An alleged MS-13 gang member has been 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.”
Gascón prohibited the use of such sentencing enhancements after taking office in December. He later reinstated the use of enhancements “in cases involving the most vulnerable victims and in specified extraordinary circumstances,” according to the paper.
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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. He and another suspect are accused of attacking the unidentified victim, who was taken to a hospital for treatment, Ceballos said.
The suspects allegedly made derogatory remarks toward the victim, before knocking her to the ground and repeatedly striking her in the head and torso, the deputy DA added.
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, according to the Times. 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 Girmala, the department’s liaison with the LGBTQ community, of the recent attacks. “That’s something we’re feeling and hearing from the community.”
Girmala 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.
Orellana was previously arrested on suspicion of attempted robbery less than a week before the alleged assault, according to jail records. Prosecutors rejected the case because the robbery victim was uncooperative — leading to his release, Ceballos said.
Orellana was charged with one count of battery likely to produce great bodily injury in connection with the attack, reports said. The other suspect has yet to be arrested or charged.
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A preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 9, according to a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.