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Posts Tagged ‘Kitsap County Superior Court’

Judicial candidate regrets ‘letting my frustration get the best of me’ in comment section

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Jennifer Forbes, candidate for Kitsap County Superior Court Judge, posted a comment on the Kitsap Sun’s Web site this afternoon regretting her decision to comment on stories without identifying herself. 

She’d made several comments using the handle “1989payforward” where she accuses her opponent, Karen Klein, mainly of misrepresenting her hours working as a pro-tem judge. (That clash was well documented in a story by the North Kitsap Herald’s Richard Walker.)

“My blogs were all truthful, except that I did not re-identify myself as the blogger, which in retrospect, I should have,” Forbes said in her most recent comment, which she also emailed to me.

Another commenter had pointed out earlier that Forbes, the Kitsap County Bar Association’s president,  had signed her name to the 1989payforward handle a few years back on an obituary.

Klein, the woman Forbes is running against, said she’d heard about the comments and took a look at them. She hadn’t seen them before. “I don’t like to read blog posts,” she said.

She wasn’t sure if they were Forbes or not, but felt that if true, “there are ethical issues.” She said she was trying to stay focused on her own campaign.

Here is Forbes’ most recent comment:

“Last week there was a column in the Sun by Rob Woutat regarding Karen Klein. I had nothing to do with that article. I did not ask for it, nor instigate it. However, I did post comments in a blog under the name “1989payforward,” a log-in blog name I had previously identified as me. (May 2011)

These blogs took issue with falsehoods continually repeated by Ms. Klein about her over-exaggerated hours as a judge pro-tem. These allegations were investigated and reported in the North Kitsap Herald, verifying that Ms. Klein had significantly less experience she was making the basis of her qualifications for judge.

My blogs were all truthful, except that I did not re-identify myself as the blogger, which in retrospect, I should have.

These comments followed after weeks of Ms. Klein handing out a flyer to voters with a material misstatement about her qualification that she had earlier admitted were not true. After she handed it out again this last week in a meeting in front of me, my frustration boiled over.

I regret letting my frustration get the best of me.

It has been a long campaign, and I have been subjected to slurs and falsehoods in this and other settings. But when it comes to watching falsehoods repeated week after week, with little press to check up on the true facts, I truly was just trying to stand up for myself and my record.”

 


Bremerton sergeant recalls night trooper was killed at Mollet’s sentencing

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Blogger’s note: Those who follow the Kitsap Sun know that Megan G. Mollet, the 19-year-old convicted of rendering criminal assistance to the man who shot and killed Washington State Trooper Tony Radulescu, was sentenced to a year in jail Tuesday.

Several speakers made statements on behalf of prosecutors and Mollet at the sentencing hearing. Bremerton Police Sgt. Billy Renfro, one of the first officers on scene after Radulescu was killed, told Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Leila Mills this:

“As everyone knows, this nightmare started around 1:00 am on February 23rd, 2012.  For most of us working that night it began with Deputy Rob Corn stopping by a traffic stop to check on a fellow officer and friend, Trooper Tony Radulescu, who was not (answering status checks). This was followed a few seconds later by Deputy Corn advising “Officer down.” Chilling words to hear over the police radio.

What Deputy Corn saw and experienced at that scene is something that I simply cannot imagine.  The rest of us had a minute or two to mentally prepare ourselves for what we were getting ready to get involved in. In the world of first responders, a minute or two is a lifetime. My friend Rob did not have that luxury. No amount of training and experience can prepare an officer for this type of scene and I know that I was not prepared.

One of the first people I remember seeing after my arrival at the scene was (Kitsap County) Deputy Matt Hill walking back from where Tony lay alongside the road dead.  I’ve known Matt for over 20 years and the distraught look on Matt’s face as he told me, “They killed Tony. They shot him in the head” is something that I will never forget.

I clearly recall the look of shock on everyone’s face and the surreal feeling that this can’t be happening.  The gut-wrenching feeling as I rounded the front of Tony’s patrol car to see him lying on the shoulder of that highway is something I never want to feel again.

I remember Tony’s supervisor, Sergeant Tegard, choking back tears as he made phone calls from the scene, notifying others of the tragedy; I remember the look of disbelief on Trooper Germaine Walker’s face as we loaded Tony onto the stretcher; and I will never forget the image of Trooper Mitch Bauer standing in the back of a South Kitsap Medic Unit with his fellow trooper on a stretcher next to him, dead.

