Sister of slain Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy blasts new LA County DA over justice reforms

The sister of a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy who was fatally shot in the head last year is furious at the newly elected district attorney for downgrading charges against her brother’s killer that could see him freed from prison in 40 years.

Christina Solano on Monday blasted Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón for implementing reforms that could result in her brother’s killer one day being out on parole.

‘I’m completely in shock,’ she told Fox 11 TV. ‘I can’t even tell you. My heart just dropped.’

In June of last year, Joseph Gilbert Solano, 50, was shot in the back of the head by Rhett Nelson, 30, of Utah, at a Jack In The Box fast food restaurant in the Alhambra section of LA County.

Joseph lost all brain function and died a short time later at hospital.

Christina Solano

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón (left), the newly elected top prosecutor for the country’s most populous county, was blasted on Monday by Christina Solano (right), the sister of a slain LA Sheriff’s deputy

An hour before Nelson shot Solano, he fatally shot 31-year-old Dmitry Koltsov, professional skateboarder from Russia.

Both shootings appeared unprovoked and may have been random.

Nelson was also investigated in connection with a series of five armed robberies of convenience stores that occurred in the San Diego area last year.

Nelson has a history of mental illness and a history of opiate abuse, though he had been clean for about six months prior to the shootings, according to his family.

Gascón, who recently was elected to be the top prosecutor in the nation’s most populous county, has pledged to introduce sweeping criminal justice reform measures while in office.

One of those reforms is to eliminate so-called special circumstance allegations and enhancements.

These enhancements often require judges to impose stiffer prison sentences against a defendant beyond the normal range.

In Nelson’s case, Gascón’s office wants to dismiss all gun-related enhancements and special circumstances which likely would have resulted in a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

If a judge agrees to Gascón’s dismissal of the enhancements, Nelson could potentially be released after serving 40 years in prison.

The news outraged Christina.

‘[Gascón] should be there for the families,’she said.

‘We are the victims here, not this person who shot him.

‘I don’t understand what his purpose is to let these murderers out of jail, I don’t get it, he’s like the Devil, I don’t understand it.’

A spokesperson for Gascón told Fox 11: ‘The defendant is facing a sentence of 40 years to life in prison, but there is no sentence that can undo the harm caused in this case.

‘If convicted, there is a possibility that decades from now, the parole board could determine he’s been rehabilitated.

‘Such a determination, many years from now, would ultimately be a reflection of a system and the public alike weighing their continued interest in incarcerating a man who no longer poses a threat to society at an extraordinary taxpayer cost.

‘Eliminating that remote possibility today may not be in the public’s interest decades from now.’

Christina, however, said she is angry that Gascón never bothered to speak to her or her family.

‘He’s never come to me, never talked to me about my family, my brother, he should be there for us, not these crazy people in jail,’ she said.

‘It’s disgusting, and he’s disgusting.’

After taking office last Monday, Gascón vowed to do away with cash bail, abolish the death penalty, and re-evaluate sentences that can affect thousands of cases.

A former San Francisco district attorney and assistant Los Angeles police chief, Gascón has already drawn the ire of prosecutors in his own office, as well as members of the Los Angeles Police Department. 

Gascón also said his office would reevaluate and potentially resentence defendants who had been convicted with enhancements or California’s three-strike law, which requires state prison terms of 25 years to life. 

Gascón estimated such a move could affect at least 20,000 cases. 

Gascón additionally vowed to stop charging juveniles as adults, prohibit prosecutors from seeking the death penalty – including withdrawing capital punishment filings in current prosecutions – and reopen at least four investigations of controversial shootings by police in which his predecessor’s office had declined prosecutions.

The new district attorney said his prosecutors would no longer request cash bail for any misdemeanor crimes, as well as any felony offenses that are not serious and violent.

Defendants currently awaiting trial in jail ‘because they can’t afford to purchase their freedom’ may request new court hearings to be released, Gascón said.

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the union that represents the office’s prosecutors, previously opposed much of Gascón’s platform during the campaign.

‘The leadership has not reviewed the documents from the new DA, nor has the Board had an opportunity to discuss the proposals,’ the association said in a statement Monday.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which is for rank-and-file police officers and heavily supported Lacey, blasted Gascón new policies after his speech.

‘As homicides, shooting victims and shots fired into occupied homes soar in Los Angeles, it’s disturbing that Gascon’s first act in office is to explore every avenue possible to release from jail those responsible for this bloodshed,’ the union’s board of directors said in a statement Monday. 

‘These victims and law-abiding residents lost a voice today while criminals and gang members gained an ally in the prosecutor’s office.’

The district attorney’s office will also work to divert people into behavioral health services if they have been arrested on low-level offenses related to poverty, addiction, mental illness and homelessness. 

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