He will rebuild the weakened district attorney's office and restore public safety
February 1, 2024 - Can you imagine Santa Monica without drug addicts exposing themselves while you're waiting for a bus? Where vagrants are not allowed to take up residence in your garage? Where those who commit retail theft actually get charged and go to jail?
Jonathan Hatami can imagine that. A veteran of the United States Armed Forces and a Los Angeles County prosecutor for the past seventeen years, Hatami is running for District Attorney, the job George Gascon has abdicated since taking the oath of office in December 2020. Hatami says he plans to restore the public safety that has been decimated since that day.
Gascon immediately issued blanket directives to his staff, now approximately 200 deputy district attorneys short of three years ago, that made life easier for criminals and harder for law-abiding citizens. He eliminated cash bail (violating state law). He prohibited the prosecution of quality-of-life crimes, including trespassing, drug possession, public intoxication, and intention to commit prostitution among others. He prohibited his prosecutors from filing sentencing enhancements, such as conducting crimes as part of a gang, use of a firearm in the commission of a crime (wait - I thought we didn't like guns), great bodily injury, and committing crimes while on parole.
Hatami was the first of Gascon's staff to speak against and oppose policies he knew would bring society to its current brink of collapse. He did so even at the expense of the promotion he'd expected - and subsequently did not receive.
Hatami plans to get back to following the law. "I'm going to bring public safety to all of you," he said at a recent fundraising event. "We are going to start prosecuting misdemeanors: resisting arrest, disturbing the peace, public drunkenness, solicitation for prostitution, indecent exposure, thefts, criminal threats." Hatami believes that ignoring smaller misdemeanors inevitably leads to the culprits "graduating to very, very serious crimes."
Defendants in misdemeanor cases need help, not to be ignored, Hatami said. Once they commit a crime serious enough to get them sent to prison, it's too late to help them. And innocent bystanders have been injured or killed.
And do not believe those who claim there isn't enough room in the county jail to prosecute misdemeanors, Hatami added, smiling. There is room.
None of this means Hatami doesn't believe in second chances. He explained that he's the product of a second chance himself, having got into trouble with the law as a teenager. What he learned was the importance of demanding accountability. He ended up joining the armed forces, where he served for seven years and achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant in the military police.
Hatami then went on to put himself through college and law school via a combination of the GI Bill, Pell grants and student aid - and a full scholarship to the University of Nebraska law school where he was a class speaker. Capitalizing on his "second chance," Hatami worked for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office starting in 2006 and was named Prosecutor of the Year by the Antelope Valley Bar Association in 2017. In 2019 he earned the same honor from the Los Angeles Bar Association. He's earned awards from crime and child abuse victim associations.
"As DA I'm going to be fair and I'm going to be just and I'm going to be honest and we are going to prosecute cases," Hatami said. The justice system is a balance, he explained, and it is currently out of balance with a district attorney who is not prosecuting cases.
Perhaps as significantly as ignoring crime, Gascon ignores and dismisses the victims of crime. He has forbidden his prosecutors from attending parole hearings. This means victims of crime, including rape, must face the parole board on their own to discuss why their assailant should not be released - a situation that has never before occurred in this county. "That's horrendous and shouldn't be happening at all," Hatami said. "If you're a victim, we need to fight for you," Hatami believes. Both in the courtroom and after.
Hatami knows the office and believes he can turn it around on day one of his tenure. He can build back the numbers of deputy district attorneys since he's familiar with those who've left in disgust. His lawful policies will encourage the police to return to their tasks and end the demoralization that has set in at all of the county's police departments, where arrests end in releases and lack of prosecution.
Hatami has been endorsed by 60 elected officials and 13 police associations. Santa Monica City Councilmember Phil Brock recently endorsed Hatami.
"If you want to be safe, if you want your family to be safe, and your friends, if you want to leave Los Angeles to our children as a safer place, not a worse place, we all have to get rid of George Gascon," Hatami said.
And we would add: elect Jonathan Hatami. He won't give up. He will fight for all of us.