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Northridge shootings spur call for realignment legislation

December 11, 2012 | 10:44 pm

The slaying of four people at a Northridge boardinghouse prompted Los Angeles County supervisors to call for legislation that would prevent state prison inmates with a serious criminal history from being released to county supervision.

Realignment -- intended to help the state meet a federal mandate to reduce its prison population -- requires that some felons convicted of nonviolent offenses now serve their time in county jails rather than state prison. At the same time, some current prison inmates are released to county supervision rather than state parole.

Only the offender's most recent crime is considered when determining whether someone is eligible for realignment. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said Tuesday that he wanted the county to pursue legislation that would require the offender's complete criminal past to be considered.

“It is a loophole big enough to drive a Sherman tank through,” Yaroslavsky said of the current structure of the law.

Ka Pasasouk, who is accused in the slaying, was serving a prison sentence for unlawful taking of a vehicle before he was released to county probation. Prior to that however, he had been convicted of second-degree robbery and assault likely to produce great bodily injury.

Pasasouk was arrested on suspicion of drug possession while on probation, and the Probation Department had urged that he be sent back to state prison.

But prosecutors told the judge that Pasasouk was eligible for a drug diversion program under Proposition 36. The district attorney's office has since said this was an error. The judge ordered him to drug treatment rather than prison. Pasasouk later failed to report to his probation officer.

The supervisors directed the Probation Department Tuesday to prepare an in-depth report on Pasasouk's history and his interactions with state, local and federal agencies

County Probation Chief Jerry Powers said he did not believe that realignment was responsible for the Northridge killings, as Pasasouk would have been released in either case but would have been supervised by parole rather than county probation.

“The guy was an absconder. He had absconded on parole multiple times,” he said in an interview with The Times.

Yaroslavsky acknowledged that he could not say with certainty that the killings would have been prevented had Pasasouk been under parole supervision. "My argument has been that the parole department of the state is far better trained and equipped and experienced in dealing with people who have committed serious crimes."

Parole officers, for instance, carry guns, while probation officers in most cases do not, he said.

Powers said he did have concerns about the inmates who are serving their time in County Jail rather than state prison under realignment. Upon their release, in most cases, they are not under any form of supervision. Before realignment, those inmates would have been supervised by state parole after their release from prison.


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-- Abby Sewell