Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has suspended the former lead prosecutor in the widely publicized case of child molester Hannah Tubbs, who began identifying as a transgender woman after her 2014 arrest for the sexual assault of a 10-year-old girl in Palmdale.
Deputy District Attorney Shea Sanna, 34, whose five-day suspension ends Thursday, March 2, is accused of misgendering and “deadnaming” Tubbs.
“In a case strategy meeting and in a department email you intentionally and repeatedly misgendered a transgender individual who had a case pending in juvenile court,” Joseph F. Iniguez, who is Gascón’s chief of staff, wrote in a Feb. 22 suspension letter to Sanna. “Your conduct was unprofessional, made your co-workers uncomfortable, and reflected poorly on yourself and the department.”
Iniguez alleges that during a Jan. 26, 2022, staff meeting, Sanna claimed Tubbs was using gender identity as a ploy to gain more favorable jail treatment and used the wrong pronoun in describing Tubbs.
Sanna said Monday that he doesn’t remember speaking during the staff meeting. However, he acknowledged that in April 2022, after he was removed from the Tubbs case, he asked Larry Droeger, a bureau director for the District Attorney’s Office, for permission to present evidence in court from 256 jailhouse phone calls, some of which detailed Tubbs’ deception.
“My question to you now is this,” Sanna wrote to Droeger. “What do you expect me to do, when, as a prosecutor who took an oath to abide by ethical obligations, I am on the sidelines, prohibited from notifying the court of a matter as to which I have relevant material information?”
In another email to Droeger, Sanna said Tubbs, who was arrested in 2019, is a “master manipulator” who is documented referring to herself as a man, has refused to take estrogen or wear a bra, and “demonstrates a lack of sincerity” in claiming to be transgender.
“Hannah Tubbs was made up on Jan. 5, 2022 after speaking with his attorney,” the email says. “Tubbs has talked openly about working the system.”
Sanna said he wanted to present information about Tubbs to prevent fraud from being perpetrated in court. “It wasn’t like I was running around the office being transphobic or misgendering,” he said.
Tubbs, who was just two weeks shy of her 18th birthday, was arrested after DNA evidence showed that she sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl in the stall of a women’s bathroom inside Denny’s restaurant in Palmdale on New Year’s Day in 2014.
Tubbs was sentenced to two years at a juvenile facility after Gascón’s office declined to move the case to adult court.
Tiffiny Blacknell, director of communications for the District Attorney’s Office, said she while she is unable to comment specifically on a personnel matter, the actions taken were the result of findings from an independent Los Angeles County Policy of Equity investigation.
“I can also say that the transgender community is frequently the target of violent attacks,” she said in an email. “They are also reluctant to come forward and report their attacks because of how they’re treated in the criminal legal system. The LADA office takes seriously our responsibility to treat all people with respect and dignity no matter their gender identity.”
In an unrelated case, the Kern County District Attorney’s Office has charged Tubbs with murder for allegedly beating a fellow survivalist group member to death with a rock in 2019. She faces a possible life sentence if convicted, and is referred to in Kern County jail booking records as James Tubbs.
In a statement, Gascón reaffirmed that he believes juveniles should not be tried as adults, but said he has learned from the Tubbs case that adjustments sometimes are warranted.
Vocal critic of Gascón
Sanna said he has been an outspoken critic of Gascón’s handling of other cases, including one involving convicted murderer Andrew Cachu, who was released from custody in 2021 after serving just six years of a 50-year prison sentence when the D.A.’s former special assistant, Alisa Blair, refused to call witnesses during a disposition hearing.
Cachu originally was tried in adult court even though he was two months shy of his 18th birthday when he shot and killed 41-year-old Louis Amela outside a Palmdale restaurant in March 2015. Under changes in state law since then, however, he was entitled to a retroactive transfer hearing to determine if his conviction should be in juvenile or adult court.
While waiting in jail for his case to be resolved, Cachu was told by his mother Bertha Cachu, in a phone conversation that Blair had agreed to intervene on his behalf.
“That’s Gascón’s special adviser,” Bertha Cachu explained to her son in a recording of the call obtained by the Southern California News Group. “Oh my God! She’s going to be coming in your case. Did you hear that, man? She’s good. She’s the one I’ve been emailing back and forth.”
Sanna said his suspension won’t silence him.
“Gascon is on a crusade to fire me because I have spoken out on his injustices,” he said. “I am going to keep speaking out. That’s my job as a prosecutor.”
This story has been updated to include a statement from the District Attorney’s Office.