In trying to explain why she lied to police, Megan Mollet has said that Josh Blake was a different person after the shooting, “Not the Josh she knew. There was a change in his eyes.” I only know Josh Blake from what I’ve read about and heard from others, but it was no secret the kind of person he was.  He was a violent criminal through and through and a scourge to our society. Megan Mollet knew this of Josh Blake, considered him a friend, and a person she would drug and drink with on a regular basis.

I’ve heard and read that Megan Mollet and her supporters claim that she had no choice but to lie to officers after the murder of Trooper Tony Radulescu. I could not disagree more, and this is simply a copout on Megan Mollet’s part.

After the murder, Megan Mollet made numerous choices to lie to officers after Josh Blake was nowhere around, and she was safely seated in a patrol car. She actively hindered and delayed our investigation and our search for a cop killer, putting numerous officers’ lives at risk, and she did this because Josh Blake was her friend, not because she was afraid.

Since her arrest Megan Mollet continues with her poor choices and showing her loyalty to her friend Josh Blake, as is evident by the words etched into her jail cell wall, “White Power. RIP Josh Blake.” How infuriating.

Let there be no confusion for Megan Mollet, or her supporters.  There are numerous people related to the events that unfolded on February 23rd that did not have a choice, but Megan Mollet is not one of them; Trooper Tony Radulescu did not have a choice that night; Tony’s family and loved ones did not have a choice; and none of the troopers, deputies, or officers that responded to that scene, and then had to immediately engage in a manhunt, with no time to mourn the loss of one of our own, had a choice…Megan Mollet had a choice.

I’m sure Megan Mollet will ask the court for mercy, provide excuses for her actions, and maybe even express some remorse. I ask that the court keep in mind that Megan Mollet is an established self-serving liar.  It was from absolutely no assistance from Megan Mollet that the cowardly murderer Josh Blake was located. We did that on our own.

In closing, residents of Kitsap County, Kitsap County Law Enforcement, and the Washington State Patrol lost a respected member of our community and profession, and it is terribly painful. I respectfully ask that the court sentence Megan Mollet to the maximum allowable sentence.”

 


Prosecutors’ ‘special inquiry’ power used often in Kitsap County

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Did you know that our state’s prosecutors have the power to access private information — bank accounts and cellphone logs for instance — without any record of doing so ever being made public?

I sure didn’t. But as it turns out, the “Statewide Special Inquiry Judge Act,” has been around for more than 30 years. Last week, it was chronicled in a story by Associated Press Reporter Gene Johnson, where I learned about it.

Essentially, “special inquiry” proceedings give prosecutors a way to bring potential evidence before a judge for review, as investigators probe whether there is probable cause to charge someone with a crime.

It’s kind of like the process for obtaining a search warrant, but, as Johnson points out in the story, it doesn’t require sworn statements “or a finding of probable cause that a crime has been committed.” Furthermore, search warrants generally become a matter of public record — but special inquiry proceedings rarely, if ever, do (Johnson’s story points out one instance where they have).

After reading his story, I called Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge to find out if the special inquiry process was used here. I had noticed, in my years as courts reporter, the phrase “special inquiry” written on charging documents but never knew what it meant.

Hauge told me that the “special inquiry” use is not uncommon in Kitsap. He said that at any given time, there are 10 or so pending, mainly to seek financial records.

He said that while the process is a secret, it is overseen by a judge, and, if prosecutors find no evidence of wrongdoing, nothing goes public — and thus there’s no risk to the reputation of the person investigated.

“If no criminal charges are ever filed, the information remains under seal,” Hauge said.

Judges can also hear from frightened witnesses who are guaranteed immunity and whose testimony also remains secret. In rare cases in Kitsap, a witness is called to testify in one, Hauge said.

But there is some controversy. From Johnson’s story:

Prosecutors who use them say the proceedings are authorized by state law, make for more efficient investigations and have plenty of judicial oversight, but (a lawyer contesting the process) and other defense attorneys say they raise questions about privacy, accountability and the open administration of justice.

Hauge said the proceedings are based in the grand jury system, but — as authorized by lawmakers in 1971 — without the grand jury. There is judicial oversight and “It maintains all of the protections,” given to its witnesses and potential targets.

And where did the idea for these proceedings come from? Organized crime, as it turns out. From Johnson’s story:

The special inquiry law was a response to a corruption scandal involving the Seattle police, including the former chief, and the former King County prosecutor. When Chris Bayley was elected King County prosecutor, he organized a grand jury to investigate.

