A Los Angeles County jury awarded $1.5 million in damages Monday to a senior prosecutor who alleged she was transferred from a prestigious position to a “dead-end job” after complaining about District Attorney George Gascón’s juvenile sentencing policies.
The verdict in favor of Head Deputy Shawn Randolph capped a two-week trial that included testimony from Gascón, who said she was not retaliated against and was transferred as part of staffing adjustments.
The verdict marks the first time that a jury has awarded monetary damages to a deputy district attorney suing Gascón for retribution. More than a dozen prosecutors have similar lawsuits that are still pending against the controversial district attorney, who survived a recall campaign last year when supporters failed to secure enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Outside of the courtroom after the verdict, Randolph said Gascón’s tenure at the helm of the District Attorney’s Office has been “an epic failure of leadership.”
Beth Correia, one of Randolph’s lawyers, said the case “shined a light on what’s been happening in the DA’s Office.” She said her recommendation to other plaintiffs awaiting trial is to “hang tough.”
Eric Siddall, vice president of Los Angeles County Association of Deputy District Attorneys, said the verdict should send a strong message to Gascón.
“We all know what George Gascón thinks about public service,” Siddall said. “He has called lifelong public servants ‘internal terrorists.’ And he has treated them as such. He silenced their voices, he engaged in petty and vindictive acts of retaliation and rewarded political loyalty instead of competency and professionalism. Far worse, he did so at the expense of public safety.
“Today jurors spoke out against Gascón’s incompetence and condemned his illegal machinations. He sat in front of them and testified. They listened. And they saw right through him.”
The jury’s decision is disconcerting, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
“We are disappointed by the jury’s verdict and stand by our decision to reassign this and other attorneys to new positions within the office,” said the statement. “As any manager will tell you, moving around personnel in order to improve the level of representation this community receives is absolutely critical to a functioning office. We will consider our options over the next several days.”
Randolph, a former head deputy for the Juvenile Division, said in a 2021 lawsuit that Gascón transferred her to the Parole Division in downtown Los Angeles after she complained he had abolished the ability of prosecutors to file certain crimes against juveniles governed under California’s “three-strikes” law.
Randolph also repeatedly disclosed to her superiors that criminal charges made under Gascon’s policies for violent juvenile offenders were not “truthful charges” and that they violated the ethical and statutory duties of prosecutors. Additionally, she said the directive violated California’s Marsy’s Law by preventing families of victims from giving input into the decision on whether to try juveniles charged with homicide as adults.
Randolph also contended her position in the Parole Division carries far less responsibility than her previous assignment, where she supervised about 50 lawyers and 50 civilian workers, and has impacted her ability to advance within the District Attorney’s Office. She also claimed to have been denied transfer to head branch divisions in Torrance and Long Beach in 2021, even though both had openings and she was the top candidate.
City News Service contributed to this report.