A judge ruled on Thursday that a 26-year-old transgender woman who, at 17, sexually assaulted a child will serve her two-year sentence in a juvenile detention center and not in a jail for adults.
Hannah Tubbs admitted to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in a Denny’s restaurant restroom in 2014, the Los Angeles Times reports. The case has put a spotlight on Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón’s position of refusing to transfer juvenile defendants to adult court.
Gascón has said that the brains of juveniles aren’t developed enough and a better place for those who do crimes underage is in a juvenile treatment facility.
Tubbs was arrested for sexual assault only in 2021. The arrest didn’t comevuntil a DNA match linked Tubbs to the assault, according to local station KABC.
Between the assault in 2014 and her arrest, Tubbs had been arrested several times, including for battery, drug possession, and probation violations in Idaho and Washington, and convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in Kern County, Calif., officials told the Times.
While Tubbs was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor, she wasn’t prosecuted for it. In November, she confessed to the assault. Police said that assault only stopped when someone came into the restroom.
The prosecutors in the case never sought to transfer her case to adult court, where she would have been facing a longer sentence to have been served in adult jail.
“I want to be clear,” Superior Court Judge Mario Barrera said at a hearing Thursday in a Lancaster courtroom, the Times reports. “The filing of a transfer motion is entirely within the discretion of the district attorney.”
Gascón previously told the paper that the victim did not want to testify. The victim, the paper reports, has moved away and is still in therapy.
The district attorney also voiced concern over Tubbs being in a jail for adults because she is trans. In a juvenile facility, he said, she would be safer.
Due to the absence of the transfer request from the prosecution, Barrera said he was limited in what he could do about sentencing Tubbs.
Lawyers for the Los Angeles County Probation Department had requested that Barrera force Tubbs to serve time in county jail, with other adult offenders. It was the purpose of Thursday’s hearing. However, Barrera and the lawyers struggled with the policies about housing offenders who commit their crimes while underage.
A lawyer for the county, Justin Clark, said the court could grant the department’s request to have Tubbs placed in adult housing. He said that if she were to be put in a juvenile area, “the reality is that she will be housed in isolation.”
Barrera denied the county’s request.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Shea Sanna said he had wanted Tubbs placed in an adult facility so she would “not be around impressionable children.”
“You have a violent child sexual predator who’s been sentenced to two years in a juvenile facility,” Sanna said.
“As a prosecutor,” he continued, “I’m not here to protect child molesters.”
Sanna also said that Tubbs would not have to register as a sex offender, according to the Times.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger released a statement in response to Thursday's hearing:
"The outcome of the Tubbs case is unsatisfactory. Judge Barrera's hands were tied today — due to the fact that the DA's office failed to file a motion to transfer Tubbs to adult criminal court, which is where she rightly belongs. Instead, we're left with a 26-year-old individual sentenced to two years in a juvenile facility in isolation, separated by sight and sound from the other juveniles. To carry out justice, all of the oars in the criminal justice system must be rowing in the same direction. Today, that simply didn't happen."