A tough new program to crack down on adults who sell drugs near schools and use minors as their distributors was announced Monday by officials from Los Angeles County and the U.S. attorney's office.
The program takes advantage of the federal "School Yard Law," enacted last year, which provides a minimum penalty of one year in prison--without the possibility of probation--for anyone convicted of distributing drugs within 1,000 feet of a school. Maximum penalties for those with prior convictions could be as much as 80 years in prison.
"We're going into the schoolyard after these dealers and make a federal case out of it," Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner told a news conference held jointly by him, County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner.
Operating with $80,000 approved by the Board of Supervisors earlier this year, Reiner's office has assigned Deputy Dist. Atty. Susan Bryant-Deason to duty as a special prosecutor in Bonner's office.
While Bryant-Deason will handle the prosecutions in federal court, field investigations and arrests will be handled by narcotics officers from local law enforcement agencies.
Adult leaders of the Los Angeles street gangs that peddle drugs to schoolchildren will be a prime target of the county-federal effort, Reiner said.
"Law enforcement has so often focused on the big picture, but that's only part of the picture," Reiner said. "We will focus on the problem of small-scale drug sales--small individually, but massive overall."
Prosecution in federal court will mean "we can get much stiffer sentences and . . . we can bring cases to trial much faster by avoiding the delays in local courts," the district attorney said.
Two young San Fernando Valley adults were charged last May in what federal authorities said was the first action locally under the new law.
That federal grand jury indictment accused Laina Eileen Cormack, 18, and Michael Jon Enders Jr., 19, of selling cocaine from a residence across the street from the Diane S. Leichman High School for the disabled in Reseda.
The indictment did not allege that cocaine was sold to students but did allege that the pair sold cocaine to an undercover officer who posed as a student from another high school.
Cormack was sentenced on Oct. 16 to 60 days in prison after pleading guilty to lesser counts that did not carry a minimum sentence. Court proceedings are still pending against Enders.