SEATTLE, WA – A dog-sitting business in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood has been broken into an astonishing four times since it opened at the end of January. That’s about once a month.
Josh Center, the owner of Club Dogfish, said he no longer expects the police to help him and instead has made an arrangement with the drug dealers that populate his street: He won’t call the cops on them as long as they alert him to break-ins and vandalism at his business.
“I feel like we’re returning to the era of protection money. Because in exchange for me turning my eye when I have drug dealers at my door or down the block, they keep people from hanging out at my building.”
The symbiotic relationship might work for Center but it’s not exactly what Seattle’s new city attorney had in mind when she assumed office on Jan. 1, 2022. Ann Davison, who had switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican in 2020, inherited a backlog of 5,000 cases that speak of the declining quality of life in Seattle.
The city’s top prosecutor admitted recently that she will have to drop nearly 2,000 cases, many like Center’s, that have languished over the past two years. Davison said many of the backlogged cases are too old to pursue and do not involve a crime against a person per se.
Her 2021 campaign focused on what many Seattle residents wanted to hear: That she would be tough on crime. So the announcement that 2,000 cases will simply vanish from the system is hard for some to take.
The lack of accountability, particularly for the “Summer of Love” rioters who laid waste to large areas of the city, is galling for those who voted for a law-and-order city attorney. But Davison sees it as the only way forward. She said:
She hired former U.S. Attorney and Trump appointee Brian Moran to triage the case backlog, and together, they decided to drop 1,921 cases that have been backlogged for an average of 334 days, she said.
The cases that won’t be prosecuted include property destruction, theft, criminal trespass, non-DUI traffic offenses and cases that are past the statute of limitations.
Backlogged cases that will go forward all involve crimes against people, including domestic violence, assault with sexual motivation and other assault and harassment-related crimes, as well as crimes involving firearms, driving under the influence and individuals who meet the “High-Utilizer Initiative” criteria, the frequent fliers in the justice system.
“A backup of this size is shameful.”
Davison, who is five months into her four-year term, said:
“The longer a case sits unattended, the harder it is to prosecute. . . I acknowledge that we are leaving some things unaddressed . . . when there is not timely justice for the victims.”
Davison said she’s hired nine criminal attorneys and needed to drop the cases in order to meet a “close-in-time” filing decision within five days of receiving a case from the Seattle Police Department.
“We want to restore real-time accountability within our misdemeanor criminal justice system here, and I think the way to do that is to keep our resources focused on present referrals.”
City Attorney Ann Davison has issued a formal request to Seattle Municipal Court that would allow her office to prosecute repeat offenders of serious crimes instead of sending them to a community court that seeks to release people first. https://t.co/PePsBbuAHM
— The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) April 28, 2022
Davison said her office is also developing an information dashboard like the one used by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, who handles major felonies and has a larger staff of attorneys. His online dashboard allows the public to see the number of open case filings being handled by his staff.
Davison said the dashboard is being created by the City Attorney’s first-ever data and transparency team. She noted:
“The dashboard at the county prosecutor’s office is informative and that is our goal, to provide information like that to the public.”
Davison insisted that crimes such as the break-in at Club Dogfish — crimes that are happening now — will be pursued.
When someone smashed a window at Club Dogfish on April 24, a dealer did indeed notify him. The police were also called for the break-in and surveillance video shows them arriving 17 minutes later.
Center was disheartened. He said:
“This was the first time in the four break-ins (that) I actually spoke to a police officer.”
Center said that the police officers he spoke could not do much to help him. He said:
“They told me to install all-new cameras. My cameras were stolen on the first break-in. So I didn’t have cameras this time.”
No one has been arrested yet for any of the criminal activity that has occurred at his business but the renewed commitment to prosecuting low-level crimes means Center may not have to work with the dealers for long.
Report: Federal prosecutors quietly dismiss nearly one-third of violent protests cases from summer 2020
March 4, 2021
PORTLAND, OR- According to federal court documents that were reviewed by KGW8 News, federal prosecutors have dismissed more than one-third of cases stemming from the violent protests that occurred on a nightly basis in downtown Portland over summer 2020.
UPDATE: In the past 24 hours, federal prosecutors dismissed two more Portland protest cases. So far, the U.S. Dept. of Justice has quietly dropped 34 of 90 cases stemming from last summer's protests in downtown Portland. https://t.co/L4zdj3axH7#KGWInvestigates pic.twitter.com/wA3uWIUBfP
— Kyle Iboshi (@KyleIboshi) March 3, 2021
In their review, the news outlet found that 31 of the 90 protest cases have been dismissed by the U.S. Department of Justice, including a mix of misdemeanor and felony charges. Some of the most serious charges dropped include four defendants charged with assaulting a federal officer, which is a felony.
Reportedly, more than half of the dropped charges were “dismissed with prejudice,” which means that the case cannot be brought back to court. Several former federal prosecutors described this as extremely rare.
These dismissals of protest cases run counter to the tough talk that came from the U.S. Department of Justice over summer 2020.
Billy Williams, then-U.S. Attorney for Oregon, vowed that there would be consequences for the nightly graffiti, fires, and vandalism outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse. In a September 25, 2020 press release, Williams said:
“Make no mistake: those who commit violence in the name of protest will be investigated, arrested, prosecuted, and face prison time.”
In a more recent interview with KGW, Williams explained that the cases were dismissed in instances where prosecutors did not believe they could prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt. He said:
“Each case was analyzed for the evidence that we had at the time. Careful decisions were made on whether or not someone should be charged based on the evidence.”
DOJ Seeks Dismissal of Charge Against Ex-Littler Associate Arrested in Portland Protests https://t.co/ZHJkeVxCwE March 03, 2021 at 03:16PM
— The Master's Conference™ (@MastersConf) March 3, 2021
Williams, who stepped down on February 28th as U.S. attorneys are traditionally asked to resign at the start of a new administration, added:
“Everything is case-specific when you go about these cases being processed through the system.”
Federal prosecutors rarely handle protests cases, but when Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt passed on most protest cases saying he was reserving resources for the most serious crimes, the federal government stepped in.
Then-Attorney General William Barr reportedly instructed federal prosecutors to aggressively pursue protesters deemed violent or destructive. Williams said:
“I’ve never made a decision in my career based upon political pressure or institutional pressure.”
Federal prosecutors have dismissed more than one-third of cases stemming from last summer’s violent protests in downtown Portland when protesters clashed with federal agents.https://t.co/LivkTx32co
— Brittany Falkers (@BrittanyFalkers) March 2, 2021
Most of the defendants whose protests cases are still pending have seen their trials delayed, mostly because of the continued pandemic. Those defendants face a mix of felony and misdemeanor charges.
Reportedly, three defendants cut plea deals resulting in probation and home detention. Two of the plea agreements required a relatively short prison sentence of 3o days and several people closely involved with the protest cases said that they expect many more federal charges to be dismissed soon.
At least 11 of the dismissed federal protest cases were dropped on or after the inauguration of President Joe Biden. With a new president and a new U.S. Attorney in Oregon, it is unclear how the rest of these cases will be handled moving forward.
Laura Appleman, a law professor at Willamette University who is not directly involved in these cases, believes that federal prosecutors are not making their decisions based on politics. Rather, she think they are considering resources on an already busy caseload. She said:
“The U.S. Attorney’s office has to go through and very carefully ask, ‘Is it worth using our limited time and energy to prosecute each and every of these federal misdemeanors?'”
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