Kitsap Crime and Justice

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Archive for November, 2011

Maybe putting sex offenders on an island wasn’t such a good idea

Monday, November 28th, 2011

The Tacoma News Tribune reported Sunday that some state lawmakers are hoping to move the state’s center for sexually violent predators off McNeil Island in South Puget Sound.

The move could save the state some $6.6 million a year. The problem with moving it: would you want to live next door to such a place?

The center, which the Kitsap Sun devoted a special report to in December 2010, was a bit cheaper to run when the state Department of Corrections ran a prison on the island, and could save money by having inmates work aboard the ferries and other core island tasks. But now that corrections is gone, the Special Commitment Center, home to nearly 300 people deemed sexually violent, is even more expensive.

The SCC houses those who’ve done their prison time but have been determined by a jury to be too dangerous to release until they can be treated.

I ask you, dear readers: Is it worth saving the money to move this facility?


Jurors! Focus on the Courtroom!

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

A new marketing campaign is underway in our courts. But you won’t likely see it unless you A) read this blog or B) get called for jury duty.

The campaign comes in response to our nation’s embrace of social media in all facets of life. The courts, always lethargic in keeping up with the times, have only begun to channel juror social media behavior so as to preserve the integrity and impartiality of the jury.

Here’s the latest by way of our own courts in Washington: a poster.

In short, it’s message: Focus on the courtroom! (As you can see.)

Here’s the press release from Washington Courts:

Recent headlines point to a new concern for courts: “Judge to Juror: Stop tweeting about the murder trial”; “Jurors ‘friending’ each other on Facebook” and “Googling juror prompts court to overturn jury verdict”.

In the age of social media, with smart phones at our fingertips every day, sharing a ‘status update’ on the experience of serving as a juror may be the instinctive response.

Starting this month, jurors in Washington courtrooms will see a new poster designed to remind jurors of their critical role in assuring a fair trial — and the importance of refraining from researching a case online or commenting on social media sites while the trial is ongoing.
“We recognize that, in their normal 21st century lives, jurors may routinely post information about all of their activities on websites and are probably accustomed to using the internet to get quick answers to any question that might arise,” said King County Superior Court Judge William Downing Co-Chair of the Washington State Pattern Jury Instructions Committee.
“Because these are such natural impulses in our electronic age, jurors will benefit from a gentle reminder that their duty to provide a fair trial requires them to postpone these activities until after their trial is finished.”
This is a critical point. The U.S. Constitution requires impartial juries, meaning that jurors must be unbiased, must refrain from prematurely forming or discussing opinions about the case, and must base their decisions solely on the information received in the courtroom.
The poster cautions jurors to avoid outside information about the case from the internet or other sources, and not to text, e-mail, blog, or discuss the case with family or friends.

The poster was created by the Washington Pattern Jury Instructions Committee, with private funds at no cost to taxpayers.

So, there you have it. Any thoughts on the poster?


Feds sweep medical marijuana dispensaries around Western Washington

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

In a widespread enforcement action, the federal government has raided several medical marijuana dispensaries around Western Washington.

No word yet if any are close to Kitsap (which has no dispensaries) but I’ll keep you posted.

“The activities today and the ongoing investigations are targeted actions consistent with Department of Justice policy and guidelines,” Jenny Durkan, US Attorney for Western Washington, said in a news release. “Our job is to enforce federal criminal laws. In doing so, we always prioritize and focus our resources.”

She continued:

“As we have previously stated, we will not prosecute truly ill people or their doctors who determine that marijuana is an appropriate medical treatment. However, state laws of compassion were never intended to protect brash criminal conduct that masquerades as medical treatment,” she said.

“In determining how to focus our drug enforcement resources, we will look at the true nature and scope of an enterprise, and its impact on the community. We will continue to target and investigate entities that are large scale commercial drug enterprises, or that threaten public safety in other ways. Sales to people who are not ill, particularly our youth, sales or grows in school zones, and the use of guns in connection with an enterprise all present a danger to our community.”


King County judge to replace retiring supreme court justice Gerry Alexander

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

On the Washington state supreme court, you’ve gotta step aside at 75. And with Justice Gerry Alexander retiring at the end of this year, it was time for Gov. Chris Gregoire to appoint a temporary justice until the next election.

