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Hannah Tubbs, Sentenced to Juvenile Custody in LA County, Now Faces a Murder Charge in Kern County

A woman whose case renewed criticism of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s handling of her juvenile case pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the murder of a Washington man in neighboring Kern County.

Twenty-six-year-old Hannah Tubbs is charged with the April 21, 2019, murder and second-degree robbery of 22-year-old Michael Clark, whose body was found in the Kern River in August 2019.

Friends who visited the area with the victim had reported him missing May 2, 2019, KGET reported.

Tubbs had previously been ordered to serve two years in juvenile custody for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in Palmdale in Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office was said it was not aware of the murder allegation against Tubbs until Tuesday.

“As a result, we were never given the opportunity to consider this critical information before proceeding with our case in Los Angeles County,” said Public Information Officer Ricardo Santiago. “The murder in Kern County took place before our case was adjudicated.”

Tubbs, a transgender woman, was being held in lieu of $1 million bail. She is due back in court May 20 in connection with the murder charge, which was filed under her former name.

In February, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón conceded that Tubbs’ sentence in the Los Angeles County sexual assault case “may not” be adequate. He backed away from one of his most criticized directives that had eliminated the option of trying juveniles as adults for serious crimes.

Gascón said in a statement in February that he became aware after Tubbs’ sentencing about “extremely troubling statements she made about her case, the resolution of it and the young girl that she harmed.”

“While for most people, several years of jail time is adequate, it may not be for Ms. Tubbs,” Gascón said of Tubbs, who was 17 at the time of the 2014 attack in the restroom of a Palmdale restaurant.

Tubbs’ case was handled in juvenile court as a result of a directive Gascón issued the day he was sworn
into office.

Gascón noted that the defendant was arrested years after the crime “rather than the usual case, where a child is arrested close in time to their crime” and that Tubbs had “several charges in other counties after the juvenile offense but never received any services, which both her past behavior and that subsequent to her arrest demonstrates she clearly needs.”

“If we knew about her disregard for the harm she caused, we would have handled this case differently. The complex issues and facts of her particular case were unusual and I should have treated them that way. This change in policy will allow us the space to do that moving forward,” Gascón said in his statement.

Gascón — who is facing a recall effort by those who feel his reforms favor the interests of criminals over the safety of the public at large — subsequently acknowledged that Tubbs’ case would be handed in adult court if he had the opportunity to do things over again.

Gascón had vowed in his December 2020 directive that the District Attorney’s Office would “immediately END the practice of sending youths to the adult court system.”

However, he abruptly changed his position on that with a series of memos to office staff, including one in which he noted that “in exceptional circumstances, criminal jurisdiction may be appropriate for youth offenders” and that juveniles may be selectively transferred to the adult court system in the “most egregious cases that warrant a state prison commitment.”

Supervisor Kathryn Barger called the outcome of Tubbs’ sexual assault case “unsatisfactory,” saying in a Jan. 27 statement that the judge’s hands were “tied … 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.”

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