Tag Archives: Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office

Bremerton city attorney drops pot cases

The Bremerton city attorney has dismissed about 20 simple possession marijuana cases in the wake of Initiative 502’s passage. 

City Attorney Roger Lubovich said his office was waiting until Dec. 6, an ounce of pot for adults 21 and older became legal in the state. He said the dismissals were limited to those charged with just misdemeanor possession, and not in cases where multiple crimes were charged.

Bremerton’s municipal court handles misdemeanor cases that occur within the city. The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s office handles all felony cases in the county and misdemeanor cases outside Bremerton. The office has a contract for prosecutorial services with Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island.

Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge had already announced his office was dropping misdemeanor pot cases in mid-November, resulting an estimated few dozen dismissals.

Interestingly, under the new state law, up to an ounce, or about 28 grams, is legal to possess for adults 21 and over. That means it’s still a misdemeanor to have between 28 and 40 grams of pot (that is, unless it’s in food or liquid form). Above 40 grams is still a felony.

 

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

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.

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

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.)

Feds to consider changing archaic definition of rape

Scottish author Andrew Lang once said of a man: “He uses statistics like a drunk uses lamp-posts, more for support than illumination.”

Currently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is supporting its annual rape statistics with a rather archaic, 80-year-old definition critics have long argued needed to catch up with the times. Rape is defined as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will,” reports the New York Times.

That definition may soon be updated by the FBI, which will take up discussion on it this month, the Times reported Sept. 28.

Why does it matter?

It’s a matter of honesty. The FBI’s report is known as one of the best indicators of crime in the United States (and its latest report shows crime dropping in America again). If the police jurisdictions report rape to the FBI using a more modern definition, they won’t include those cases.

The Times sums up the what the FBI leaves out (Blogger’s warning: some readers might find this terminology disturbing):

(The FBI’s definition) … critics say, does not take into account sexual-assault cases that involve anal or oral penetration or penetration with an object, cases where the victims were drugged or under the influence of alcohol or cases with male victims. As a result, many sexual assaults are not counted as rapes in the yearly federal accounting.

I invited Claire Bradley, a chief deputy of the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office — and the current chair of Kitsap SAIVS (Special Assault Investigations and Victim’s Services) — to share her thoughts about updating the language. Bradley was also deputy prosecutor in the county’s special assault unit for eight years.

“I think, across the board, anyone who deals with sexual assault crimes would agree this is a good thing. Locally, our law enforcement, prosecutors and victim advocates already do a great job of responding to all types of sexual assault, not just the ones that would be classified as “rape” by these federal statistics. But, to the community as a whole, the classification of what is “rape” by federal statistical standards is absolutely misleading.

And, to me, the most important factor in this reclassification is that our victim advocacy programs rely on statistical data for grant funding. Our victim advocates serve so many more victims than the statistics would suggest, and so their funding is based on false numbers. I would love to see them be able to report actual, true numbers and receive more funding, that is actually representative of how many people they serve.”

Perhaps with an updated definition, the statistics provided by the FBI will become more illuminating for all of us.

Kitsap’s prosecutors won’t take on Pierce County detective’s threat case

The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office, asked to review alleged threats made by a Pierce County Sheriff’s detective to a Pierce County deputy prosecutor, has declined to file charges, according to an article in the Tacoma News Tribune.

The News Tribune quoted a letter sent by Kitsap County’s Chief of Case Management Ione George:

“Under the law, we cannot file criminal charges just because we believe that a person committed a crime,” George wrote. “Rather, we must be able to prove the case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. After reviewing this case, I have concluded that our office could not meet that burden of proof.”

The circumstances of the threat are rather bizarre. Check out the story when you get a chance.

Chris Casad was ‘A Born Prosecutor’


News of Chris Casad’s death came as a shock to many of us in the Kitsap Sun’s newsroom.

Casad, the longest-serving member of the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office, was someone we could always count on to point us in the right direction when working on the courthouse beat. To echo sentiments in our Friday story, he was always kind, helpful and extremely knowledgeable.

Last Friday night, I had a conversation with fellow longtime deputy prosecutor Kevin Kelly. Kelly told me Casad took him under his wing when he started at the office two decades ago; the pair prosecuted murder suspects together and Casad helped him learn the ropes.

Casad also put in a lot of time in his community. Kelly said he could often be found “flipping pancakes and grilling hot dogs,” Kelly said.

As a lawyer, Casad worked best as an investigator and as the state’s lawyer, he said. While he had friends in the defense community — the above photo was taken with Bill Crawford (right), a long time public defender who retired last year — he preferred a side, Kelly said.

“He was a born prosecutor,” he told me.

2010’s Officer-Involved Shootings on the Kitsap Peninsula

On Tuesday night, Bainbridge Island police shot and killed an ax-wielding man, according to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

It’s the fifth time this year that police — on duty or off — on the Kitsap Peninsula have resorted to lethal force. Here are the previous incidents:

In February, Suquamish officers opened fire on a man who drove a car at them on Nelson Street. The shooting was justified, according to the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office.

In July, a Poulsbo officer on a traffic stop in Silverdale shot and killed a Bremerton man who police said was reaching for a gun. That shooting was also ruled justified by the prosecutor.

In September, an off-duty Washington State trooper at his home in Olalla shot and killed a man who’d hit him in the head with a steel rod. That shooting remains under investigation.

In early October, a Mason County deputy was hit in the leg with gunfire following a chase in Allyn. Though the investigation is not complete, early reports indicate a deputy had fired a shot at the suspect’s car after he’d begun using it as a “deadly weapon,” according to the sheriff’s office.