L.A. District Attorney Under Fire After Convicted Killer Walks Free
A convicted killer who gunned down a 41-year-old man outside a Palmdale restaurant six years ago is going free thanks to state reform laws and a new policy enacted by L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón. The development has outraged victims’ rights groups, as well as the slain man’s family.
Andrew Cachu was only a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday when he murdered Louis Amela. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to 50 years in prison. He’s been serving that sentence for just five years.
Under Proposition 57, approved by voters in 2016, Cachu was entitled to a hearing to determine if he should have remained in the juvenile system. Initially, prosecutors planned to argue in favor of the status quo. That changed when Gascón was elected, riding a wave of criminal justice reform. He vowed to keep all juvenile defenders in juvenile court.
At a recent hearing to determine whether Cachu should serve his full sentence, L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Alisa Blair did not present evidence. The judge “asked her if she wanted to present any evidence and asked if she wanted additional time to bring in witnesses,” the attorney for the Amelia family, Kathy Cady, explained. “She declined both.”
As a result, the judge said he had no choice but to release Cachu, a known gang member.
“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 told LAist.
Gascón is usually defiant in the face of criticism. But this time, he offered some contrition. The D.A. said it was never his office’s intention to see Cachu go free.
“We wanted him to go to the department of juvenile justice services of the state," Gascón said. "That didn't come through for a variety of reasons, and it's because the whole system is evolving. That's why we took the extra steps to work with the anti-recidivism coalition."
So why wasn’t evidence presented?
According to D.A. Spokesman spokesman Alex Bastian, both the D.A.’s Office and the Probation Department wanted Cachu transferred to the Division of Juvenile Justice but could find no witnesses to attest to any specific programming at DJJ that would benefit Cachu. “Understandably,” he added, “the probation report was also deficient in its ability to articulate specific programming as required by state law.”
Gascón met with victims of crime Tuesday to get their feedback. But it’s too little, too late for the Amela family.
“They feel as though that the only person the District Attorney's Office is concerned about is the murderer," their attorney told ABC News. "It really is just devastating and they feel as though justice has not been served in their case and that their voice is essentially being silenced."
Gascón’s progressive policies were the subject of a recent recall effort that failed to garner the required signatures. A new recall effort is expected to be launched in the coming months.