Tuesday, she chose Steven Gonzalez, a King County Superior Court judge and former federal prosecutor.

“It has been a great honor to serve on the state superior court for the last ten years. I thank Governor Gregoire for the opportunity to now serve on the State Supreme Court,” Gonzalez said in a news release.  “I have known and admired Justice Alexander for twenty years, and it is a privilege to follow in his footsteps with his colleagues on the Supreme Court.”
Here’s some more details from the release:
Gov. Locke appointed Gonzalez to the King County Superior Court in March 2002 and voters elected him that fall. He was re-elected in 2004 and 2008.
From 1997 to 2002, Gonzalez was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the state’s Western District. Assigned to the major crimes division, his work included the notable case of U.S. v. Ressam, in which Ahmed Ressam was tried after being captured in Port Angeles in 1999 en route to Los Angeles, where he planned to detonate a bomb at the International Airport. Gonzalez gave the prosecution’s opening statement and examined nearly 70 witnesses. He also worked in the City of Seattle Attorney’s Office from 1996 to 1997 as a trial attorney in the domestic violence unit. Before that, he practiced business and civil law with the firm Hillis Clark Martin and Peterson from 1991 to 1996.
“Judge Gonzalez is a highly regarded and experienced trial court judge, a former federal prosecutor and an acknowledged leader in improving access to justice for all in Washington,” said Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen. “Judge Gonzalez will be an outstanding addition to the Supreme Court and I am confident he will continue to serve the public with great energy and distinction.”
Gonzalez chairs the Washington State Access to Justice Board, a position to which he was appointed by former Chief Justice Alexander. He co-chairs the Race and Criminal Justice System Task Force. From 2006 to 2010 he co-chaired the Court Security Committee for the State of Washington. The Washington State Bar Association recently presented the 2011 Outstanding Judge of the Year Award to Gonzalez, along with Judge Mary Yu, citing their work on promoting equal access to the courts, including developing helpful materials for self-represented persons.
In addition to his impressive judicial background, Gonzalez has worked in the community for the past 20 years. He served on the Board of Directors of El Centro de la Raza and on the steering committee of the Northwest Minority Job Fair. Before becoming a judge, he volunteered as a pro bono attorney for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
Gonzalez earned his J.D. from the University of California at Berkley’s law school and was admitted to the Washington state bar in 1991. He graduated from Pitzer College, a member of the Claremont Colleges, with a B.A. in East Asian Studies and studied abroad in undergraduate and advanced studies in Japan and China. In May 2011 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of law from the Gonzaga University Law School, where he gave the commencement address.
Gonzalez will begin to serve on the Supreme Court in Jan. 2012. He is married to Michelle Gonzalez, assistant dean at the University of Washington Law School, and they reside with their two children in Seattle.

Poulsbo post office worker, convicted of mail theft, would like to apologize

Monday, November 14th, 2011

This weekend, I talked with Paula Brown, the former Poulsbo post office employee recently convicted of stealing mail that contained gift cards and cash.

Brown wanted a chance to tell her side of the story. She’s apologetic and says the crime resulted in “the loss of my family, my friends and my dignity.” She also says she is quite ill and has lost 40 percent of her brain function. She does not wish to make excuses, she said, but she does not believe she was in her right mind when the thefts occurred.

She added that she’s endured the wrath of community members angry about the theft. Some have spit on her, pushed her and even burglarized her home, she claims.

Here’s what she wanted to say:

“I wish to sincerely apologize to anyone who may have been hurt by my careless and criminal actions while working at the Poulsbo Post Office. Those of you that cannot conceive of or forgive my actions, I understand. With the help of some excellent therapists and physicians, I am beginning to come to terms with how my illness contributed to what I did. However it may take the rest of my life to forgive myself for the harm I have caused.

For my victims who have suffered irreperable damage that the restitution that I am paying cannot heal, I can only say I carry your pain with great sorrow. Please do not lose trust or confidence in the postal service. They work very hard to serve the public. The employees at the Pouslbo Post Office are a great group of people, and do their jobs with honesty and diligence. I also would like to express my sincere apology to them and the postmaster. I would like to extend my apologies for any embarassment suffered by my family and friends.

In closing I can only say I am deeply sorry.”

