slew of sweeping changes, including stopping the use of sentencing enhancements, restricting when prosecutors can hold defendants without bail, ending the use of the death penalty in L.A. County, and banning the practice of trying juveniles as adults. 

Fox News’ Louis Casiano contributed to this report.

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