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Friday, August 5, 2011

George Gascón Criticized for Considering Three Strikes Law in Alex Trebek Burglary

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2011 at 4:00 PM

click to enlarge Will he strike out with voters?
  • Will he strike out with voters?
Update: District Attorney George Gascón's campaign manager Maureen Erwin told SF Weekly today that she believes David Onek's campaign incorrectly propagated information that Gascón chose to prosecute Lucinda Moyers under the Three Strikes law.

"From a campaign's standpoint, his opponent has put out something that's not accurate," Erwin said.

Onek's original statement said: "Interim District Attorney George Gascón has charged Lucinda Moyers, who allegedly burglarized the hotel room of Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, under California's Three Strikes law, which could lead to a sentence of 25 years to life in prison."

It seems Moyers, who was already convicted in 1990 and 1991 for residential burglary, believed this herself, telling the Chronicle the same thing earlier this week:

Dabbing her face with a crumpled paper napkin, Lucinda Moyers said she had just been told that prosecutors would charge her under the state's "three strikes and you're out" law.

"I'm facing a life sentence," the 56-year-old Moyers choked out. "I'm never going to see life again outside if I'm found guilty."

Bergen Kenny, spokeswoman for Onek, said this was the passage that spurred the campaign's criticism of Gascón.

"This article makes it clear that Lucinda was told that prosecutors would charge her under the state's 'three strikes and you're out' law," Kenny said. "That seems clear enough."

Though the Chronicle article did not outright say whether Moyers was misinformed or mistaken, it went on to suggest that the District Attorney's Office had yet to confirm whether it would indeed apply Three Strikes in Moyers' case. Spokeswoman Erica Terry Derryck says that "as in all three-strike cases, prosecutors would review its tentative decision to count the two previous felonies as strikes."

In other words, Moyers' two existing strikes, plus charges of a third strike, make her an eligible candidate, but prosecutors can decide to "strike" the previous strikes.  

When presented with the suggestion that perhaps it was the Chronicle article and not the DA's office that was unclear, Kenny said she wasn't ruling Gascón out as the cause of dissonance. 

"If George Gascón has changed his position on this, we're not surprised, because he's changed his position on quite a few things -- from the death penalty to medical marijuana," she says. "So, if he's not happy, we'll just wait until tomorrow. I'm sure he'll have another position on this." 

Derryck told SF Weekly that her office has so far alleged only that Moyers committed another residential burglary, and emphasized that a decision of whether to try her under the Three Strikes law probably won't happen until after her preliminary hearing.

 "I have no knowledge of or information about what conversation Ms. Moyers had with prosecutors or not," Derryck says. "I don't know if she is characterizing information that her attorney presented to her. I have no idea, because I'm not Ms. Moyers."

We've contacted Moyers' attorney to find out what was conveyed to her, and are waiting to hear back. 

Original story: District Attorney George Gascón is taking heat from his opponent in the DA's race for considering a hefty sentence against the woman accused of burglarizing popular gameshow host Alex Trebek's hotel room last week.

Lucinda Moyers, charged with stealing from the Jeopardy! star in the middle of the night, could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted under California's Three Strikes law.

District Attorney hopeful David Onek said the punishment does not fit the crime. He released a statement that said using the law against Moyers is "inappropriate." It should be reserved, he said, for more serious felonies.

"Moyers is 56 years old. Does it make any fiscal sense to keep her locked up into her seventies and eighties at an average cost of $47,000 per year -- and likely more as she has greater health care needs as she ages?"

SF Weekly asked political consultant Jim Ross whether a decision to use the Three Strikes law could confuse voters further about his liberal credentials. Readers will recall it was less than a year ago that Gascón quietly switched parties, registering as a Democrat. He had been a longtime Republican, and upon being appointed DA, he told reporters he was more than comfortable with the death penalty in certain cases. But as he worked to polish his liberal credentials, he decided to host his campaign kickoff for district attorney in the Castro with Supervisor Scott Wiener and former Supervisor Bevan Dufty by his side.

But Ross said he doubts voters will arrive at any broad ideological conclusions because of this.

"I think the timing is, of course, unfortunate. There's been a lot of recent coverage about how the three strikes ordinance is not just," he says.

Still, it's good for Onek to bring up the issue, even if it's not a decision that Gascón has a lot of control over: "Onek is really staking out this center-left territory, and going after the three strikes law is probably not only good policy, but also a good position for him politically."

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