Dave Boerner, a semi-retired Seattle University criminal law professor, was a deputy King County prosecutor then. He recalled that the grand jury was cumbersome, slow and expensive, and he joined his boss in urging lawmakers to adopt a new type of proceeding — the special inquiries.


Mollet found guilty of rendering criminal assistance

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Jurors found Megan G. Mollet, charged by county prosecutors with rendering criminal assistance to the man that killed Washington State Trooper Tony Radulescu, guilty Friday morning.

The verdict was read at approximately 11:30 a.m.

Here’s what I wrote about the attorney’s closing arguments Thursday:

In his closing arguments Thursday, Drury said that Mollet’s lies slowed investigators’ efforts to learn who Blake was and where he’d gone after dropping her off at a house on Sidney Road near Port Orchard.

“She concealed him with the intent to delay the apprehension or even to keep him from being prosecuted,” Drury says.

When first contacted by investigators, Mollet said she didn’t know Blake and claimed she had spent the night helping someone in Belfair move. But after authorities arrested her the next day, she admitted that she’d been with Blake when he shot and killed the trooper.

Morrison argued that Mollet was scared, and that failure to report a crime is not against the law. He pointed out that she never mislead investigators or attempted to provide misinformation.

Morrison also argued that police never told Mollet that they would protect her from Blake if telling the truth. Drury pointed out that she was surrounded by police when she lied.

Drury reminded jurors that Mollet testified that “I kept yelling at him and telling him he was stupid” after Blake shot Radulescu. The prosecutor said that didn’t sound like someone who was fearing for her life.

Morrison contended the pair was not Bonnie and Clyde and that prosecutors “wanted to make an example out of her.”

“Don’t hold her responsible for Joshua Blake’s murder,” Morrison says.


Reporter’s Notebook: Bainbridge civil rights trial continues; plea in assisting trooper’s killer?

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

It continues to be a busy week for crime and justice news in Kitsap County.

Today, the federal civil rights trial Ostling vs. Bainbridge Island continues, with Officer David Portrey and William Ostling taking the witness stand. William’s son, Douglas, was killed in October 2010 in an encounter with police.

The Kitsap Sun won’t be live blogging today’s proceedings but rest assured we will be keeping up on the day’s events. Follow the links for coverage to the case’s opening arguments and Officer Jeff Benkert’s testimony.

Elsewhere, a plea deal was announced Tuesday in the assault cases filed in the wake of the Armin Jahr School shooting that left a third-grader critically wounded in February. Jamie Chaffin, mother of the boy, has agreed to plead guilty to unlawful possession charges in exchange for a little over a year prison sentence and her testimony against her boyfriend and owner of the gun taken to school that day.

Finally, there is a scheduled change-of-plea in Kitsap County Superior Court for one of the people charged with rendering criminal assistance to Joshua Blake, the man authorities believe murdered Washington State Trooper Tony Radulescu during a traffic stop in February.

I’ll keep you posted.


Appeals court race shapes up

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

The race for appellate judge David Armstrong’s seat appears to have taken shape, with three lawyers vying to serve on the Tacoma-based court. 

Thomas “Tom” Weaver, longtime Bremerton defense attorney, had previously announced his candidacy. He’s now been joined by Pamela “Pam” Loginsky, a lawyer with the state’s prosecutor’s association, as well as Thomas Bjorgen, a veteran Olympia area attorney.

Sheryl G. McCloud, who’d previously pondered a run at the appellate seat, has now set her sights on the state’s supreme court.

We’ll have more about the three candidates as the race continues to develop. It’s still early, though both Loginsky and Weaver have raised $10,000 toward their respective campaigns.

Armstrong is a part of a seven-judge court, which hears appeals of any case out of superior courts in Mason, Kitsap, Jefferson, Pierce, Clallam and Grays Harbor counties. While the court conducts its business rather quietly (it issues written opinions) its rulings can have dramatic impacts

In other judicial elections news, both defense attorney William Houser and general practice attorney Jennifer Forbes have declared to the Public Disclosure Commission that they intend to run for a seat on Kitsap County Superior Court this fall. All eight judges on the court — including new appointees Kevin Hull and Steve Dixon — will stand for election. It is unknown thus far which seat Houser and Forbes will seek.


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.


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.


