Rafu Shimpo on July 2 decided to publish an editorial authored by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA), the collective bargaining unit for attorneys employed by the district attorney of Los Angeles, which actively seeks recall of District Attorney George Gascón. In publishing it, Rafu Shimpo remained responsible for independently verifying the facts stated in the piece.
There are two statements of facts that Rafu Shimpo could easily have discovered are incorrect.
The article blames policies adopted by Gascón for the release of a suspect in a “knife attack” against an Asian American shortly before the same suspect killed Dal Kuen Lee. However, as The Los Angeles Times reported, “Prosecutors said they used the same ‘threshold’ for determining what constitutes a felony assault as under previous administrations. They said the D.A.’s office ‘could only charge the assault as a felony if Mr. Woods used force likely to produce great bodily injury or used a deadly weapon.’
At the time, they said, they “did not believe the evidence was sufficient to establish [the hairpins] were used or intended to be used as deadly weapons.” That is, charging Woods with a misdemeanor for the sharpened hairpin attack was not a decision peculiar to Gascón’s administration.
The editorial also falsely states that Nicholas Weber, charged with battery/serious bodily injury for his attack against Gabriel Roque, could be released at a hearing scheduled for July 11. Rafu Shimpo could easily have reviewed the online calendar of the court and discovered that on July 11 Weber is scheduled to be arraigned on those charges, that there are also hearings scheduled for the revocation of probation stemming from other convictions. Rafu Shimpo could have accessed the Los Angeles Superior Court’s calendar online and recognized that the nature of hearings scheduled for July 11 was misrepresented. Release does not appear to be part of the agenda that day.
Readers of Rafu Shimpo are rightly concerned over the ongoing epidemic of violent crime against Asian Americans. The issue of how the District Attorney’s Office has responded is a matter which Rafu Shimpo can address. Nonetheless, the editorial does not describe any policy or decision by George Gascón that can reasonably be interpreted as leading to an increase in anti-Asian crime.
Even though Rafu Shimpo historically has never taken an editorial position on any public issue, the newspaper is not for that reason absolved from responsibility for the statements of fact asserted in opinion pieces submitted by others. I note that the same ADDA opinion piece appeared in several publications, but even the circulation of a piece is still no excuse for not verifying facts. Perhaps Rafu Shimpo could have printed a proviso that it had not verified the facts asserted in the piece, but the easier and better practice would have been not to publish it to begin with.
Gerald Masahiro Sato