50+ Years to 5: LA DA's Policy On Juveniles Drops Murder Sentence Dramatically
L.A. District Attorney George Gascón is coming under fire for securing a dramatically lower prison sentence for a man who committed murder as a juvenile.
A judge has ordered the release of Andrew Cachu, a 24-year-old who is five years into a 50-years-to-life prison sentence. That decision is a result of Gascón’s policy of retroactively seeking shorter sentences for juveniles who were sentenced in adult court.
“The victim’s family feels betrayed and abandoned” by Gascón, said Kathy Cady, a former deputy district attorney who represents the family of Louis Amela. “They feel that justice has not been served.”
In one of his first acts as DA, Gascón ordered his prosecutors to keep all minors in the juvenile court system — no matter the crime — and use the “’lightest touch’ necessary in order to provide public safety” when recommending a sentence. He pointed to research that shows that youth “are malleable and continue to mature until their early-to mid-20s.”
Gascón issued a directive that said youth have unique vulnerabilities “including their impulsivity, susceptibility to peer influences, risk-taking and lesser ability to fully appreciate long-term consequences, and their lack of control over their home/family/life circumstances.”
In 2015, Cachu was 17 years old when he shot and killed Amela, 41, outside a Palmdale restaurant. At the time, prosecutors had the authority to transfer juveniles as young as 14 to adult court.
Cachu was found guilty of murder and robbery; prosecutors sought additional prison time because he belonged to a gang and used a gun during the crime, and Cachu was sentenced to 50 years to life. Under the state’s Youthful Offender Parole Program, he would have been eligible for parole at age 37.
But Proposition 57, approved by voters in 2016, requires new hearings to determine if a minor tried in adult court should have instead remained in juvenile court. It also gives judges — not prosecutors — the final decision.
‘The Judge Was Left With No Legal Option’
Prosecutors were preparing to argue to keep Cachu in prison when Gascón took office and ordered them to drop the effort.
At a closed hearing last week, Alisa Blair, Gascón’s special advisor on juvenile diversion, recommended Cachu remain in custody for another two years, according to Cady who also attended.
Blair offered no evidence to back up her argument, which led Judge Brian C. Yep to declare he had no choice but to order Cachu released. It’s unclear if he’s been released yet.
“That’s with no rehabilitative programs to assist him getting out of the entrenched gang life, to help him get a job and no supervision,” Cady said.
It’s unclear why Blair offered no evidence at the hearing to keep Cachu behind bars.
The DA’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But spokesman Alex Bastian told The Daily News that while “Blair and the (Los Angeles County) Probation Department recommended that the court refer Mr. Cachu to the Division of Juvenile Justice … there were no witnesses who could testify to the fact that DJJ has specific programming that would benefit Mr. Cachu presently. Understandably, the probation report was also deficient in its ability to articulate specific programming as required by state law.”
Bastian did not elaborate as to why there were no witnesses who could testify.
“The judge was left with no legal option other than to terminate juvenile jurisdiction,” he said.