An alleged MS-13 gang member was charged in a brutal assault against a transgender woman last week in a Los Angeles park.
But the deputy district attorney who is prosecuting the case claims he was blocked from charging the suspect with a gang enhancement under orders from his boss, L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“It was clearly a gang case. The gang allegation should have been filed,” deputy DA Richard Ceballos, who has been openly critical of Gascón’s policies, told the newspaper. “But I wasn’t allowed to do so.”
“It was clearly a gang case. The gang allegation should have been filed. But I wasn’t allowed to do so.”
— Richard Ceballos, deputy DA, Los Angeles County
Gascón prohibited the use of such sentencing enhancements after taking office in December. According to the paper, he later reinstated the use of improvements “in cases involving the most vulnerable victims and in specified extraordinary circumstances,” according to the form.
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George Gascon is seen May 5, 2010 in San Francisco. (Getty Images)
In last week’s case, suspect Gabriel Orellana, 19, was charged with battery Ceballos said, according to the Times.
Orellana pleaded not guilty during a brief court appearance Monday. Ceballos said he and another suspect are accused of attacking the unidentified victim, who was taken to a hospital for treatment.
The deputy DA added that the suspects allegedly made derogatory remarks toward the victim before knocking her to the ground and repeatedly striking her in the head and torso.
MacArthur Park is seen in Los Angeles, March 19, 2020. (Getty Images)
According to the Times, the attack occurred as members of the gang have been linked to violence against transgender women at the park at least four times since August 2020. MS-13 claims the park as part of its territory, authorities said.
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“[MS-13], they’re in and out of that park and probably saw what they would think is a target of some kind,” said LAPD Assistant Chief Beatrice Nirmala, the department’s liaison with the LGBTQ community, of the recent attacks. “That’s something we’re feeling and hearing from the community.”
Nirmala added that transgender women used to socialize at businesses in the neighborhood, but as coronavirus restrictions affected local establishments, many were led to the park.
According to jail records, Orellana was previously arrested on suspicion of attempted robbery, more petite than a week before the alleged assault. Prosecutors rejected the case because the robbery victim was uncooperative — leading to his release, Ceballos said.
Reports said that Orellana was charged with one count of battery likely to produce significant bodily injury in connection with the attack. The other suspect has yet to be arrested or charged.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 9, according to a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.