A California murderer was freed from just eight years into serving a life sentence thanks to a policy from embattled Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon — and now is facing charges in a homeless man’s killing.
Victor Bibiano, 30, was arrested last month for the April 16 killing of Mario Rodriguez, 42, who was discovered fatally shot at a homeless encampment in Pacoima.
The slaying occurred less than a year after Bibiano was released from prison, reported the Los Angeles Daily News.
Bibiano had been serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for a special-circumstance double murder, attempted murder, and shooting a firearm at an inhabited dwelling, as well as gun and gang enhancements.
He had been 17 years old in 2012 when he and two other men were convicted in adult court for the 2009 killings of two rival gang members and the attempted murder of a third.
Because of Proposition 57, which was approved by voters in 2016, Bibiano — who was a minor at the time of his conviction — was eligible for a transfer hearing in juvenile court to determine if he should be tried again as an adult, according to the report.
In 2020, Bibiano’s conviction was vacated under Proposition 57 and his case was sent to juvenile court to await a transfer hearing. But when Gascon became the DA in December, he immediately banned trying defendants again in adult court for crimes committed when they were juveniles.
In May 2021, Alysa Blair, Gascon’s special assistant, appeared in juvenile court on his behalf and informed a judge that the DA’s Office would not be taking part in a transfer hearing.
Kathy Cady, acting as a representative for one of the victims’ family, pointed out to the newspaper that according to a memo from the Writs and Appeals Division of the District Attorney’s Office, California law requires that the court conduct a transfer hearing.
The juvenile system does not house anyone over the age of 26, and since Bibiano was in his late 20s by that point, the judge handling his case had no other choice than to free him.
In a statement released to the outlet, Gascon argued that his office could not seek a transfer to adult court unless it could prove Bibiano would not have benefited from juvenile rehabilitative services at the time he committed his offenses.
“Given that Bibiano had no prior delinquency record at the time of the homicides, he had no serious infractions while in prison, and he presented other confidential mitigating information, we determined we could not meet that burden,” the DA said.
Gascon also pointed out that evidence suggests that Bibiano “did not personally shoot or kill” Rodriguez in April.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of Mario Rodriguez,” he stated, adding that the transient was killed during a robbery and drug deal.
The report comes amid a campaign to recall the first-term DA over what his critics have described as his soft-on-crime policies.
Gascon came under fire last week, when Justin William Flores allegedly killed two El Monte police officers while on probation, which he received after being allowed to plead no contest in a drug and weapons possession case.
Gascon defended his office’s handling of Flores’ case, arguing that his prior history did not contain evidence of violence.
In a statement to the Los Angles Daily News addressing Bibiano’s case, Gascon acknowledged the groundswell of anger that has been directed at his policies.
“I know that people are angry, and I am angry, too,” he said. “But we cannot use single tragedies to make policy. One person’s failure cannot lead us to doubt the potential of everyone else. In other Los Angeles cases where juveniles previously sentenced to life have been released, including Mr. Bibiano’s original co-defendant, the results have been overwhelmingly positive.
Gascon also declared that he was not going to “play politics with this or any other tragedy.”