Kitsap Crime and Justice

The Kitsap Sun staff writes about crime and criminal justice issues.
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Archive for October, 2009

UPDATE: Campaign Signs and a Clerk’s Time: New Allegations Fly in Bremerton Judge Race

Friday, October 30th, 2009

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The two candidates for Bremerton Municipal Court judge are facing new challenges less than a week before the votes are counted.

At some point during this month, signs for attorney Ed Wolfe, who is challenging incumbent judge James Docter, began appearing with small placards that say “RATED Highly Qualified” (see photo that was emailed to me by a Docter supporter).

In a letter to the editor in our paper today, Kevin “Andy” Anderson (a lawyer who works as a county prosecutor) contends that the Kitsap County Bar Association poll results fly in the face of that placard. I’ll let you decide: the results, as published to votingforjudges.org, are thus:

Of 63 attorneys, Ed Wolfe was rated:

“Highly Qualified” by 15 lawyers;

“Qualified” by 17 lawyers;

“Not Qualified” by 26 lawyers;

And five abstained.

UPDATE: I spoke with Wolfe today (Monday) about the signs. He said he was “disappointed,” by my blog post, and that with the bar association poll results, “I feel comfortable saying I’m highly qualified based on that representation.”

He said that the poll was still taken by only 63 lawyers, even though there are hundreds of attorneys in the county.

Meanwhile, Port Orchard resident Stephen P. Miller has filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) against incumbent James Docter. His allegation: that Docter stated, during a Bremerton Kiwanis candidate forum Oct. 8, he, nor his clerks, had found evidence that Wolfe had handled a criminal trial in Bremerton Municipal Court. Miller believes that a “reasonable person” would conclude Docter was using city paid clerks to help with his campaign.

I called Docter about the allegation, and he said he felt it was “completely baseless.” He said he’d asked a clerk at lunch one day if she could recall anytime Wolfe had in fact handled a criminal trial in order to double check his own memory.

I also checked with Theresa Ewing, Bremerton Municipal Court administrator. Ewing said she must remain neutral in elections: “We serve whoever wears the robe.”

She explained she was in the court’s break room at lunch one day when Docter and a clerk discussed if Wolfe had handled any such trials. But she was adamant that such discussions did not happen while on the city’s paid time.

The complaint won’t be followed up by the PDC until after election day.


New Bremerton Courthouse in the Works?

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

I confirmed with Bremerton City Attorney Roger Lubovich today that yes, a new courthouse property is getting a serious look.

City officials are currently studying the Kitsap Bank location at Sixth Street and Park Avenue, Lubovich said.

But it’s not yet time to slam the gavel down on a project long in the works. Kitsap Bank President and CEO James Carmichael told me Tuesday that despite having also having two other locations on Sixth Street (including the former West Sound Bank at Sixth and Pacific, which was once a candidate itself for the courthouse), his company is still getting good use out of the Park Avenue location.

The property is not for sale, but Carmichael said they’re getting a building appraisal. The city is having an appraisal completed as well on the approximately 12,000 square foot building, Lubovich said.

I’ll have a full story in Wednesday’s edition.


Flooding Could Bring up to 114 Inmates to Kitsap Jail

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

rjcnewIt’s official: King County will send inmates to Kitsap if the Green River floods sometime this year or in 2010.

The Associated Press confirmed today that the King County Council has approved an agreement to bring up to 114 to Kitsap if the Green River floods the Regional Justice Center in Kent.

I spoke with Ned Newlin, Kitsap County’s chief of corrections, today about the logistics. He said King County will get space in an unused, older portion of the jail and inside the soon-to-be closed work release facility. King County will pay $28 per day, per inmate for such use, and will provide its own corrections staff (hence why they’re not paying the regular $80 per inmate per day that cities like Port Orchard pay).

King County is bracing for possible Green River flooding because of a weakened abutment at the Howard Hanson Dam.

(Photo of King County’s Regional Justice Center from King County’s web site.)


Mason County Elk Hunters Held at Gunpoint

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Some elk hunters from Shelton recently “found themselves staring down the barrels of guns pointed at them by uniformed officers of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe,” earlier this month, according to a story in the Port Townsend Leader.

Reporters Barney Burke and Allison Arthur wrote Oct. 7 that the hunters, using muzzleloaders (an antique style firearm) were on private property in Brinnon between Highway 101 and the Hood Canal, and had permission from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to hunt elk.

But the officers thought the men were hunting illegally — and took out their own guns in investigating. The hunters were handcuffed two hours.

The misunderstanding was eventually cleared up, but left the hunters “upset and angry,” the story says.

I spoke with Karl Gilje, chief of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe’s Department of Public Safety, this morning. He said that the investigating officers in the case were under the tribe’s department of natural resources, and not under his public safety department. They do sometimes assist one another at times, Gilje said, but not during the incident Oct. 3.

A full investigation is underway in the case by the state department of fish and wildlife and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, according to the Peninsula Daily News.


Balloon Boy: Sorting out the Criminal Charges

Monday, October 19th, 2009

You had to be living under a rock last week to avoid what has become known as the saga of “Balloon Boy.” What I’m most curious about is what exactly Larimer County’s lawyers will announce are the official criminal charges in the case.

According to CBC, Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said Sunday that charges his department is recommending include conspiracy, making a false report to authorities, attempting to influence a public servant and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Some of those are felonies.

And what about federal charges? The Federal Aviation Administration is also conducting an investigation.

The Denver Post says the couple who allegedly orchestrated such a hoax faces up to six years in prison and a “seven figure fine.”

What makes this most interesting in my mind is how the couple will be prosecuted. Why? Because never before has an attorney in Colorado (let alone anywhere) been greeted with such a fact pattern.

All cases are unique. But somewhere in Colorado’s (and the United States’) criminal code, they’ll have to pick and choose laws they believe were violated (there is no “Pretending my kid’s in a UFO-like balloon so I’ll get the reality TV show I’ve always wanted” statute).

Constitutionally, they’ll have to find laws passed by lawmakers who could’ve never dreamed up what took flight over Colorado last week. And they’ll do it under the intense lens of the media. That, in my book, is a challenge.


We Have Sex Offender Registries … What About one For Arsonists?

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

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Washington was the first state to create a sex offender registry so the community would know when such offenders would be released from prison. I’ve often wondered if there are other serious crimes that our lawmakers might require offenders to register for upon their release from prison.

Turns out there already is one: Arson.

According to the Associated Press, California, Illinois and Montana already maintain a database of convicted arsonists that helps law enforcement keep track of them. Not quite a community notification system, but a definite clampdown on those convicted of a specific crime nonetheless.

Following some devastating California fires, the state’s senators are proposing a federal registry to keep an eye on serial arsonists.

“It’s not going to solve every arson-related thing. It’s not meant to do that,” William Soqui, chief of the fire department in Cathedral City, Calif. told the Associated Press. “It’s meant to give investigators another tool, to help them narrow down the list of suspects and to keep track of these people who have been convicted of a crime.”

Photo by Larry Steagall of the Kitsap Sun. (No, it’s not an arson fire.)


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