 


Mandatory reporting: Joe Paterno’s obligation to report child sex abuse

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Did he do what he could? Much of the controversy surrounding the Penn State child sex abuse case that led to the ousting of longtime coach Joe Paterno concerns this question.

But just what do football coaches — and for that matter, other people in positions of authority — have to report?

Here to answer that question is Kevin Hull, a Kitsap County deputy prosecutor. The so-called “mandatory reporting” law in Washington state is quite clear, he says.

Here’s Kevin’s take:

Are you a professional educator in a public school? A doctor? A nurse? A lawyer? A social services provider? A child care provider? A psychologist?

If so, you (and others) are mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse under Washington law. Specifically, our statute in Washington states that when a mandatory reporter has reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered abuse or neglect, he or she shall report such incident, or cause a report to be made, to the proper law enforcement agency. This past week’s events at Penn State University must serve as a reminder of the tragic consequences that can happen when adults fail to share what they know.

What occurred in State College, Pennsylvania is newsworthy because of the long list of alleged victims. Coupled with this is the centerpiece of Penn State’s football program, iconic head coach Joe Paterno. Earlier in the week, Coach Paterno said, “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.” Pennsylvania’s Attorney General commented that Coach Paterno fulfilled his obligation to report under Pennsylvania state law. But Coach Paterno is now apparently wrestling with his own conscience and realizing he could have done more than fulfill his legal obligation.

Law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and juries are imperfect and don’t always get it right. It is agreed that the consequences to the falsely accused can be devastating. But does the fact that injustices do occur justify inaction? Our mandatory reporting statute in Washington requires that law enforcement be alerted to whatever knowledge that may exist if there is reasonable cause to believe that a child is being abused. At the very least, evidence that child abuse is occurring must be investigated. Prosecutors do not charge every suspect because of the appropriately high standard of proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt. And juries will acquit a defendant when this burden of proof is not met. Outcomes are rarely perfect, but perfection is not the standard.

We know that most perpetrators of child abuse are either a friend or family member of the victim. The complicated dynamics that occur when a family member abuses a child creates conflict and clouds judgment. There is a common refrain that a delay in reporting from a child victim is somehow indicative of a lack of credibility. But if presumably responsible adults have knowledge of abuse and don’t have the wherewithal to alert law enforcement the expectation that a child speak up may be unreasonable.

If we can take a positive from the events at Penn State it should be that it is never too late to report suspected abuse. Adults must bear the responsibility of protecting children. Please look at RCW 26.44.030 to see if you are a mandatory reporter. And even if you may not be a mandatory reporter under the law, shouldn’t you, in any event, report to law enforcement what you may know about a child who may be suffering from abuse? The lesson being learned at Penn State today is that this answer to this question is yes.

Kevin Hull is the chief deputy prosecutor in the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Assault Unit.

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)


Anyone taken a bottle to their windshield on Highway 3?

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Russell, a man from the other side of Puget Sound, wrote me recently with a scary story. 

He was driving on Highway 3 Saturday night. “I was going under the Loxie Eagans overpass somebody threw an object from the overpass hitting my windshield,” he said.

It didn’t shatter his windshield but it cracked badly. Russell was pretty shaken up by it.

“I know they were aiming for my car and I’m sure I wasn’t the first and I wont be the last,” he wrote me. “This person is going to kill somebody if they’re not stopped.”

Wisely, he reported it to the Washington State Patrol. No arrests have been made, however.

Has anyone had something like this happen to them?


Followup: Story of stolen Escalade, sold by police, crosses state lines

Monday, November 7th, 2011

The stolen Escalade had traveled through two countries and across many state lines before it landed in Washington, where Bremerton police inadvertently sold it at an auction. 

We told you about this particular Cadillac Escalade in early October, after the unknowing purchaser of the SUV had it seized by the Washington State Patrol. In turn, he filed a lawsuit against the Bremerton Police Department.

The city’s lawyers have been digging into the case to figure out what happened. While the lawsuit continues, here’s what they’ve found out thus far: the Escalade was seized in a 2003 coke bust and, per Washington law, forfeited to the police department.

Police checked with the Washington State Department of  Licensing to see if it was stolen.

