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Gascón's critics lambast D.A.'s handling of Palmdale juvenile sexual assault case

KNX 1070 News Radio Los Angeles logo KNX 1070 News Radio Los Angeles 1/15/2022 Knx News 97 1 Fm
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images © Provided by KNX 1070 News Radio Los Angeles Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (KNX) — A 26-year-old woman accused of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old child in Palmdale may receive a short sentence to juvenile hall, or else be granted probation, at a hearing scheduled for later this month.

The case of defendant Hannah Tubbs has triggered significant outrage among law enforcement, politicians, and community members in L.A. County who are critical of District Attorney George Gascón’s reformist stance on sentencing and incarceration.

Tubbs, who is transgender and identifies as female, was 17 years old when prosecutors alleged she sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl in the restroom of a Denny’s restaurant in Palmdale in 2014. She has pleaded guilty to the charge, but sentencing has been repeatedly delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tubbs was not arrested or identified at the time, leading the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to issue a $20,000 reward for information leading to a suspect’s arrest. She was eventually linked to the crime in 2019 when her DNA was collected by law enforcement in Idaho and entered into a database following an arrest on suspicion of battery.

The defendant was arrested on suspicion of battery, drug possession, and various probation violations in Idaho and Washington over the years. She is facing a pending misdemeanor charge in the latter. She was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in Kern County, where she also faced an allegation of sexual assault involving a minor that was never prosecuted, according to Lt. Richard Ruiz of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victims Bureau.

Tubbs was charged in L.A. County in 2020, shortly after Gascón was elected to the D.A.’s office. Gascón has consistently declined to try juvenile defendants as adults, citing psychiatric and neurological studies indicating that brain development isn’t complete until 25 years of age, and that the county risks further alienating young offenders who are still capable of being rehabilitated.

In interviews with the press, Gascón has characterized Tubbs’ case as  “complicated” by the elapse of time between the alleged crime and her arrest. The victim has since moved away from California and did not wish to testify at trial, according to the D.A.’s office. Tubbs has also reportedly been diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses and may be designated as developmentally disabled, according to emails obtained by The Los Angeles Times.

Finally, Gascón also expressed concern that Tubbs may be subject to assault if placed in an adault facility, due to her identity as a transgender woman. A probation report reportedly recommended she be sentenced to home confinement.

Questions also remain about where Tubbs should be housed. At 26, she is too old to be held in a county juvenile detention facility, which is where she would have been held had she been arrested at the time the crime was committed. California also lacks sufficient rehabilitative housing and programming for defendants like Tubbs.

Consequently, the Sheriff’s Department offered to house Tubbs in a county facility for adult offenders. Gascón has thus far dismissed the offer as a “Band-Aid.”

A judge will determine a final status on Tubbs’ case later this month.

“It’s useless to catch criminals like [Tubbs] if we don’t follow through and seek justice for victims such as the 10-year-old girl [she] sexually assaulted. She bears the burden of a lifetime of trauma,” L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents Palmdale, said in a statement. “[She] will be offered therapeutic interventions under the auspices of ‘restorative justice’ … and possibly granted only probation or parole. Where is the justice for [her] young victim and her family?”

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