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A California man who was previously serving a life prison sentence for a double murder but released due to a policy by Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon was arrested in relation to the April 16 killing of a transient.
The man, Victor Bibiano, 30, served eight years out of a life sentence handed down for a double murder because Gascon’s office declined to transfer the case from juvenile to adult court, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. He was recently taken into custody in May in relation to the killing of Mario Rodriguez, 40, who was found shot at a transient encampment in Pacoima, which is an area of Los Angeles.
When Bibiano was 17, he and two other people were convicted in an adult court in 2012 in relation to the killing of two gang members in Pacoima as well as wounding a third in 2009.
Initially, according to the report, Bibiano was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for shooting a firearm at an inhabited dwelling, attempted murder, and a special-circumstance double murder, but was released in 2021.
Due to Proposition 57, approved by voters of California in 2016, every minor convicted in adult court must receive an additional transfer hearing in order to determine if the individual should be tried as an adult. Bibiano’s transfer hearing was set to be in the fall of 2020 when his conviction in adult court was vacated, but due to Gascon’s ban on trying people in adult court if the crime was committed while they were a juvenile, the case wasn’t tried in adult court.
According to the report, Alysa Blair, a special assistant to Gascon who was previously at the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s office, was over Bibiano’s case and told the juvenile court judge that the District Attorney would not participate in his transfer hearing, according to Kathy Cady, who is a representative for a family of one of the murder victims.
Cady said, according to the report, that the decision from Blair came despite a memo from the Writs and Appeals Division of the District Attorney’s Office which said that California law requires that the court conducts a transfer hearing.
The juvenile system doesn’t house individuals who are over the age of 26, and with Bibiano in his late 20s, the judge didn’t have another option other than to release him.
In a statement to the Los Angeles Daily News, Gascon said that his office didn’t seek a transfer to adult court because it couldn’t prove that Bibiano would not have benefited from juvenile rehabilitative services when the original crimes were committed.
“Given that Bibiano had no prior delinquency record at the time of the homicides, he had no serious infractions while in prison, and he presented other confidential mitigating information, we determined we could not meet that burden,” Gascon said. “Bibiano remained in juvenile court. We requested a Division of Juvenile Justice commitment for two additional years. That request was granted but Division of Juvenile Justice rejected Mr. Bibiano. However, as part of his release plan, Bibiano had access to support and community resources.”
Gascon also said that evidence suggests Bibiano didn’t shoot or kill the transient.
“We have charged Victor Bibiano in connection with that crime, although evidence to date suggests he did not personally shoot or kill Mr. Rodriguez,” Gascon said. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of Mario Rodriguez.”
While Gascon acknowledged that people aren’t happy with his policies, he said that single tragedies can’t be used to write policy.
“I know that people are angry, and I am angry, too,” Gascon said. “But we cannot use single tragedies to make policy. One person’s failure cannot lead us to doubt the potential of everyone else. In other Los Angeles cases where juveniles previously sentenced to life have been released, including Mr. Bibiano’s original co-defendant, the results have been overwhelmingly positive.”
The district attorney also said that he “won’t play politics.”
“We will not play politics with this or any other tragedy. We are so sorry for those who lost a loved one, and we will make sure all those involved are held accountable,” he said.
The new revaluation comes after Justin William Flores allegedly killed two El Monte, California police officers on June 14. He had a previous strike conviction and also received two years of probation for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The sentence is aligned with the policies of Gascon, who has been taken to court over his refusal to prosecute three-strike cases.
The Gascon policy allowed Flores to plead no contest and then get a light sentence handed down, despite a strike being on his criminal record.