“There was no evidence that the vehicle was stolen,” Bremerton Assistant City Attorney Mark Koontz said in a statement. “The police department eventually sold the vehicle at  auction as authorized by state law.”

It wasn’t until summer 2011 that police here found out the Washington State Patrol had seized the SUV, finding it was stolen. State patrol officials informed the city the Escalade was stolen off an auto dealer’s lot in Canada in 2002, before it landed in Indiana, Missouri, Michigan and finally, Washington.

Much mystery still shrouds the how and why it went state to state, as it was never reported stolen in that time, city attorney said.

But state troopers were able to uncover its identity by finding more obscure locations of its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). The number had been falsified in its more obvious locations on the dash board in in the driver’s side door.

Koontz said rarely does local law enforcement have specialized training at finding hidden VIN numbers and believes “the police department acted reasonably,” in backgrounding the SUV before auctioning it off.

“Even so, the city is hopeful that it can reach a resolution to this matter to the satisfaction of all parties,” he said.

I’ve not yet heard back from the lawyer for the plaintiff in the case, but I’ll let you know when I do.


Poulsbo detective’s tips to stay safe this holiday season

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

In an effort to help people stay safe through the holidays, Poulsbo Detective David Gesell offered up some useful tips in a variety of subjects. Without further ado:

Personal Safety

During this holiday season, there are many more people out at the stores and malls. This makes for a perfect environment for many different safety issues. We will start in the parking lot. You should be especially mindful of small children, both your own and others. Most children do not watch for cars, and often run out from between parked cars.

This is also the time of year when vehicle prowls increase. Be sure not to leave purses, bags, boxes or other things visible in your car that might tempt a thief. This includes the GPS or satellite radio stuck to your windshield. Keep in mind, you may know that the box or bag in your car does not have anything of value in it but the thief does not. The thief will break your window to find out and it only takes a few seconds. Thieves have been known to break into cars for as little as a pile of CD’s.

Because of the increased crowds, pickpockets are more prevalent. Be aware of your personal space and do not let people you don’t know get too close to you. Keep strangers at arm’s length and let them know that you see them. Hopefully, they will move on to an easier target. Keep all of your bags and purchases with you and under your control. Do not leave your purse unattended in the shopping cart, even if you are a few feet away looking at something. It only takes a fraction of a second to take your wallet out of your purse when you are turned around. Additionally, many purse thieves are females because they can take another woman’s purse and not look out of the ordinary.

Many thieves today do not steal your purse or wallet for the few dollars inside. They can buy much more with the credit cards and information that you keep inside of it. This is one of the many ways identity theft occurs. Do not carry your social security card with you. Leave it at home someplace safe. Also, be aware of credit card skimmers on ATM machines and gas pumps that can read your card. There is usually a small camera hidden somewhere on the ATM to watch you enter your PIN as well. If it does not look right, don’t do it and notify a bank or gas station employee if possible.

At Home 

Beware of phone, mail, and email scams. Do not provide personal information to anyone, especially if they are unsolicited. Do not open email from unrecognized sources. Do not give out information about when you will or will not be home. This can tell burglars when it is safe to come to your house. Make sure the outside of your house is well lit and maintained so burglars do not have any place to hide while they break in. Always keep your doors and windows locked. If you go on vacation, have a trusted neighbor watch your house and pick up the paper. You may also request vacation house checks from your local law enforcement agency. They will check on your house while you are gone.

Before you decorate your house and hang lights, inspect the items for damage that could lead to a fire. Be careful not to overload any one electrical circuit with too many things plugged into it. Make sure that the batteries in your smoke detectors are good and that you have at least one fire extinguisher in good working order. Many decorations and ornaments are small enough to be choking hazards to children and pets. Additionally, be careful not to put decorations in such a way that small children or pets can pull them down, or the things they are hanging on, and injure themselves.

Driving

Do not drink and drive. There are plenty of other ways to get home and the price for drinking and driving is not worth it. Always remember to wear your seatbelt. There are more crashes this time of year because it gets darker sooner, the roads are more slippery, and there are more drunk drivers out. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be there. It is also a good idea to put a blanket in the car in case you become stranded. You might be there a while and it will get cold. Resist the urge to hitchhike if you become stranded and instead, ask the person to call help for you.

Be safe, and have fun!


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