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D.A. to review case of homeless woman facing life in prison for hoisting police baton

D.A. to review case of homeless woman facing life in prison for hoisting police baton
Trishawn Cardessa Carey listens to her lawyer during a bail hearing Wednesday. “I was in the wrong place and around the wrong people,” she said earlier this week. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said Thursday she will review the case of a mentally ill homeless woman who faces decades in prison after picking up an LAPD officer's baton and raising it into the air during a violent skid row incident earlier this year.

"Shortly after the case was filed, the District Attorney became aware that charges were pending against Ms. Carey," Lacey's office said.  She didn't learn of the specific charges or that the defendant was mentally ill until this week.  The District Attorney has asked her managers to review the matter."

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Trishawn Cardessa Carey, 34, has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon against a police officer and resisting arrest, and could face 25 years to life in prison under California's three-strikes sentencing law for repeat offenders.

After nearly five months in jail, Carey was granted a reduction in bail late Wednesday afternoon, to $50,000 from just over $1 million.

Lacey this week announced details of an ambitious plan to keep more mentally ill people out of jail and to get them help instead.

Late Thursday afternoon, the DA's office said Lacey "didn't learn of the specific charges or that the defendant was mentally ill until this week," and had asked managers to review the case.

The long-awaited plan, which was discussed at a public safety meeting Wednesday, focuses on training law enforcement in how to de-escalate encounters with mentally ill people and opening treatment-based housing.

Carey's supporters, about a dozen of whom showed up in Los Angeles County Superior Court for the hearing, tie her case to the national movement against mass incarceration of black people, which got a boost this month in a speech by President Obama.

"These excessive charges are just updated Jim Crow," said Suzette Shaw, a member of Los Angeles Community Action Network's Downtown Women's Action Coalition.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Gregory Denton rejected the characterization. "It's just one woman charged here," he said.

Whether she ends up in prison for decades may ultimately hinge on the video.

The footage shows Carey briefly lifting the baton as police scuffle with Keunang nearby. It does not show her swinging the club or striking anyone, and the prosecutor says he won't try to prove she did so.

Instead, Denton said he will argue that Carey attempted to attack an officer by "picking up the officer's baton and raising the baton to strike the officer."

"An attempt to strike someone is assault," Denton said. "There's no mystery here. The reality is all the conduct involved in this case is on the video."

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