Gascón’s Deputies Allege Bias Against Jewish Employees, Jewish Community

Twenty-four staffers have filed lawsuits against the first-term District Attorney
July 5, 2024
District Attorney George Gascon attends the 2024 WeHo Pride Parade on June 02, 2024 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

A 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office is speaking out against his boss, District Attorney George Gascón, alleging bias against the Jewish community.

Brian Schirn, a deputy DA who runs the Narcotics Division, told the Journal of growing concern in the District Attorney’s office that Gascón is intentionally neglecting issues affecting Los Angeles’ Jewish community, as well as allegedly discriminating against Jewish staff.

It was the paltry police response to the violent demonstration outside of Adas Torah synagogue on June 23 that prodded Schirn to speak out. “This is the first time that I have no confidence in our office treating a Jewish victim the same as anyone else,” he said. “I’ve worked here for over 30 years and I have younger Jewish lawyers walk into my office constantly and they’re concerned and scared about this administration. And so I decided that because I’ve worked here for so long that I have a responsibility to teach younger people to speak up. People who are working with me come into my office and are worried because they’re Jewish and they work here, concerned that they’re not going to be treated the same as anyone else. They see who he boasts about with his [campaign] endorsements. They see what he says in these cases. And they feel like that because they’re Jewish, that as long as Gascón is the DA, their career is going to stall too.”

People who are working with me come into my office and are worried because they’re Jewish and they work here, concerned that they’re not going to be treated the same as anyone else.” – ADA Brian Schirn

And Schirn is not the only one. He spoke about several retaliation lawsuits that have been 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 said. “And between a third to a half of the people suing are Jewish employees.” Schirn specifically pointed to the case of Amy Pentz, a Jewish attorney who has been in the DA’s office for over 20 years.

According to court documents, Victoria Adams offered Pentz — a founding member of the Jewish Prosecutor’s Association —  a position on the Equity Action Team (EAT), to be a representative for the Jewish community. After attending her first meeting with EAT, Pentz was removed by Chief Deputy District Attorney Sharon Woo under the pretext that there were too many lawyers on EAT. Pentz is suing Los Angeles County for whistleblower retaliation.” The complaint also alleges that “that such a tactic was a violation of [Woo’s] ethical duties as a prosecutor and a violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments.”

Despite numerous antisemitic incidents in Los Angeles since Oct. 7, Schirn and many others in the office are concerned about the lack of charges being filed when the victim is Jewish.

A search for “Jewish” on Gascón’s website turned up only a few results. Since Oct. 7, 2023, Gascón’s office has issued press releases about only three different antisemitic crimes in the county: on Oct. 27 a burglar who shouted “kill jews” at a family — Gascón’s office said it was a “racially-motivated attack.” On Dec. 12, the DA’s office announced charges against two men for committing antisemitic vandalism in Burbank and Glendale. On the same day, the DA’s office announced charges against a man for violently attacking a Jewish couple on their way to shul in Beverly Hills on Shabbat during Hanukkah. Following the late-April clashes at the pro-Palestinian encampments at UCLA, Gascón’s office only provided one press release on the matter. Almost two months later, Gascón referred to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office the case of an 18-year old counterprotester who allegedly assaulted an individual supporting the encampments.

“When it comes to people protesting, even when they’ve committed felony vandalisms or they’ve beaten that [pro-Israel] girl unconscious, he has even yet to consider anything,” Schirn said. “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.”

On March 14, the DA’s office created “the office’s first-ever Interfaith Advisory Board.” Representing the Jewish community are IKAR’s Rabbi Sharon Brous, Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Cohen of AJU, Rabbi Susan Goldberg of Nefesh, Rabbi Sarah Hronsky of Temple Beth Hillel and Rabbi Heather Miller, the founder of The Multitudes, an organization that focuses on Jews of Color.

Still, these actions haven’t allayed the widespread concerns.

Schirn pointed out that Gascón often comments publicly on international issues but has consistently refused to condemn Hamas. In the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks, members of Gascón’s staff have felt that the DA has not shown that he cares about terror against the Jewish community. On Oct. 11, the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys (LAADDA) called out Gascón for not making any comment on the attacks. While the attacks happened 7,500 miles outside of Gascón’s jurisdiction, the LAADDA said that throughout his term, he “has seldom missed a chance to insert himself into the news cycle” by commenting on the deaths of famous artists and politicians, Supreme Court decisions and international conflicts in Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The union’s letter wasn’t the only heated mail Gascón received from employees Oct. 11. On the  same day, 131 Jewish and non-Jewish current and retired employees of the DA’s office signed a letter asking for Gascón to acknowledge the concerns of the Jewish community and condemn Hamas.