Long list of lawyers lining up for Kitsap County Superior Court seats

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012


Jan. 31 is an important day for some ambitious attorneys in Kitsap County.
It is the deadline by which superior court applications are due to the office of Gov. Christine Gregoire, who will use them to appoint Kitsap County’s two newest judges.

A gaggle (Or perhaps a herd? Or flock?) of lawyers have each informed the Kitsap Crime and Justice blog they intend to fill out a lengthy application form and ask for the chance to take the bench. Here’s who have confirmed they’re going for it:

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

Jennifer Forbes, attorney at McGavick Graves PS in Tacoma, handling “representation of governmental entities and private clients in land use cases, civil litigation, and criminal defense,” according to the firm’s web site. She’s applied for judge before, most recently in 2006.

Bill Houser, criminal defense attorney currently working in the Kitsap County Office of Public Defense.

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

Karen Klein, Bainbridge-based attorney and chief executive officer and general counsel of Silver Planet, Inc., a senior health care concierge service. Klein, formerly a general practitioner, also put in for the seat Olsen was appointed to in 2004.

Craig Lindsay, a partner in Silverdale-based Lindsay Olsen PLLC is a former Kitsap County deputy prosecutor. Now works primarily as a family law attorney.

Marilyn Paja, Kitsap County District Court judge since 1999 and former Gig Harbor municipal court judge and Port Orchard general practice lawyer.

Diane Russell, a Silverdale-based general practice lawyer and former Kitsap County deputy prosecutor.

Greg Wall, Port 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.

Two other general practice attorneys, Tracy Flood and Bruce Danielson (who has run for judge and for county prosecutor), both of Port Orchard, are still weighing whether to submit an application.

I did also confirm with several other lawyers that they’re not seeking the seat, including Bremerton general practice attorney Ed Wolfe and Port Orchard defense and family attorney Melissa Hemstreet. I even asked Brian Moran, the state’s chief deputy attorney general under Rob McKenna, if he’d pondered a run. His answer: no. “I thoroughly enjoy my current job and I am very, very fortunate to be able to serve in this capacity with Attorney General McKenna.”

Two seats on the bench opened in December after Kitsap County Superior Court Judges Russell Hartman and Theodore Spearman announced their respective retirements. Hartman plans to enter into “other forms of public service” and Spearman, sadly, passed away after fighting a brain aneurysm.

The governor’s office has consolidated the process to pick the two judges into one.

“Applicants to fill the position created by the retirement of Judge Russell W. Hartman will also be considered for (Judge Spearman’s) judicial vacancy, with no separate application or other communication necessary,” according to a Jan. 23 letter from Narda Pierce, Gregoire’s general counsel. The governor is aiming to make the appointments as soon as possible.

The Kitsap County Bar Association is also going to vet candidates and conduct a “judicial preference poll.” We’re hoping to get results of the poll and will post them to the blog.

Bear in mind two other things:

  • This is different than the race currently cementing for Washington Court of Appeals Judge David Armstrong’s seat.
  • Any candidate this year that is appointed to superior court by Gregoire must be elected by the people this fall (though it’s no secret incumbents in judicial races are hard to beat).

Oh, and one more thing: if I am missing someone, please don’t be shy about it. Drop me a line at jfarley@kitsapsun.com and I will amend the list.


LIVE BLOG: Closing arguments in Olalla assault trial

Monday, October 17th, 2011

The Kitsap Sun will be in court Monday morning for closing arguments in the case of State of Washington vs. Damien Walters

As you’ll recall from our previous story:

Kitsap County prosecutors Monday laid out their case against an Olalla man they say shot and critically wounded his 25-year-old roommate after a night of drinking, and then left him “for dead” on his back porch in May 2010.

But an attorney for Damien S. Walters, 27, told jurors in his rebuttal to prosecutors’ opening arguments that while numerous witnesses and much evidence will be presented, they’ll be left with an “enormous black hole in the middle.”

Only the two men were there, and neither has a memory of the late evening when the 25-year-old was shot, said Walters’ attorney, Tim Leary of Seattle.

“You are going to have to decide, beyond a reasonable doubt … what happened,” Leary said. “And we just don’t know.”

But prosecutors argued the totality of the evidence would lead the jurors to a conclusion of guilt.

The live blog of the trial’s closing arguments will commence at 9 a.m. Monday morning in this space below.

UPDATE: As of Tuesday morning, the jury was still out.


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