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LA District Attorneys admit fault in Northridge suspect case

NBC LA

Investigators corral the Northridge home where four were found dead in the Sunday morning fog.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office says its prosecutors made a mistake when they told a judge in September that a man was eligible for a drug rehab program instead of prison time. That man is now the lead suspect in a four murders that happened last week in Northridge.

Ka Pasasouk, 31, is awaiting extradition in a Las Vegas jail with three other suspects in connection with the fatal shootings of four people at an unlicensed boarding home in Northridge on Dec. 2.

Court records indicate that Pasasouk has a criminal history of drug, robbery and theft convictions. He was on probation at the time of the alleged killings.

In a statement released by the DA’s office, spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons wrote, “the office inadvertently erred in indicating the defendant was eligible for a Proposition 36 drug program.”

A dozen years ago, California voters passed Proposition 36. It allowed drug offenders to enroll in an 18-month drug rehabilitation diversion program instead of prison time. The offenders are allowed to complete the program out of custody but are required to report back to the court on their progress.

Deputy Chief of Adult Services Reaver Bingham with L.A. County Probation said the department recommended that the judge at that September hearing deny probation for Pasasouk and send him to state prison.

Bingham said Pasasouk had missed several appointments beginning in February with probation officers and had not tried to contact officers until his September arrest on suspicion of meth possession.

“We deemed him as unsuitable for community supervision,” Bingham said, “that he had already demonstrated a history of non-compliance and he was a potential threat to the safety and tranquility of the community.”

Bingham said a judge granted probation to Pasasouk and he continued to miss appointments with probation officers.

The LA Daily News reports that Pasasouk had several fortunate chances - including a judge's decision not to sentence him as a second-striker in a 2010 theft case. He had been convicted of robbery in 2006.

Pasasouk’s long and complex criminal history has already sparked debate among political players about California’s criminal justice laws.

Last week, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander introduced a resolution to encourage state lawmakers to amend California’s realignment law that shifts some state prisoners to county jails. It also transfers some prisoners to local county probation monitoring instead of state parole after prisoners are released.

L.A. County Supervisors are also calling for scrutiny. They urged the county’s chief probation officer to report to the board this week and explain Pasasouk’s criminal history and his time under probation monitoring.

In the written statement, DA spokeswoman Gibbons said the district attorney's offices throughout L.A. County will address training issues raised during the review of Pasasouk’s case.

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