FIRST ON FOX: A Los Angeles man who received no jail time and psychiatric distraction for a 2021 knife attack that nearly killed a construction worker is now charged with the murder of his neighbor.
According to law enforcement officials, Stefen Sutherland, 31, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon in November 2020 after slitting the throat of a construction worker for making noise.
A Los Angeles parole officer warned of the risk of further violence and urged a judge to send him to jail. But District Attorney George Gascon’s office instead sought diversionary tactics for the crime, which critics say was not charged with assault or attempted murder from the outset.
On May 23, Sutherland allegedly shot Jennifer Gomez 19 times in her home. The two previously clashed over noise complaints, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
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In a statement, Gascon’s office defended the suspect’s wrist slap following the stabbing.
“The defendant in this case met specific eligibility criteria for a mental distraction,” a Gascon spokesman said in a statement. “A court-appointed psychologist deemed him eligible for the treatment program, and our assistant district attorney approved the defense’s request for a mental health diversion.
“The court approved the treatment plan and found the defendant safe for community treatment. The defendant took part in it for almost two years [the] treatment program without problems. We are saddened by the recent allegations and our condolences go out to the victim and those who loved her.”
Gomez’s parents started GoFundMe to help meet her funeral expenses, but raised just over $300.
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According to assistant district attorneys in Gascon’s office, Sutherland could have faced a charge of attempted murder.
“One of Gascon’s manipulations is the prosecution,” said John Lewin, the prosecutor who put real estate heir and murderer Robert Durst behind bars. “They make it a discount with an attack with a deadly weapon and give him a distraction for his mental health. It doesn’t look as bad as attempted murder.”
According to Eric Siddall, vice president of the Los Angeles County Association of Deputy District Attorneys, it’s not just about Gascony. This stems from a long history of failure by state and local officials, he said.
“The best guess is that this person did have a serious mental illness, but you just can’t get someone who stabbed someone back out on the street,” he told Fox News Digital. “That is no solution. That is irresponsible.”
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To that end, a decade-old proposal to build prisons would have created 3,000 beds for violent mental patients, allowing them to be housed in diversionary programs without being allowed to harm the public, he said.
The planned facility should be completed by April. It was the solution put together by a bipartisan commission to replace an aging county jail. However, the plan was ultimately “torpedoed” by the county board of trustees, the old jail was demolished, and the county refused to build a new building.
“You can’t really blame Gascon for that,” Siddall said. “The state government passed a law that makes it basically impossible to stop anyone from getting a distraction, the state and county failed to invest in any type of mental health facility, and prosecutors like Gascon … all of that leads to a catastrophe in which people are injured.” are killed.”
Gomez’s killing comes weeks after another distractor was accused of the murder.
Jade Simone Brookfield, 23, was arrested in April and charged with murder in the knife death of 40-year-old Dennis Banner during an argument on a street.
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Brookfield’s criminal record included several previous assault charges, including stabbing a woman in the chest in 2020.
Like Sutherland, she received a mental distraction as punishment before being accused of killing someone.
Sutherland is due back in court on June 12. He was being held on $2 million bail.