EXCLUSIVE: Embattled Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón transferred top prosecutors who say they were demoted for publicly criticizing his soft-on-crime policies — including John McKinney who won a murder conviction against the man who killed rapper Nipsey Hussle in July, Fox News Digital has learned.
McKinney and John Lewin, both deputy district attorneys in the Major Crimes Division, and Jason Lustig, assistant head deputy attorney overseeing the Long Beach courthouse, learned Thursday that they would be shunted to low-level positions in two weeks; however, their salaries will not change.
McKinney announced in July that if Gascón was recalled, he would run as a candidate to replace him, and supported the removal effort, which failed to obtain enough signatures.
“The DA is reassigning me to retaliate against me for calling attention to the fact that he’s incompetent and not following the law in the state of California,” McKinney said.
“I am only a month and half away from having prosecuted one of the highest profile cases in our office in recent memory, and I’m being reassigned to a job of literally no consequence,” he said in reference to the Hussle murder case.
After 24 years in the district attorney’s office, McKinney was told by a supervisor on Thursday that he will be transferred to a small area office overseeing misdemeanor prosecutions.
“Gascón hopes no one will hear from me or see me when he tries to position himself for re-election in 2024,” McKinney said. “He has been playing politics with public safety for two years now. This act of retaliation will not silence me.”
McKinney’s current cases, including the gruesome stabbing death of UCLA graduate student Brianna Kupfer, will be reassigned.
Lewin, who won a conviction last year against late real-estate scion Robert Durst for the murder of Susan Berman, will be transferred to the Inglewood area office, which has a single felony courtroom.
Although it is unclear what the new position entails, it will likely not involve trying cases at all, a source said. Lewin declined to comment.
Lustig, who has been with the office 33 years, spearheaded the failed recall effort against Gascón, which McKinney and Lewin supported. The veteran prosecutor’s new post will be as a trial deputy in the Major Narcotics Division in downtown Los Angeles.
“It’s clear retaliation. I’ve been hurt professionally and economically, and it’s extremely stressful,” Lustig told Fox News Digital. “It’s taking me back to the position I held in 1994, my fifth year in the DA’s office.”
Although his pay will not change, the transfer essentially stymies any shot at a future promotion and increases his commute from seven to 30 miles, he said. Both McKinney and Lustig described their new positions as blatant demotions.
“They’re destroying morale, destroying operations of the office,” he railed. “They’re instilling fear in anyone who might have the courage to speak out against this DA and his policies.”
A spokesman for Gascón’s office said the transfers were not demotions. “The office routinely conducts personnel transfers,” the spokesman told Fox News Digital in a statement. “This transfer list included nearly 50 employees including new DDA hires. No employees were demoted during this process.”