Kary Antholis:

Welcome to Jury Duty, a podcast from Crime Story Media. We are joined today by my colleague Molly Miller.

Molly Miller:

Hello.

Kary Antholis:

And our very special guest is Rachel Rossi, candidate for… Our guest is Rachel Rossi, candidate for district attorney of Los Angeles. Rachel, welcome. Thank you for being here with us today.

Rachel Rossi:

Thanks so much for having me. Glad to be here.

Kary Antholis:

What I’d like to do today is focus on your narrative, your story. Beginning with where you grew up, what your upbringing was like, what were the formative moments in your education and your upbringing? Who were the people who were influential on you? And what was your path… What is the path that brought you to where you are today, running for district attorney for Los Angeles?

Rachel Rossi:

Great. Looking forward to talking about it.

Kary Antholis:

Why don’t you start at the beginning? 

Rachel Rossi:

Sure, sure. So, I was born in New York, but grew up in the San Gabriel Valley area of LA. A very non traditional but very traditional story of American dream, I would say. So, my parents are both immigrants, my dad from the Dominican Republic and my mom from Greece. Moving to LA at a young age and living in a place where being Afro/Latina is a rare thing, made for a very interesting upbringing. Because I think in LA County, when I was growing up, it was very divided between black or Latino, and you had to choose. So, growing up it felt like I always had to explain who I was, and had to prove why I am Latina and I am black. And I’m also Greek, and I’m also so many things.

Rachel Rossi:

So, I think one of the strengths that my upbringing has given me is that I can speak to a lot of different people. I have a very non traditional background, where I don’t really cleanly fit into a lot of the lines. Another interesting thing about my background, my parents grew up in the church, and my dad is not a pastor. My father was working in Christian education growing up, and so I went to Christian universities, and people find that baffling as well, because I am a very, very progressive public defender. I worked for Democrats in Congress and for a lot of people who may try to place me into one box or another, it’s hard for them to do that. Because I have so many different facets to me.

Molly Miller:

And does your faith influence how you view criminal justice reform?

Rachel Rossi:

I think it does. I think it views… It shapes my world view, but a lot of what you think about when you think about criminal justice reform is justice and safety but also second chances and redemption. I think there’s a place for both. So, for me growing up at a very young age, when I walked into a jail for the first time as an intern, an undergraduate intern in college, and I saw only black and brown people incarcerated, for me it was very jarring. Because this wasn’t something that I grew up with, it wasn’t something that I personally had experienced. And walking into that jail cell I thought to myself, this isn’t right. I don’t know what’s wrong here but this isn’t right. And that’s what pushed me toward wanting to be in this field, and wanting to fight for change, and wanting to really seek reform in the justice system.

Kary Antholis:

Who, that you can remember, were the folks that influenced you, both as mentors and as writers, thinkers?

Rachel Rossi:

I think that internship was a big start. I had a professor in college who was very good… It was a sociology class but she was very good about bringing in justice system impacted people. And at a Christian university that was not common, but she would bring in wrongfully convicted people, she would bring in people who had gone through the juvenile justice system. And when I told her this is… Something is wrong here and I want to fight this, I don’t know how, she set up an internship for me in the public defenders’ office. So, that was my first glimpse into this world. And that’s why I decided to go to law school. Before that, to be completely honest, I never saw myself as a lawyer. It just wasn’t something that I thought of. And then once I saw the power of what a public defender could fight for, that’s what made me go to law school.

Molly Miller:

What did you see yourself as before?

Rachel Rossi:

I always was focused on service, but it was very, maybe, sheltered. A lot of it was focused on the church. A lot of it was focused on giving back in volunteer ways, very connected to the church. I would lead a worship and sing, and I thought maybe something in music, I don’t know. But I didn’t really have a clear vision of what I wanted to do but I knew it had to be in service.

Molly Miller:

So, when you decided to go to law school, the entire time, did you know you wanted to come out and be a public defender?

Rachel Rossi:

That was the goal, yes. And so, one of the interesting things I did when I was in law school, I was confident that I would be a public defender, so I thought to myself, how can I get the broadest range of experience and understanding in the criminal justice system, not as a public defender? I already knew that was what I wanted to do. So, I didn’t intern in a public defenders’ office, in the county public defenders’ office in law school, but I did… I worked with the California Appellate Project, on death penalty work. I worked in the DA’s office, in the sex crimes unit, in the preliminary hearings unit. I studied abroad and worked in London at an international criminal defense and human rights solicitors firm. And so one of the things I really wanted to do was get a broader understanding from different sides of the system in order to be a better public defender at that time.

