Convicted murderer released early from prison under Los Angeles DA Gascon arrested on gun, drug charges

A convicted murderer, released from custody after serving just six years of a 50-year prison sentence when an aide to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón refused to call witnesses during a disposition hearing, was arrested this week, allegedly with a gun and drugs, after leading sheriff’s deputies on a three-mile car chase.

Andrew Cachu, 25, of Palmdale faces one felony count each of fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle and driving against traffic, possession of a firearm by a felon, and possession of a controlled substance with a firearm as well as two counts of possession for sale of a controlled substance, methamphetamine and cocaine, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

He also is charged with one misdemeanor count each of possession of cannabis for sale and driving under the influence of a drug.

Cachu, booked into Los Angeles County Jail on $500,000 bail, was arraigned Thursday, July 21.

Around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, deputies responded to a report of a vehicle blocking traffic near the intersection of 30th Street and Avenue R in Palmdale, said a senior Los Angeles County prosecutor who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak about the case.

Deputies found Cachu asleep and slumped over the steering wheel of a vehicle, Gascón said in a statement Thursday.

“They attempted to awaken Cachu by knocking on his window and were successful in their attempt,” the statement said. “When he awakened, the deputies said he appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance. They also allegedly observed a firearm in his waistband.”

Crash ends pursuit

Cachu led deputies on a high-speed chase that spanned about three miles, the senior prosecutor said, adding that the suspect “blew through lights, stop signs, and wrong-way traffic.” Cachu eventually crashed the car, fled on foot, ditched the gun and was apprehended in the 1800 block of East Avenue Q10, said the prosecutor.

Gascón said he is disappointed that Cachu “has not availed himself of the support that he so clearly needs,” adding he is grateful no one was hurt and vowed to hold the suspect accountable.

Cachu was released in 2021 from the prison term he was serving in the fatal shooting of 41-year-old Louis Amela outside a Palmdale restaurant in March 2015. He was tried in adult court even though he was two months shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the shooting. In 2017, he was convicted of murder and robbery, and also received sentencing enhancements for gang and gun allegations.

Under changes in state law since then, however, Cachu was entitled to a retroactive transfer hearing to determine if his conviction should have been in juvenile or adult court.

Because a juvenile cannot be held in detention past the age of 25 in California, a two-day hearing in the Michael Antonovich Antelope Valley Courthouse was necessary to determine if Cachu could continue to be incarcerated for the full length of his sentence.

Judge’s hands tied

Judge Brian C. Yep indicated during a hearing that a decision by Deputy District Attorney Alisa Blair, a special assistant to Gascon, not to present any evidence tied his hands, resulting in Cachu’s release.

“There’s been negligence and inadvertence on the part of various entities throughout. It’s ended up in this position and the court had nowhere to go with it,” Yep told Cachu during a Nov. 1, 2021, hearing, according to a transcript of the proceeding. “But there is no evidence that provides the court with anything to keep you in custody any longer.”

Yep then asked Cachu what he planned to do with his life.

“My main thing, I want to be a motivational speaker, to be able to go to juvenile hall … and juvenile camps and to talk to people and try to lead them in the right direction, and just give them my testimony and try to help them before they end up in the situation I was in,” Cachu responded.

Following a May 10 hearing at the Antelope Valley courthouse, Cachu’s mother, Bertha Cachu, was jubilant about the assistance Blair was providing during a 20-minute call she had with her son in lockup.

Bertha Cachu, who had attended the hearing, told her son why Blair’s assistance was crucial.

“That’s Gascón’s special adviser,” she explained in a recording of the call obtained by the Southern California News Group. “Oh my God! She’s going to be coming in your case. Did you hear that, man? She’s good. She’s the one I’ve been emailing back and forth.”

Gascon, in his statement, also addressed why his office did not offer witnesses at Cachu’s transfer hearing.

“Based upon the facts of the case and the individual characteristics of Mr. Cachu, we determined that we would not likely prevail in a transfer hearing because we could not prove that he would not have benefited from juvenile resources at the time of the original offense — again, as the law requires,” he said. “We asked the court to remand Mr. Cachu to the Department of Juvenile Justice and that request was denied. We are frustrated to see that he is struggling, and again, will hold him accountable for the charged offenses.”

‘One-size-fits-all’ policy blasted

Eric Siddall, vice president of the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys, said Gascon’s statement is untrue.

“George Gascón never engaged in an individual case analysis in this case,” he said. “If he had, he would have realized that Cachu’s criminal history, including committing a murder, and limited prospects for rehabilitation, meant he should have been in adult court.  Instead, Cachu was free, armed, loaded with drugs and running from law enforcement. This all happened because of Gascón’s one-size-fits-all policies. This isn’t an isolated case.”

In another instance, Victor Bibiano, 30, arrested in April for the slaying of a transient in Pacoima, was released from prison in 2021 after serving just eight years of a life sentence for a double murder because Gascón refused to transfer his case from juvenile to adult court.

Bibiano was 17 when he and two co-defendants were convicted in adult court in 2012 in the killing of two rival Pacoima gang members and the wounding of a third in 2009. Bibiano was sentenced to life 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, according to court records.

However, as in the Cachu case, Blair — whom Gascón hired from the Public Defender’s Office —  took over the Bibiano case from the assigned deputy district attorney. In May 2021, she personally appeared in juvenile court and told a judge the District Attorney’s Office would not participate in a transfer hearing, said attorney Kathy Cady, who represented one of the murder victims’ families.

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