Kitsap Crime and Justice

The Kitsap Sun staff writes about crime and criminal justice issues.
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Archive for February, 2012

County’s lawyers favor attorneys Dixon, Hull and Wall for Kitsap County Superior Court seats

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

The results are in; The county’s lawyers have spoken.

(At least, those who wanted to make their feelings known about who should be the next two attorneys to grace the Kitsap County Superior Court bench.)

One hundred and twelve lawyers — 50 percent of the county bar’s dues paying members — cast ballots in the Kitsap County Bar Association’s perennial preference poll, which included 11 lawyers who are vying for Gov. Chris Gregoire’s nod to join our local superior court bench. Ballots are cast anonymously.

The front runners from the poll were:

Steve Dixon, a Port Orchard-based general practice lawyer, who’d applied previously for appointment to the seat that ultimately went to Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Sally Olsen in 2004;

Kevin Hull, senior deputy prosecutor in charge of the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Assault Unit; and

Greg WallPort Orchard-based general practice lawyer. Wall had previously run unsuccessfully for Kitsap County Superior Court judge in 2008. He was elected in November to the South Kitsap School Board.

Full results of the poll can be found at the bar association’s web site. As you’ll see, attorneys ranked their first,second and third choices for the seats and also answered if they felt each attorney was “highly qualified,” just “qualified,” or “not qualified.”

Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Russell Hartman is stepping down at the end of the this month and Judge Theodore Spearman died in January, creating the openings.

Gregoire will make the appointments but all eight superior court seats are up for election in November (though incumbents in judicial elections generally have an advantage).

So, if the governor picks ‘em, why does this poll even matter?

For one, they send the results to the governor’s office for review, according to prominent bar association attorney Paul Fjelstad. (The Kitsap Chapter of Washington Women Lawyers does as well, he points out.)

The bar poll has a mixed record as a predictor of future judges but it has gotten it right quite a few times, including:

* Stephen Holman’s appointment (by the county commissioners) to the Kitsap County District Court bench in 2006.

*James Docter’s election wins for Bremerton Municipal Court in 1997 and 2009.

It also has its shortcomings: In 2008, a three-way race for retiring Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Leonard Costello’s seat saw Wall get the most votes among attorneys — yet he lost in the primary, and Kingston attorney Jeanette Dalton was eventually elected.

The governor is expected to make her replacement picks in the coming weeks.


Code 911 in focus: A purse left behind solves a slew of crimes

Saturday, February 11th, 2012


If you need any more reasons to get a locking mailbox, this lady’s purse should provide a plethora of them.

Here’s the scoop: The purse was left behind Feb. 5 by a woman fleeing Walmart in Port Orchard. She’d been spotted stealing computer software and when a store loss prevention employee intercepted her, she made a bee-line for a car, according to Kitsap County Sheriff’s reports.

She dropped the purse in her flight. In doing so, she helped deputies solve a slew of crimes.

Here’s what was inside:

  • Twleve US Savings bonds worth almost $4,000 that had been reported in a burglary earlier this year;
  • Some meth;
  • Jewelry from the aforementioned burglary, as well as receipts, bills and documents from it;
  • Three residents’ Washington ID cards (none of which were hers);
  • A Washington state Fraternal Order of Police card belonging to an NCIS agent;
  • A Fed Ex package containing a man’s military service record;
  • Someone else’s IRS W-2 form;
  • Check stock used to make checks, along with five checks from five different accounts;
  • And finally, the likely tipoff to just how she got hold of all this stuff in the first place: A notebook that had many addresses of estate sales and, most notably, addresses of where to “check mailboxes,” deputies said.

Mail theft’s not a new phenomenon. You may recall a few years ago my story on a man who supported a meth habit by actually creating files for each person’s mail that he stole.

Mail theft, from what I can tell by reading police reports from around the county, appears to be on the rise again. And they’re not just taking mail, but packages left on front porches (For instance, the package found in this purse likely falls in that category).

A sheriff’s deputy worked to return all of the personal items found in her purse. And while she got away at Walmart, police eventually found the suspect (through a tip). She was booked into the Kitsap County jail early Wednesday, where she remains on $40,000 bail.

Have I sold you on getting a locking mail box yet?


Live tweet: Kitsap County’s cops on Super Bowl Sunday

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. A day for football. And, for a good number of fans around the Kitsap peninsula, it’s a day of drinking.

Unfortunately, while most enjoy the day peacefully with family and friends, Super Bowl Sunday is also typically a busy day for law enforcement.

The Kitsap Sun will take the opportunity to witness the law enforcement stress levels first hand Sunday night. I’ll head out with deputies from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office starting at 6 p.m.

This page will have live updates via Twitter of what we see along the way. Please feel free to ask me questions through Twitter and I’ll respond whenever I can.


In Kitsap, a spate of organized crime?

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Leading Organized Crime is about as serious as any felony you can be accused of in the state of Washington. 

In Kitsap County Superior Court, the crime  — known as a class A felony, putting it on par with murder,  robbery and rape — has rarely been charged.

Until now, it seems.

I asked longtime defense attorney Ron Ness last summer how many times he’s seen it in courts here. He was hard pressed to recall a single case.

However, I’d inquired following the charging of a California man with the organized crime charge. The man, whose case is still pending, is accused of selling prescription drugs with the help of others, a charge he denies.

“I’m surprised,” Ness said at the time of the charging. “It’s a very difficult crime to prove.”

Prosecutors have to show the defendant “did intentionally organize, manage, direct, supervise, or finance any three or more persons with the intent to engage in a pattern of criminal profiteering activity.”

Ness told me last summer that federal prosecutors will usually take cases that involve alleged organized crime. They typically use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO Act, to pursue such suspects.

But since that initial case (which is still slated for trial here), three more have been charged in Kitsap:

The leader of a drug-trafficking ring that brought major quantities of meth into Kitsap County. He pleaded guilty and got 10 years in prison for it.

A Bremerton man suspected of leading a counterfeiting and money-laundering operation. His case is pending trial.

A Port Orchard man accused of participating in a burglary ring that involved break-ins across the peninsula. His case is also pending trial.

So what’s the deal? More organized crime — or a bringing of the hammer by our county’s prosecutor’s office?

The answer lies in the former, local prosecutors say.

“We’ve not gone out of our way to concentrate or charge more leading organized crimes,” said Tim Drury, chief of the felony division of the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office.

Kevin Kelly, senior deputy prosecutor who frequently charges felonies in Kitsap County, added he believes the uptick in such charges may continue.

“We’re seeing more property crimes where people are doing (the crime) in concert with other people,” said Kelly, who added: “I’ve seen more (organized crime cases) in the last year than I ever have before.”

The Kitsap Sun will keep you posted as to those cases. Though it depends on the defendant’s criminal history, a conviction for leading organized crime carries with it serious prison time.


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