Kary Antholis:

Fascinating. And when you were in law school, you went to Pepperdine Law School, is that right?

Rachel Rossi:

Yes.

Kary Antholis:

And when you were there what were the things that you read, who were the people, who were the thinkers beyond your professors that influenced how you saw the world, and how you saw what might be possible in terms of making our system more just?

Rachel Rossi:

I think it was the experiences that I had in all of these different offices. Seeing things from different perspectives. I would say one of the fascinating experiences I had when I was in London studying abroad, was seeing how barristers in UK courtrooms, they might one day be prosecuting and the next day defending. The way that it works is the solicitor handles the writing and the motions and all of that, and a barrister is an employee of the court, who could be prosecuting one day and defending the next day. And to me, it just seemed, well, this creates a fairer system because a prosecutor understands what it’s like to be standing with someone accused. And when you’re defending someone you understand the pressures that a prosecutor has to face. So, to me, I always thought that that was a very fascinating way to approach justice. Some of the things though in that experience, were very similar to here in the US. Going into lockup, talking to a client, reviewing evidence, all of that. But, yeah. I think the influential moments that I had were experiences putting myself in different places to see how different people think.

Molly Miller:

So, you talk about having this goal of becoming a public defender, and then you do become a public defender. What were some of the more surprising elements of actually having that job?

Rachel Rossi:

I think… So, first of all, being a public defender was a privilege and was such an incredible job. One of the things that I wasn’t prepared for, was how the camaraderie really gets you through. I think one thing we don’t talk about enough is secondary trauma, that public defenders and prosecutors experience every day, because they are watching and internalizing the traumas of our justice system every day. And often aren’t given enough support to really process and leave that at the office, and not internalize it and bring it back with them. I think for a lot of the public defenders that I saw who had been in it for a long time, they started to… It really wore on them. It really, really wore on them. For me, I could see that if I stayed in that office for an incredibly long period of time it would wear on me too. Because it’s a really heavy job and oftentimes you are fighting for someone in a system that is not designed to help them.

Rachel Rossi:

A system that is designed to keep them in a certain place, with a certain outcome. And as a public defender you can’t cure the problems of social justice. You can’t cure the problems in the system. All you can do is stand beside that one client on that day and fight for them in the best way you know how. And I would say some of the biggest… Some of the people say, what are your biggest victories as a public defender? I don’t think it’s the not guilty verdicts. I don’t think it’s necessarily the motions that were won. I think the biggest victories were having clients tell me, you’re the only person who has ever fought for me in my life, and it’s changed me. Just to have someone fight for me, even if I lost. Some of the most grateful clients would say, no one has ever fought for me like that, and were so grateful after I lost a motion. And that was mind baffling to me.

Kary Antholis:

When you started how did you get oriented? Did anyone take you under their wing? Were there any mentors to you as you started as a public defender?

Rachel Rossi:

Yes. So, the public defenders’ office has a very rigorous training program. And it’s funny, we just had this event, this public defender bash last week, where a lot of public defenders came together just to rally for this historic run, first public defender to run for prosecutor. And one of my trainers and original mentors came, and he… The thing that we would always laugh about with him was he would never know that he was watching your trial, or watching your preliminary hearing. But then he would come up to you a few days later and say, “Come talk to me about your prelim on Tuesday.” And we would all be so nervous because he would have taken detailed notes and ask us question by question, “Why did you ask the witness this question? Why did you ask the witness this question?” And really, to me, he was an incredible mentor because he taught us the way to handle a case, but he also allowed us to think freely and openly.

Rachel Rossi:

When we would say, “What if we challenge it this new way?” He would just say, “Let’s do it. Absolutely. Let’s think about how we do it.” When I would come up with creative motions that oftentimes people would say, “Well, that’s never been filed before. We can’t really do that.” He would sit down with me and say, “Let’s research and explore how we can make that happen.” So, I think he, and I’ll say his name, Aaron Jensen, he was very formative in growing who I was as a public defender.

