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Garcetti Calls for Stiffer Penalties for Evading Arrest

September 07, 2000

LOS ANGELES — One week after two men fled police and allegedly caused a head-on crash on the Century Freeway, Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti announced a proposal Wednesday to sharply stiffen penalties for evading arrest.

Garcetti, who is campaigning for a third term in office, said the Aug. 29 crash drove home the need for stronger laws to deter suspects from leading police on potentially dangerous chases. His opponent, head Deputy Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, accused Garcetti of exploiting the issue for political gain.

Such chases have become surprisingly frequent occurrences, Garcetti told reporters. "We're not talking about two or three cases," he said. "In 2 1/2 years, we charged 1,568 defendants with felony evading, and 740 have gone to state prison."

Garcetti said he would ask the Legislature to stiffen penalties so that, for instance, someone causing a serious injury while evading police would be sentenced to up to 10 years in state prison--double the current penalty. He said simple evasion, now a misdemeanor, could be charged as a felony--something that could help deter future chases.

Cooley questioned Garcetti's timing.

"I don't know if Mr. Garcetti realizes this or not, but the Legislature is no longer in session," he said. "Maybe his awakening has something to do with the fact that the election is 60 days away. It's another case of Gil-come-lately, and prosecuting by press conference."

Two men from South-Central Los Angeles have been arraigned on charges stemming from the Century Freeway crash, in which four people were injured, three seriously.

Daniel Jose Payan, 21, the alleged driver, was charged with seven counts, including evading arrest and felony assault. Rogelio Orozco, 25, was charged with the same seven counts--and an eighth of weapons possession.

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