The letter was provided to the Journal under condition of not publishing the names of the signatories:

Mr. Gascón,

We are appalled by your failure to condemn the unthinkable acts of terror against Israeli citizens and international visitors, perpetrated by Hamas, a United States designated terror organization.

In the early morning of 7 October 2023, trained terrorists of Hamas invaded Israel in an unprecedented attack and committed the following atrocities:

  • Raining thousands of missiles on civilian populations;
  • Assassinating over twelve hundred people, including at least twelve American citizens;
  • Murdering forty infants in one kibbutz, and severing many of their heads;
  • Slaughtering two hundred and sixty young people at a peace concert;
  • Murdering children in front of their parents, and parents in front of their children;
  • Gang raping women, and in at least one instance, parading the naked body of their rape victim;
  • Sending audio recordings of the women being raped to their families;
  • Posting photos of the mangled bodies of their victims on family member social media pages (in some instances, the parents’ DNA was required to identify the mutilated bodies);
  • Carving the fetus out of a pregnant woman’s uterus;
  • Taking over one hundred and fifty hostages, including children, the elderly and handicapped, a Holocaust survivor, and American citizens;

If just one of these acts had occurred in Los Angeles County, we would be horrified and expect vigorous prosecution.

To put this heinous terrorist attack in perspective:

  • The two hundred and sixty civilians killed at the Re’im music festival would be the largest mass shooting in U.S. history more than four times that of the Las Vegas massacre;
  • Proportionally, the more than twelve hundred massacred would be the equivalent of over thirty thousand U.S. citizens;
  • This is the largest loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust, almost all of whom were civilians;

Your Jewish attorneys and their colleagues are imploring you to explain why, since you comment publicly on virtually every newsworthy loss of life around the world, from an outbreak of war to the death of a beloved California senator, you have not seen fit to acknowledge, much less express condolences for the unimaginable terrorist actions of Hamas against civilians in Israel this past week. And why, when you repeatedly post on social media and train about the vicarious trauma we sustain while supporting victims of crime in Los Angeles, you have not offered the services of the Bureau of Victim Services (BVS) and Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counseling when so many of us have lost friends, relatives, friends of friends, or are simply reeling from generational trauma as the children and grandchildren of survivors of prior antisemitic mass murder? We are at a loss and await your response.

Later that day, Gascón responded to his staff via email:

Dear DA Family,

The brutal terrorist attacks on Israel have left the world shaken and many concerned for their safety both at home and abroad. I’ve spent the last few days connecting with faith leaders and law enforcement to express my commitment to ensuring public safety and that members of our community feel protected. There is no justification for these senseless and inconceivably cruel acts of violence against Israel. My heart goes out to everyone that has been impacted.

I know many in our DA family have been affected by this tragedy. I’ve spoken with our Peer Support Group and will make them available to any employee who seeks assistance. Please contact DDA Cynthia Nakao to be connected with a peer supporter.

We must stand together to support one another.

Please take care of yourself, your loved ones, and your community. Your safety and well-being are of utmost importance to us.



Schirn said that he’d be surprised if Gascón even uses the word “Jew” anytime between now and election day. Gascón’s lack of condemning Hamas is also becoming a campaign issue. Currently, Gascón is running for a second term as DA. His opponent, Nathan Hochman, spoke with the Journal about these allegations.

“It should not be hard for Gascón to strongly condemn antisemitism and the violence at the L.A. synagogue, as I and many leaders including Mayor Karen Bass and Governor Newsom have done,” Hochman said in a statement to the Journal. “It’s extremely concerning that Gascón apparently cares more about placating anti-Jewish extremists than he does about standing up for L.A.’s Jewish community.” He continued, “My support for our Jewish community and my strong stance against extremism and hate has been clear and unequivocal — something that cannot be said about Gascón and his lack of leadership on this and too many other issues.

Another employee at the DA’s office, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed major concerns for what Gascón’s continued ambivalence towards the Jewish community could lead to.

“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,” they said. “I didn’t know how bad it could get. Eventually, we’re just going to be the probation department.”

UPDATE 7/11/2024: Gascón’s office issued the following statement to the Journal.

“The District Attorney’s Office condemns all forms of hatred, including antisemitism and takes allegations of discrimination seriously. 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.

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. We are actively working to ensure that our equity and diversity panel reflects the broad spectrum of our community, including Jewish representation.

Our office is steadfast in its dedication to combating antisemitism and ensuring that all members of our community feel safe, respected, and represented. We will continue to listen to concerns and take necessary actions to uphold these values.”

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