Kary Antholis:

What were some of the cases or situations that you experienced that shaped your view of the dysfunctions in the system, and things that needed to be addressed?

Rachel Rossi:

I think one of the things that is hard for anyone in the system is seeing the misdemeanor calendar. Because a lot of times our prosecutors will say, “Well, only city attorneys handle misdemeanors.” But the district attorneys’ office handles approximately 91,000 misdemeanors a year. And seeing those cases you see this constant churn of low income, people of color, suffering from mental health issues, that shouldn’t be in this system. And for me, some of the hardest times were having a client who was charged with something like petty theft, and I couldn’t even talk to them, because they were so severely mentally ill. Those were the really, really, really hard times. I think cumulatively just walking into court every day and just seeing people of color and people with mental health issues and substance use issues, cycling in and out of the system, that you just thought to yourself, there has to be a better way. This isn’t working.

Molly Miller:

So, I’m wondering, given those experiences that you’ve had, has your view of the criminal justice system had an evolution over the course of your career?

Rachel Rossi:

Absolutely. I think if anyone’s view doesn’t evolve then there’s a problem there. Because we are always learning. One of the things that I think is really important in a district attorney is understanding that you don’t know everything. A district attorney doesn’t know everything, a public defender doesn’t know everything, but there are people who are studying the justice system from every different facet inside an angle that we need to pull into the conversation. I think that when the district attorney is creating a bail policy, she needs to be having communications with bail experts who have been working on this for decades.

Rachel Rossi:

And my view, personally, has definitely evolved in seeing not only what happened in the county, but then going to the federal public defenders’ office, seeing the differences in things like, how discovery is provided to the defense from the prosecutor. If there is dishonesty by a witness, in the county court rooms, maybe because of the sheer volume of the cases, there are often times where lying on the stand about small things, it’s just, well we have to… We know the guy is guilty, we just have to keep processing this case. And judges don’t really call it out. In federal court we had one case where an agent said there was a lie about a small fact, and everybody was called into the courtroom. All the officers involved in the case. The head prosecutor of the office. The head federal defender. And the case ended up being dismissed.

Rachel Rossi:

And there’re luxuries in the federal system because you have more money and a smaller case load, so I don’t want to paint any unfairness to law enforcement. They have very different roles in different types of cases that they handle. But to me, it changed my perspective in ways where I could see lying by witnesses can be something that’s not tolerated. We can say that this is not going to happen anymore. So, yeah. I think my perspective evolved in every experience that I had and then also working in congress and seeing on the senate and the house side. Exploring and evaluating the reforms that are happening across the country, and federally, it definitely opened my eyes and helped me to realize that we don’t need to just accept the status quo of the system, but we can actually actively take steps to change it.

Molly Miller:

Right.

Kary Antholis:

I think you’ve answered this to a degree, but I was struck the other night at the debate when you said that many of your clients are victims. I’d love for you to expound upon that a little bit. What did you mean by that, and what provoked you to stand up and say that at the debate?

Rachel Rossi:

Right. Well, I’ll give you an example. A case prosecuted by this district attorneys’ office. I had a client who she… The police report said that she was being strangled by her partner in her kitchen, in front of her kids, with a dish towel. When she stabbed him in response in self defense, it was a superficial wound, and the partner of hers had three prior domestic violence convictions, had a blood alcohol level of 0.20. And the district attorneys’ office filed the case anyway. I remember the district attorneys’ office decided, well, we will just reduce this to a misdemeanor because we can tell that this woman is a victim.

Rachel Rossi:

She was incredibly traumatized by going through the court system, as a victim of domestic abuse for this action. And then the district attorneys’ office referred it to the city attorneys’ office, washed their hands of it. Said, that’s the best we can do. And she refused to plead guilty to something that she did in self defense. And so we were going to trial. I hired a witness to explain then what was called battered woman’s syndrome. I also retained an expert to talk about what that blood alcohol level meant. I had all of the prior victims from this person ready and willing to testify about the abuse, and the injury that they had suffered. And then the prosecutor said, “Well, if you just pay for his medical bills we will dismiss the case.” And my client started weeping in court, and told the judge, “He has abused me for years and I have supported him. I can’t pay another cent.” So finally that case got dismissed, but this woman went through significant trauma, as a victim.

