Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The City Attorney’s “SAUSA Project”

Last year, the City Attorney's Office and United States Attorney Tom O’Brien established a partnership between the prosecutors in the City Attorney’s Gang Division and the gang prosecutors in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California (the “USAO”) to prosecute dangerous and violent gang members in the City of Los Angeles by cross-designating and deputizing a number of experienced city prosecutors as Special Assistant United States Attorneys (“SAUSAs”).

These cross-designated SAUSAs work full time in the Criminal Division of the USAO and prosecute cases involving gang members from the City of Los Angeles who qualify for federal felony prosecution. Currently, the City Attorney’s Office has five prosecutors deputized as SAUSAs; two work for the federal Project Safe Neighborhoods Program and prosecute federal felony cases involving gang members with firearms, a third SAUSA prosecutes cases involving gang members who have committed violations of federal immigration law, and the two other SAUSAs prosecute federal cases involving forfeiture of gang members’ illegally obtained assets. All five existing SAUSAs work exclusively on felony cases arising in the City of Los Angeles. This unique partnership significantly increases the resources of the federal government dedicated to safety and security and brings them to bear on behalf of the residents of Los Angeles.

The project is directed by the USAO’s Gang Coordinator and Project Safe Neighborhoods Coordinator, as well as the City Attorney’s Director of Gang Operations, to ensure that the most serious gang offenders are targeted for prosecution. In every case prosecuted successfully by these SAUSAs, the convicted gang members will receive significantly longer sentences than they would receive in the state system and they will be incarcerated in federal prisons under federal supervision where they will not be eligible for parole. The result is that the truly hard-core gang offenders are removed from the local communities they terrorize and, where appropriate, the illegal proceeds of their criminal activities are seized.

Some of you no doubt saw coverage of this office’s recent filing of four gang and narcotics abatement lawsuits seeking restrictions, evictions and physical improvements on five South Los Angeles properties known to be hubs of drug activity for the Black P Stone and Rolling 20s criminal street gangs. This coordinated action was the direct result of the City Attorney’s partnership with federal authorities.

In this joint federal and local action, it was a Deputy City Attorney - acting as a SAUSA - who charged the persons responsible for the sale of the illegal firearms with federal firearms violations that could result, if convicted, in lengthy federal prison sentences.

According to federal authorities, many of the illegal guns seized in the Black P Stones and Rolling 20s sweep were purchased in Arizona and transported to LA in as little as two days time. Overall, this seizure resulted in 119 illegal firearms being removed from the South LA community. The two day sweep also resulted in the arrest of 38 gang members and associates.

The gang takedown was a collaborative effort conducted by the Baldwin Village Task Force, which consists of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, LAPD’s Southwest Division, the United States Attorney’s Office, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. Our thanks go out to these agencies for their on-going efforts to make Los Angeles safer.