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Convicted killer set free under Prop. 57 arrested on gun, drug charges

Dist. Atty. George Gascón speaks at a news conference
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón speaks a news conference outside the Hall of Justice in June 2021.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)
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A man who was convicted of murder as a teenager, then freed from prison last year because prosecutors under Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón did not object to his release, was arrested on suspicion of weapons and drug possession after leading police on a chase earlier this week.

Andres Cachu, 24, was charged Thursday with evading police, being a felon in possession of a gun and possession of cocaine and methamphetamine with intent to distribute, after he led sheriff’s deputies on a short chase, according to the district attorney’s office.

Deputies found Cachu asleep and slumped over the wheel of a car Tuesday afternoon, according to a statement released by Gascón’s office and jail records. When they woke him, the deputies noticed he had a firearm in his waistband and appeared to be intoxicated, the statement said.

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Cachu attempted to flee, but crashed a short time later and surrendered, prosecutors said. During the brief pursuit, he drove the wrong way on a freeway, according to a criminal complaint. The sheriff’s department did not respond to calls or e-mails seeking comment on the incident.

In 2016, Cachu was tried as an adult and convicted of fatally shooting a man in Palmdale the year before. Seventeen at the time of the killing, he was given a prison sentence of 50 years to life.

The same year, California voters approved Proposition 57, a sweeping criminal justice reform, which barred prosecutors from trying juveniles as adults without a judge’s approval and allowed felons like Cachu to seek new, more lenient sentences as juveniles.

When Cachu pursued a new sentence last year, prosecutors could have asked for a court hearing and left it up to a judge to decide whether Cachu should remain in state prison.

But Gascón had been elected as a progressive reformer and, as part of his plan to overhaul the district attorney’s office, he was opposed to trying juveniles as adults. Alisa Blair, a former public defender Gascón hired to design his juvenile justice policies, was in charge of Cachu’s case and declined to request a court hearing.

As a result, the case was transferred to juvenile court, where sentences typically do not keep a person in custody beyond the age of 25. Because of his age, Cachu was released.

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Blair did ask a judge to have Cachu sent to the state Department of Juvenile Justice, which often houses teens convicted of murder, attempted murder and other serious offenses, but the request was denied, according to the district attorney’s office. It was unclear how much longer Cachu could have been held.

While Gascón said he would not try juveniles as adults when he was elected, his stance on cases returned to his purview under Proposition 57 has been less absolute. As of last September, Gascón’s office had reviewed 17 cases, including Cachu’s, in which juveniles who were tried as adults sought to be resentenced through the voter initiative. In 12 of those cases, prosecutors declined to seek a court hearing, and the case was returned to juvenile court. In some of those cases, the defendant was set free.

In a statement, Gascón said he was “disappointed” in Cachu but defended his office’s handling of the prior murder case.

“Based upon the facts of the case and the individual characteristics of Mr. Cachu, we determined that we would not likely prevail in a transfer hearing because we could not prove that he would not have benefited from juvenile resources at the time of the original offense — again, as the law requires,” he said.

Earlier this year, Victor Bibiano — a 30-year-old man who was convicted of murder in adult court as a teen but resentenced as a juvenile via Proposition 57 — was arrested in connection with the April shooting death of a homeless man in Pacoima. Though prosecutors said Bibiano did not pull the trigger, he too was released after prosecutors declined to seek a court hearing and a bid to remand him to the Division of Juvenile Justice failed.

Blair declined to comment on Cachu’s arrest.

The district attorney’s office confirmed Thursday that Blair is leaving her position at the end of the month.

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“I am incredibly grateful for Alisa’s partnership and service over the last few years and will continue to rely on her partnership in our communities in her new endeavors,” Gascón said in a statement. “Alisa will always be an ally in the movement for criminal justice reform.”

In a lengthy statement on her departure, Blair praised Gascón and said she was thankful for the opportunity to “bring restorative justice diversion pathways for youth to the largest prosecutorial agency in the world.”

“I am in awe of the victims and survivors who have lost loved ones in unthinkable ways but were still willing to share their photos and stories with me as they advocated for the spectrum of justice,” she wrote. “I think about the victim of a drive-by shooting who told me he wanted the shooter released because he shared the same upbringing and understood it could have just as easily been him.”

Blair is the second close ally of Gascón’s to leave the office in recent memory. Special Advisor Alex Bastian, who worked for Gascón in San Francisco and largely led his communications team in L.A., resigned last month to become president of the Hotel Council of San Francisco.

The exits come as Gascón waits to find out if he will face a recall election later this year.

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