Rachel Rossi:

And so to me, one of the problems with district attorneys… I think district attorneys are great and I hope that none of them feel I’m attacking them. But the problem is that there is a blind spot. There is an understanding of the world broken into two categories. Victims and defendants. But a lot of times those categories mesh. Victims are not always defendants, but oftentimes they can be. And so, I think we need to have a broader understanding of the justice system, and what are we really doing to help victims? And one day we are looking at a victim and fighting for this victim, and the next day when they become a defendant, then what do we do? We have to have a more holistic approach that understands the complexities of what is really going on.

Kary Antholis:

Why did you make the transition from the Los Angeles Public Defenders Office to the federal public defenders’ office?

Rachel Rossi:

That was a tough decision because there is this internal, I would say, strife between the offices where county public defenders say, “No, we are the real public defenders.” And federal public defenders say they’re the educated, smarter public defenders. For me, there came a point as a county public defender where I knew that I would be doing something different. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew that there was bigger fight that I had to be a part of. To change what I saw in this system. I knew that as a county public defender day in, day out, in that system it would probably break me, and I knew I had to be in role where I would fight more.

Rachel Rossi:

When the federal public defender opened for hiring I thought, well, why don’t I try this? Because maybe it can be a great way to open doors to do something more in the future. I had an incredible experience at the federal public defenders’ office. I think it’s a completely different type of practice. I learned skills and tools that I would not have learned in the county public defenders’ office. And it’s so interesting because if you were to ask me which is better, I couldn’t tell you. I think both have so many strengths.

Kary Antholis:

And then, how did you make the transition from the federal public defenders’ office to go to Washington?

Rachel Rossi:

So, there is this program where the federal public defenders’ office, as a whole, the national public defender offices, will send detailees’ to Washington DC to give the public defender perspective when legislation is being drafted. So, ordinarily in a given year there will be one federal defender detailee in the senate. Sometimes there’s been two, one with Senator Lee and one with Senator Durbin. The past couple of years Senator Lee didn’t hire a detailee. And then one on the house side, on the house judiciary committee. The detail position was opening up for Senator Durbins’ office. I applied and I thought, I may not get it, I’m young in the office. And then Trump got elected, and I called them and I said, “You have to let me come out there. I want to fight this fight.” So, I ended up going out there as a federal public defender detailee January 2017. I went on the last tour of the Obama White House, and then watched as Trump was inaugurated. And all the fun began.

Kary Antholis:

And tell us about working on the First Step Act. What was your involvement in that legislation writing?

Rachel Rossi:

The First Step Act was a very interesting and incredible experience because we saw that criminal justice reform is no longer just a Democratic issue, it’s a bipartisan issue. It’s a Conservative issue and it’s a Liberal issue. And we also saw that compromise is possible in probably the most heated polarized congress that we’ve seen. It was very interesting to see my boss dueling about a lot of these supreme court nominations with Senator Grassley, and then partnering together when it came to criminal justice reform the next day. That was a fascinating thing to see.

Rachel Rossi:

But it was an understanding with all the parties there, that we had to get this done and that this was the time. My role was to be the person who understood the tangible effect of the changes in the legislation. So, there was a lot of negotiation to try and get… We had a broad group of people onboard including law enforcement and criminal justice groups, like the ACLU and other more progressive criminal justice organizations. And so, everybody had their requests and their asks, including senators, members of congress had their ask of what they wanted to include in the bill. And so I would look at the numbers, and give the counsel on this is what the actual practical effect will be.

Rachel Rossi:

I could get into the details of all of it, but I think one of the most fascinating things… When the bill originated it originated in the house with the Republican leadership and a lot of the Democrats were very opposed to the initial draft of the bill, because it was only prison reform and there were significant problems with the prison reform that was there. Senator Durbin, when it came over to the senate side, said he would only support it if we add sentencing reform. And sentencing reform is let’s fix the criminal justice issues on the front end. Let’s lower the sentences on the front end. Prison reform is, let#s give programs to people while they’re already in prison. Let’s do things after the conviction. Senator Durbin wanted to ensure that we were looking at, how we can reduce who is going to prison in the first place. So, one of the things I had to do was really work to minimize some of the problems with the prison reform side of the bill. So, this is probably too boring to get into, but-

Molly Miller:

No, no. Please.

