SACRAMENTO – California Assembly Public Safety Committee Vice Chair Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) called on U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Robert S. Brewer Jr. on Monday to file federal hate crimes charges and pursue the death penalty against John T. Earnest, the suspect in the Chabad of Poway synagogue attack.
Lackey cited California’s unwillingness to impose the death penalty and lax sentencing laws for young offenders as reasons to pursue justice on the federal level.
“We need to send a message – religiously motivated violence has no place in our society,” Lackey said. “Unfortunately, ill-conceived laws to weaken sentences for violent criminals do the exact opposite. If California won’t stand up against this kind of violence, the federal government should.”
Earlier this year, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he would refuse to carry out death sentences for the more than 700 inmates currently on death row. He has also indicated that he may prohibit California prosecutors from pursuing the death penalty in state court.
Due to the shooter’s age, if he is convicted in state court and sentenced to anything less than life without the possibility of parole, he will be eligible for release after 25 years under the state’s “youthful offender parole hearing” program.
A proposal currently before the Legislature, AB 965 (Stone), would allow the shooter to earn early release credits off his sentence, creating the possibility that he could be released after serving less than 12 years in custody. That would result in the shooter returning to the streets before his youngest victim graduates college.
A copy of Lackey’s letter to U.S. Attorney Brewer is available here.
Lackey represents the 36th Assembly District, which contains portions of Kern, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties, including the communities of Lancaster, Palmdale, Quartz Hill, Acton, Littlerock, Lake Los Angeles, Pearblossom, Mojave, Rosamond, California City, Phelan and Piñon Hills. He is a 28-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol.