Prosecutors banned from ‘Subterranean Rapist’ parole hearing after LA County DA rolls out ‘reforms’

LOS ANGELES, CA – In a case that highlights the legal turmoil inside the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, prosecutors have been barred from an upcoming parole hearing for the notorious “Subterranean Rapist.”

Now victims and prosecutors are speaking out against the new DA’s policies.

James Edward Hughes, the convicted serial rapist known as the “Subterranean Rapist,” terrorized Los Angeles 40 years ago.

Given his moniker for using underground parking garages to rape some of his 50 victims, Hughes was convicted and sentenced to 94 years in prison.

Since that conviction, he has been denied parole twice and has a new parole hearing coming up in April.

During that parole hearing, the victims will have to face the parole board alone, because prosecutors have been ordered not to attend by District Attorney George Gascón.

When DA Gascón took office in December, he banned prosecutors from attending parole hearings as part of a series of controversial criminal justice reforms. Other reform orders included not seeking the death penalty and trying juveniles as adults.

He also ordered that no cash bail be requested in any case and banned sentence enhancement requests.

One of Hughes’ victims was only 19 when he stabbed and raped her in an underground parking garage. She told FOX 11 News that she feels abandoned by the District Attorney:

“You represent the people, and you will not be there for me. To be completely abandoned… he hasn’t even served half of his sentence, which for the life of me I can’t even understand.

“To be abandoned at this juncture and thrown into a completely vulnerable situation… this has been a huge setback for me.”

The victim described how she was attacked by Hughes, who was out on parole for a prior rape conviction:

“Just really, really hard to talk about, even to this day, 40 years later.

“I pulled back into my subterranean garage and he was just there,” Jane recalled. “He popped up from behind a car. He was holding a very large kitchen knife like something you see in a movie.

“He repeatedly told me he was going to kill me. I was stabbed during the attack as well… it was beyond terrifying.”

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Alex Bastian, a special adviser to the District Attorney, released a statement saying that the prosecutor’s responsibility ends when the defendant is sentenced.  Stating that it is statistically likely that Hughes will not be paroled, the statement read:

“The role of a prosecutor, and their access to information ends at sentencing. The Parole Board, however, has all the pertinent facts and evaluations at their disposal. The Parole Board’s sole purpose is to objectively determine whether someone is suitable for release.

“Both times before, this particular individual has been denied parole. Once again, there is no indication that this person will be released, as the parole board denies release in over 85% of cases.”

 The victim’s attorney disagreed. Attorney Michael Latin said Gascón is silencing the victim:

“When a rapist rapes a victim, the way he does it is he silences the victim so that nobody hears her screams. And here we are, 40 years later, and she’s getting silenced again, but by the DA, the person whose job it is to stand by her and to protect her.”

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys of Los Angeles has filed a suit to stop some of DA Gascón reforms.

While the DA has the discretion to decide what charges are filed in a case, the prosecutors’ union’s Vice President, Deputy District Attorney Eric Siddall said the DA has placed prosecutors “in an impossible position”:

“Do we follow our legal and ethical responsibilities and risk getting disciplined, even fired, by our new boss? Or do we follow his policy directives and risk losing our California State Bar cards and, by extension, our ability to practice law anywhere in the state? We’re asking a court to answer those questions.”

One of the reforms the lawsuit focused on was the DA’s order ending sentence enhancement requests. However, California has a Three Strikes Law, which states that anyone convicted of two criminal charges can see an enhancement that can increase their sentence to 25 years to life in prison.

When the order was announced, L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz pushed back, saying hate crime sentencing enhancements were necessary as the community faced a record number of hate crimes against transgender people.

Gascón caved to the council pressure and reversed the order when dealing with crimes committed against the “most vulnerable” including children and the elderly, and for hate crimes. However, he did not remove the directive entirely and is still violating state law, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors claim in the lawsuit:

“Simply put, none of them may be alleged or proven by county prosecutors under any circumstances, regardless of the evidence or other circumstances. Accordingly, prosecutors have a ministerial duty to allege all prior convictions under the Three Strikes Law.

Respondents have refused, and are refusing, to perform this duty.”

An L.A. County judge issued an order on Wednesday directing Gascón to show why the criminal justice reforms he enacted should not be blocked. Gascón issued a statement following Judge Cowan’s order:

“The will of the voters must not be mistaken as a commentary on the hundreds of deputy DAs who labor, day in and day out, to protect the public. They are public servants who have earned our utmost respect and gratitude. 

They certainly have mine — and a sincere invitation to join me in making these much-needed changes.”

The lawsuit is not the only negative reaction Gascón is facing for his reforms. District Attorneys in other jurisdictions have said they will not share cases with him. Vice President Siddall summed up the issue from the prosecutor’s side:

“You can’t just use the law to implement your personal worldview of what society should look like.

The idea of one man coming in and saying, ‘You all are wrong, and this is what the law should be,’ is kind of counter to what our entire American system of justice is all about. It’s the antithesis of the rule of law.”

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Author: Scott A. Davis

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