Rachel Rossi:

But there is… one of the big problems with the prison reform side was there is a risk assessment. And so I’m sure, we all talk about how risk assessments are really problematic. This risk assessment basically would categorize people in federal prison as high, moderate, minimum or low risk. And then you would earn time off your sentence for participating in programs based off of how you’d been categorized. A lot of the groups were very upset because we know risk assessments tend to have racial disparities. So, one of the things that I worked on specifically, was trying to figure out how can we minimize the racial disparities in this risk assessment?

Rachel Rossi:

Which I think honestly, that experience will be very useful when it comes to the bail reform conversation here in LA. Because one of the things specifically that we worked into the legislation was including an outside committee of experts who have worked in risk assessments, to create the risk assessment tool, to validate the risk assessment tool, and to make recommendations on how to change it and improve it in the future, to ensure there are no racial disparities… Or that we are reducing the racial disparities.

Molly Miller:

Right. When it comes to cash bail reform, when you have stated before that you would like to abolish cash bail, however you are wary of SB 10 in that it has these risk assessment tools that may be racially discriminatory. So you’re saying that you think that you could use some of these tools that you used in Washington at a more local level?

Rachel Rossi:

Absolutely. I think there are ways that we can ensure, or where we can at least fight to make sure that we are minimizing racial disparities. One of the things we need to start with is tracking who the district attorneys’ office is making recommendations for release or for detention on. And tracking the results and the ethnic breakdown of who is staying in and who is getting out. We need to abolish cash bail but then we also need to expand who is being released pre-trial. Right now I think in LA County Jail, 44% of people in LA County Jail are sitting there pre-trial. We need to lowed those numbers. And so we have to look at methods that we can start to shape judicial perspective, that having a goal, for example, of 80 to 90% of people being released pre-trial. Having an understanding of that being a goal and where our numbers are at, will help to push us in the right direction.

Rachel Rossi:

You look at states, the district of Colombia for example, they’ve abolished cash bail for a very long time now, and they release approximately 90% of people pre-trial. And 89 to 90% of people are successful pre-trial. So we know it can be done and there is a way to make sure that we are protecting that presumption of innocence pre-trial, but we are also empowering people to be successful and to show up to court when they need to. I think what I would love to see right now, and am saddened to not see right now, is a district attorney who is actively putting forth a policy to minimize racial disparities if SB 10 goes into place. And to create policies and plans on when the district attorneys’ office will be recommending release, and when the district attorneys’ office will be recommending detention. We need to pro-actively have that conversation. And like I said in the beginning, we need to partner with organizations who have expertise in these sorts of things, including the Bail Project and other pre-trial reform organizations.

Molly Miller:

And it sounds like you think that these issues are bipartisan.

Rachel Rossi:

Absolutely. I think we’ve seen now, maybe for different reasons, but people are all looking at this number of 2.2 million people behind bars in our country, and how we are overshadowing every other country with our imprisonment rates, and people know something has to change.

Kary Antholis:

Jackie Lacey is a Democrat. She entered into office as a Progressive. What do you think her missteps were when she started the job, and how would you go about making sure that you are true to the Progressive path that you’ve laid out?

Rachel Rossi:

I’ll say first and foremost, that I understand that it’s a very difficult job. And I’ve said that to Ms. Lacey directly, that I am grateful for her contribution. I think the reason that I’m driven to even run is because I think something different happens when you have a prosecutor who is a former public defender. I believe that when you are in the same office your whole career, when you have never left that office and that’s all you know, it becomes very difficult to understand a system outside of what is the norm. You heard some of these statements in the debate last week, where Ms. Lacey said racial disparities are unfortunate. That’s what we have in our system.

Rachel Rossi:

Rather than saying, well, what are the ways that we can actively look at where those racial disparities are coming from? And how we can fix that? One of the things I’ll say, one of the fascinating things I looked at when I was working in congress, is the Fair Sentencing Act, that passed in 2010, Senator Durbin passed it in 2010. The First Step Act made it retroactive. And so, I looked a lot at the data subsequent to the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act, which basically said, we were sentencing crack cocaine at 100 times higher of a rate than powder cocaine. It’s still cocaine but we are just sentencing crack 100 times higher.

