The Office had the honor of participating in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office Project LEAD program again this year. Project LEAD (Legal Enrichment and Decision Making) is a school-based program that teaches 5th grade students about the criminal justice system and helps them understand that the choices they make today may affect their lives forever.
Coordinated this year by AUSAs Reema El-Amamy and Amanda Bettinelli, the program sent over 25 AUSAs to volunteer an hour a week in Lorena Street Elementary School and Gratts Learning Academy classrooms acting as role models to teach the students about their professional backgrounds, law-related concepts and the benefits of making good life choices. Volunteers included AUSAs Jeff Mitchell, Joe Woodring, Scott Paetty, Melanie Sartoris, Carol Chen, Roger Hsieh, Karen Escalante, Joe Axelrad, Allison Westfahl-Kong, Dennis Mitchell, Lindsey Dotson, Alex Wyman, Eddie Jauregui, Jill Feeney, Sheila Nagaraj, Monica Tait, Robyn Bacon, Chris Kendall, Bryant Yang, Alexander Schwab, Ellen Lansden, Aron Ketchel, Shaurish Appleby-Bhattacharjee and Poonam Kumar.
The semester culminated on June 1, 2018, with a mock trial in the United States Courthouse in which the students’ role played as trial participants. The trial this year involved issues of bullying and possession of a gun. In the scenario, a student who was being bullied was found to have a firearm and bullets in a backpack. The student claimed that he/she did not know that the gun was in his/her backpack, and that it was put in there by a gang member cousin who had borrowed the backpack the day before. Judge Gutierrez and Judge Marshall presided over the two mock trials.
Following the trial, the students were treated to a pizza party and heard from speakers including United States Attorney Hanna, DEA and ATF special agents, and several LAPD officers.