September 15, 2011
In front of the Antelope Valley Courthouse today The Community Action League (TCAL) leader called a press conference to announce a community forum on Saturday, September 16 at the Lancaster Moose Lodge. This forum will address the widespread concern in the community that too many youths are being charged with felonies for minor non-violent offenses, and the belief that local prosecutors are being paid extra money for each felony conviction they obtain. TCAL raised this new concern even as they are addressing other concerns related to section 8 housing fraud in a federal lawsuit. Two residents from Lancaster, TCAL and the California State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) are are named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in June claiming Lancaster and Palmdale officials engaged in racial discrimination in their pursuit of Section 8 fraud.
Steve Ipsen, a local prosecutor and past president of the prosecutor’s union was asked to address concerns by TCAL members that local prosecutors are corrupt and receiving illegal payments for handing down felony convictions. Ipsen stated that the accusations were entirely “false” and Deputy District Attorney’s are “hardworking and honest.” Ipsen said that there is a problem, but it is not the hard working prosecutors and sheriffs. He stated the felony statistics driven policies of the District Attorney’s Office is the problem because it limits Deputy DAs from doing the right thing and treating non-serious offenses as misdemeanors. He said the policies force Deputy DAs to seek felony convictions for minor crimes, especially in the Antelope Valley.
Ipsen called for an investigation by the Department of Justice and the citizens of Lancaster and Palmdale to address the issue properly. He stated that the citizens of Antelope Valley should do a public records request and inquire about the local policies and practices that are strikingly different from anywhere else in Los Angeles County. He noted that local prosecutors are forced to violate office policy and seek felony convictions, when in other areas of the county the same low level criminal conduct would routinely qualify for misdemeanor charges under written guidelines. Ipsen, a candidate for Los Angeles County District Attorney, stated, “I am exposing, as a candidate, what we are doing wrong” and encouraged TCAL members to address the discriminatory policies in the Antelope Valley courthouse.
The AV Press, a local newspaper covering the event, mentioned Steve Ipsen’s video called “Reform First” located on his campaign webpage. Here Ipsen outlines his program to reduce crime. Non-violent offenders will be required to work or perform community service so they will have money to repay their restitution and live a productive life rather then learn a new life, that of a hardened criminal, while in prison. He describes how a tax burden becomes a tax payer when the nonviolent offender gets out into the community and works. The AV Press mistakenly reported this press conference was a campaign event for Ipsen’s candidacy. Ipsen indicated that he was simply called by organizers and community members who saw him speaking about criminal justice reform, and asked to answer the communities concerns and allegations of corruption. He said he felt it important to correct this impression. Ipsen indicated that office policy forbid his speaking out as an employee, but that he was allowed by law to speak freely as a candidate and felt it important to do so to allay concerns over corruption.