Rachel Rossi:

When we looked at the racial breakdown of who is being charged with crack cocaine versus powder cocaine, it’s predominantly African/American people being charged with crack cocaine. Once we fixed that disparity in sentencing, the actual federal prison population, the racial disparities, shifted. And when we look at the First Step Act and who got out, on the retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act, it was something like 92% African/ American people. So there are ways that you can look at the data and you can say, how are we getting these racial disparities? And what can we actively do to fix it? That is the reason I’m running. Because I don’t think when you are in the system, you’ve never stepped outside of it, that you can start to think creatively and start to think of new ways to approach things.

Molly Miller:

So, I just want to call out something that our DA, Jackie Lacey said, at the last debate, which was in reference to the job of being a district attorney. She said, “This is not a spokesperson job. This is a job for a real lawyer, who understands in their hearts and soul, what a prosecutor is about.” I was wondering, do you consider yourself a spokesperson, and what do you think being a prosector is about?

Rachel Rossi:

The funny thing is I was probably the least of a spokesperson of anyone on that stage. I’m the one who was in the courtrooms most recently, trying cases, practicing both in the county courtrooms and the federal courtrooms. And that’s… Unfortunately Ms. Lacey is talking about herself. She has not been in a courtroom in a very long time. She has been walled off, separated from her office and from understanding the movements that are going on in LA County, in California. She is actively opposing a lot of the reforms that the voters have supported, which just shows that she is out of step with understanding what is going on, on the ground.

Rachel Rossi:

It is unfortunate to me, and it was very unexpected, that she would let that slip, her view of what a public defender is. But I believe that a really good prosecutor wants a really good public defender. Because you want to sleep at night knowing that every conviction, every person that you’ve thrown into jail, that that was a solid conviction. That that was a conviction of integrity and that it was tested and tried by a strong public defender. Anyone who believes in our constitutional rights, to be defended and to have someone represent you in a courtroom against the government, understands the importance of a public defender. So, to me, it was really unfortunate that she would suggest that. Because I think that is my strength that I bring to the table in this conversation.

Kary Antholis:

There’s a movement obviously, across the country, of Progressive candidates running for district attorney. Among those district attorneys who do you take inspiration from, first of all? And many of those DA’s have taken very forceful and dramatic actions on their first day in office. What will you do on day one as district attorney to make sure that the office executes your policy initiatives and how will you evaluate compliance among the DA’s in the office?

Rachel Rossi:

So, I think a lot of the Progressive prosecutors have inspired me, including Tiffany Caban even though she didn’t win, [inaudible 00:33:31], a lot of the Progressive prosecutors across the country. But I have to say that I think I’m a new version of that. Because I want to be bold and creative with victims rights too. I want to be bold and creative when it comes to safety. And I think it’s a misnomer and it’s unfortunate that Ms. Lacey tried to say that public defenders don’t care about victims, but precisely because of my ideals when it comes to reform, that is why I do care about victims.

Rachel Rossi:

I want to be bold and creative when it comes to reducing incarceration. Reducing racial disparities. But I also believe that we need to step up when it comes to supporting victims. I believe there are district attorneys’ office often forgets victims when there is a sole focus of securing a conviction. The first thing I would do in office is ensure that there is a level of leadership of Progressive reform minded folks, who are in line with the values of really what the nation is wanting. What California is wanting, what LA County is wanting. There is a management structure in that office of about 13 people, a chief, deputy, three assistant deputies and then directors. The management of the office is crucial. Because this is huge office. No one district attorney really manages the entirety of this office. The management structure does. So I would ensure that the people placed in the positions of power and leadership are reform minded people.

Rachel Rossi:

I think there is so much that can be done to empower line deputies who are Progressive, who have big ideas and modern approaches to justice. I would bring them to the table. People want to say that I am anti DA. I am not anti DA at all. I think that there are district attorneys who need to be empowered, who need to be listened to, who need to be elevated in the office. For too long the office has rewarded long convictions, long prison terms, the place to be is hard core gangs. Not juvenile. And to start to shift that focus, we need to start to reward and incentivize rehabilitative outcomes. And incentivize outcomes that repair communities and that are creative. Those are some of the things that I would do.

