Antisemitism, Los Angeles, George Gascón

Allegations of Anti-Jewish Bias Rock L.A. District Attorney's Office

Veteran prosecutor speaks out against Gascón's leadership.

George Gascón (Photo: Shutterstock / Maxim Elramsisy)

In a startling development that threatens to shake the foundations of Los Angeles County's justice system, veteran prosecutor Brian Schirn has come forward with allegations of bias against Jewish employees and the Jewish community within District Attorney George Gascón's office.

Schirn, a 30-year veteran who heads the Narcotics Division, paints a troubling picture of an office where Jewish staff members feel increasingly marginalized and fearful for their careers. "This is the first time that I have no confidence in our office treating a Jewish victim the same as anyone else," Schirn told the Journal, describing a work environment where younger Jewish lawyers regularly express concerns about discrimination.

The catalyst for Schirn's decision to speak out was the perceived inadequate response to a violent demonstration outside Adas Torah synagogue on June 30. This incident, he argues, is emblematic of a larger pattern of neglect towards issues affecting the Jewish community in Los Angeles.

Schirn's allegations are not isolated. He points to an unprecedented wave of retaliation lawsuits filed against the DA's office, with a disproportionate number involving Jewish employees. "There are about 24 people suing the DA office for retaliation, which is a remarkable, astounding number," Schirn revealed. "And between a third to a half of the people suing are Jewish employees."

One such case involves Amy Pentz, a Jewish attorney with over two decades of service in the DA's office. Court documents allege that Pentz, a founding member of the Jewish Prosecutor's Association, was removed from the Equity Action Team under questionable circumstances after attending just one meeting.

Despite numerous antisemitic incidents in Los Angeles since October 7, 2023, Schirn and many of his colleagues are deeply concerned about what they perceive as a lack of charges being filed when the victim is Jewish. A review of press releases from Gascón's office shows only a handful of statements addressing antisemitic crimes in the county over the past year.

"When it comes to people protesting, even when they've committed felony vandalisms or they've beaten that [pro-Israel] girl unconscious, he has yet to consider anything," Schirn stated. "So if you're a Jewish suspect, he's committed to prosecuting the counterprotestors. Everyone knows that we're Jewish. He's committed to using the full-force effects of the law. And then when you're a Jewish victim, he has refused to make the same commitment."

The concerns within the DA's office reached a boiling point on October 11, 2023, when 131 Jewish and non-Jewish current and retired employees signed a letter asking Gascón to acknowledge the concerns of the Jewish community and condemn Hamas following the October 7 attacks in Israel.

While Gascón did respond with an email expressing sympathy for those affected by the "brutal terrorist attacks on Israel," many staff members feel his response has been inadequate and inconsistent with his typical approach to commenting on international events.

As Gascón campaigns for a second term, these allegations have become a significant issue. His opponent, Nathan Hochman, has criticized Gascón's handling of antisemitism and violence against the Jewish community, promising a clearer stance against extremism and hate.

The controversy raises serious questions about the future of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office. One anonymous employee warned, "If we have another four years of Gascón, the DA's office is going to be non-functioning, we're barely hanging on right now."

The relationship between the LA County's DA and the Jewish community it serves has never looked shakier.

* The Jewish Journal contributed to this article.

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