California teen who rammed car into mother and infant child was on probation at time of incident
LOS ANGELES - The 17-year-old who pleaded guilty to driving a car into a woman walking her child in a stroller in Venice, California has a criminal background and was on probation at the time of the incident, Fox News has learned.
The teenager was previously convicted of felony poisoning after spiking a teenage girl's drink in 2019 at Palmdale High School, which sent her to the hospital.
The 17-year-old was charged with two felony charges of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury and one felony count of hit-and-run and pleaded guilty, but was sentenced to five to seven months in a juvenile probation camp. Prosecutors describe the camp as "less than a military school and a little bit tougher than a summer camp."
The hit-and-run took place on Aug. 6, 2021 and the driver was 16 at the time.
Surveillance video recorded the entire Aug. 6, 2021 hit-and-run incident in Venice, California.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office declined to charge the teenager with assault with a deadly weapon or attempted murder, and sources tell Fox News that the decision was made in accordance with George Gascón's policies.
Progressive Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón's first statement on the incident provided to Fox News Digital said that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department agreed with the charges and sentencing, but that was later walked back after Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva called out Gascón.
"Fortunately, the baby was uninjured, and the mother received a laceration to her elbow," his office initially told Fox News Digital Friday. "The Sheriff’s Department agreed with the felony charges that were filed. At arraignment, the minor admitted two felony counts of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury and one felony count of hit-and-run. The Probation Department recommended, and the court sentenced the minor to a youth camp for five to seven months, an appropriate resolution."
The statement added that juvenile justice is intended to "rehabilitate young people."
"In this case, this teen will be held accountable for his actions and receive the needed services to foster positive development to keep him from committing future offenses," the statement read.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón. (FOX 11)
On Saturday, Gascón's office corrected their initial statement, saying that the sheriff's office was not involved in the charging decision.
"Need to correct our statement from yesterday. LASD was not involved in the decision on the felony charge, as they were not the investigating agency in that case," a spokesperson for the district attorney's office said.
Villanueva had earlier said that his office was not consulted regarding the charges.
"We were never consulted as we were not the investigating agency," the Los Angeles official wrote on Facebook and Twitter early Saturday. "Sheriff’s investigators would never be OK with the lightweight sentencing in this hit-and-run case. Stop empowering and encouraging criminal behavior. Hold them accountable #VictimsMatter."
Jon Hatami, Los Angeles deputy district attorney, told Fox News that it looks "very negligent" that the public is just now learning from Gascón's office that the teenager was on probation at the time of the hit-and-run.
"As a district attorney, you have an obligation to be transparent," Hatami said.
Hatami also said that it's possible Gascón didn't tell the media about the probation on purpose.
Video surveillance caught the incident on camera, which shows the car hitting the mother, who was walking her child in a stroller.
The mother wrote in a victim's impact report that she thought "those were the last moments of our lives."
"I thought those were the last moments of our lives; we were dead," the mother, who asked to be identified only as Rachel, wrote in a victim’s impact statement. "That feeling, along with the memory of a car accelerating directly into us, will haunt me forever."
Rachel also told Fox News that Gascón and his staff "are highlighting their incompetence and their complete disregard for victims."
"Someone with a criminal record tried to kill me and my son, and George Gascón thinks that five months of camp is a sufficient punishment. Gascón’s office took the time to falsely comment on my case, but has taken no time to ask how we are doing. That’s because he doesn’t care. Gascón and his staff are highlighting their incompetence and their complete disregard for victims," she said.
Police sources say that the driver, who was 16 at the time, initially told police that the mother appeared out of nowhere and hit her on accident with the stolen car.
"As the car approached me and my child, I stopped walking and moved the stroller and myself up against a building on the right side of the road to ensure that we gave the reckless driver plenty of room to pass," Rachel said. "As the car got dangerously close to us, [the juvenile suspect] turned the wheels in our direction and accelerated as he aimed to kill us."
Rachel blasted Gascón for what she feels is an extremely light sentence.
"I was also told that his record would be wiped clean when he turns 18," she continued. "How on earth can that be? He tried to murder two innocent pedestrians. Murder. And we have video evidence. My child would be dead if I hadn’t been there to protect him."