Kary Antholis:

Have you identified a core of people that could help you effectuate that change?

Rachel Rossi:

I’m thinking about it.

Kary Antholis:

And would you look to the public defender corps as well as to the district attorney corps to make those hires?

Rachel Rossi:

I think I would definitely be open to that. But I do think there are really good deputy district attorneys in that office. And one of the things that I would say that makes me very different from any candidate before, or any Progressive prosecutor who is a former public defender. I’m running because I want to be a bridge builder. I’m not running to come in and say I’m firing everyone. I want to come in and say, look, I bring a perspective that may be the office as a whole, hasn’t had. But you have a perspective that I haven’t had. Let’s work together. Let’s find a way that we can alleviate a blind spot that the office may be hasn’t had, but work together in ways where we elevate and empower the expertise and the experience in the office.

Molly Miller:

Right. So we are talking about this office that’s a massive office. It’s the largest local prosecutors office in the country. So, what do you say to people who might think that you’re inexperienced and don’t have the experience necessary to run an office this large?

Rachel Rossi:

Part of it is no district attorney is running this office by themselves. I think that the office spends 43 million a year just on administrative and budget and procurement type services. There is a huge management structure in this office and that is who need to be empowered upon me, hopefully, being successful. And then I would point to a lot of the Progressive prosecutors across the country, where we have seen a 31 year old in Portsmouth, Virginia, elected prosecutor. And a 35 year old elected in Baltimore. And we just saw the youngest woman, 29 years old, elected to United States Congress. I think the electorate understands that there is something that you bring to the table in your youth, that you don’t bring to the table in 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now.

Rachel Rossi:

There is something that I bring to the table now, that is creativity, excitement, passion, modern approaches, and I believe that there is something, that experience, 40 years in the office, brings to the table as well, but let’s partner together. Let’s partner together, your experience and my modern and creative ideas and drive, that’s how we get to reform.

Kary Antholis:

Let’s talk about the other opponent that we haven’t spoken about at all today. Tell me your assessment of George Gascón and his tenure as the district attorney in San Francisco.

Rachel Rossi:

So I will say, I have a lot of respect for George Gascón. And I think it’s been clear throughout this race that I have done my very best to not talk negatively about him, or attack him. I respect what he’s done. I respect the difficult situations he has placed himself in to stand up for what is right. But I’m running because of a different reason. Having been in the courtrooms in LA County, having understood the public defenders side of this conversation, that’s why I’m running.

Rachel Rossi:

I’m running because of this national movement of public defenders, trying to flip the idea of what a prosecutor even looks like. To me, it’s a separate movement. It’s a movement that says, we can completely re-envision what a district attorney looks like. Rather than just the Progressive prosecutor movement. To me, seeing that movement taking a flight around the country and not in LA County, where we should be… We are the largest prosecutorial jurisdiction, we should be leading this conversation. That’s what brought me to the table.

Molly Miller:

So, you’ve been in a few debates now, and I’m wondering, is there a question that you wish a moderator would ask you and the other candidates?

Rachel Rossi:

I don’t know if it’s a question that they would ask, but one of the things that I hope that people see and is highlighted, is that I’m the candidate in this race who is talking about specific and tangible ideas. I think in the last debate there was a lot of back and forth about the past, about what has happened in San Francisco and LA. And very little discussion about the future of LA. And that’s why I’m here, because I think LA has done some things right, has done a lot of things wrong, but let’s talk about where we are today and where we go for the future. And so, I’m the one that’s talking about specific ideas for bail reforms, specific ideas for the use of independent prosecutors. The specific ideas for creating a diversion and restorative justice division. And I would like to hear more of that. What are the other candidates ideas for the future of LA?

Kary Antholis:

Fantastic. Rachel Rossi, is there anything else you’d like to tell our listeners, about your candidacy?

Rachel Rossi:

Check me out at rachel4da.com. We’d love if you want to get involved, volunteer, join us at events. We have tons of debates coming up. And at the end of the day I just think it’s really important that people get engaged. Support who you’re going to support, get engaged and vote.

Kary Antholis:

Rachel Rossi, thank you. Molly, thanks.

Molly Miller:

Thank you.

Rachel Rossi:

Thank you. Thanks so much.

Kary Antholis:

Thanks a lot. Thank you.