Jewish prosecutors in blue city blow whistle on alleged antisemitism in DA’s office

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A growing number of deputy district attorneys in Los Angeles says they have concerns about antisemitism in the office after months of silence on the issue from their boss, which culminated in clashes between anti-Israel agitators and counterprotesters outside a synagogue in a heavily Jewish neighborhood in the city.

Violence erupted outside the Adas Torah synagogue on Pico Boulevard last week, prompting condemnations from a range of prominent Democrats, including President Biden, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.

But according to a number of Los Angeles prosecutors, there was notable silence from the district attorney tasked with prosecuting criminal acts in connection to the clashes: George Gascon.

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“I hate going to work and entering a building where I feel like my boss will treat me differently simply because I’m Jewish, and that’s how I feel and many others feel,” said Brian Schirn, a veteran prosecutor helming the DA’s narcotics division.

Key issues Schirn and other deputy district attorneys brought up were Gascon’s slow response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel; his endorsements from local political groups accused of antisemitism, including the People’s City Council, a group dubbed “blatantly antisemitic” by the American Jewish Council’s Los Angeles chapter; and the fact that between a third and half of the nearly two dozen whistleblower retaliation lawsuits filed by fellow deputy district attorneys come from Jewish plaintiffs.

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They say he took an aggressive posture after pro-Israel counterprotesters joined the Adas Torah clashes, but not against the antisemitic mob that kicked things off. They say Jewish prosecutors have been passed over for more than a dozen promotions to prominent head deputy positions. And they say Gascon only addressed Hamas’ bloody Oct. 7 rampage in Israel after a letter from more than 130 employees asked him to do so.

In his response to the petition, he did not mention Hamas or use the term “antisemitism,” but in a statement to Fox News Digital, Gascon’s office condemned antisemitism by name and “all forms of hatred.”

“The District Attorney’s Office condemns all forms of hatred, including antisemitism and takes allegations of discrimination seriously,” a spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “Any suggestion that the DA’s Office is sympathetic to organizations that promote hatred, discrimination, violence, or terrorism is unfounded. Our approach to prosecuting demonstrations and counterprotests is driven solely by the principles of law and justice, without any bias toward any group.”

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According to one of the retaliation lawsuits, Deputy District Attorney Amy Pentz, who is Jewish, was invited to join the office’s “Equity Action Team.” After just one meeting, in which she thanked the panel for including her and said she was concerned about antisemitism, she was kicked out of the group “under the pretext that there were too many lawyers” on the panel, according to court documents.

Another deputy DA suing over alleged retaliation is John Lewin, a veteran cold case prosecutor who recently came home from leave early to help with a murder trial.

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“I have no idea what George Gascon personally believes, but from what I can tell, he doesn’t personally believe anything other than what will further his political ambition,” said Lewin, who is Jewish. “Whether he is antisemitic in his heart, I have no idea. But the people around him and the groups that support him absolutely are.”

He said he takes issue with Gascon seeming to dismiss allegations against anti-Israel protesters who camped out at UCLA before allegedly saying he’d go after counterprotesters “to the fullest extent of the law.”

Video of the synagogue standoff shows anti-Israel protesters and counterprotesters brawling. At one point, a woman could be seen on the ground curled up in a fetal position as a mob kicks her while she’s down.

“The fact that he would outwardly say that he would treat cases with Jewish suspects with the full force of the law, and on the other hand talk about how he wasn’t going to do anything to protesters, is shameful and an overt sign of antisemitism,” Schirn said. “And everything he’s done from the endorsements he’s accepted with people that are so vocally full of Jewish hate through his actions as district attorney are appalling, and the public needs to know so that when they vote, they’re informed as to what this district attorney will and will not do.” 

Gascon’s challenger in the upcoming election, Nathan Hochman, argued that the incumbent’s silence on antisemitic protests on college campuses and outside the Adas Torah synagogue sends the wrong signal to people behind them.

“Vile and reprehensible” speech is protected by the First Amendment, he said, but rioting, violence and hate crimes are not.

And when words transition into illegal conduct, it’s the DA’s responsibility to do something about it, he added.

“You had President Biden weighing in on the Adas Torah synagogue Sunday, Gov. Newsom calling it appalling, Mayor Bass calling it abhorrent,” Hochman told Fox News Digital. “But one person was missing, the person in charge of all prosecutions, all felony prosecutions – the district attorney. His staying silent in the background, not just in connection with this incident, emboldens criminals,” Hochman said.

Gascon’s office denied allegations of antisemitism and said it was working to expand the Equity Action Team once again.

“Regarding promotions and representation within our office, we are dedicated to a fair and transparent process that values the qualifications and contributions of all our employees,” the statement continued. “We are actively working to ensure that our equity and diversity panel reflects the broad spectrum of our community, including Jewish representation.”

Hochman countered that the highest levels of the DA’s office are filled with unqualified personnel.

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Gascon’s No. 2 is Chief Deputy DA Joseph Iniguez, who can be seen in recently released video footage arguing with police as they tried to conduct a field sobriety test on this then-fiance. His former No. 3, Diana Teran, is facing 11 felony charges. And his chief of staff, Tiffiny Blacknell, is a former public defender who has been criticized for calling for an end to prisons, calling police “barbarians” and claiming to have been a looter during the 1992 Rodney King riots while bashing “Westside White liberals.”

“The fact that these three people who lead the DA’s office under Gascon are either unqualified, underqualified or right now being charged with criminal conduct is an indication of the catastrophic incompetence by which Gascon has run that office,” Hochman told Fox News Digital. “And if you add in the 20-plus lawsuits of people he has retaliated against, it just helps cement the truth that Gascon does not deserve to be the DA and can’t actually function as an effective DA.”

Fox News’ Bradford Betz contributed to this report.