King County Prosecuting Attorney’s 20 in ‘20
As we close out an eventful year, we look back on 20 points of reflection this year in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
Launched a remote protection order program — first of its kind in Washington.
This innovation — the first of its kind in Washington State and the first in the nation — is something we had been working on for months, but we moved up our launch date to immediately help people during the pandemic. People who need emergency protection against a domestic abuser no longer have to come to the courthouse — they can go through the process 100 percent remotely. Anyone who needs a protection order can go to protectionorder.org to begin the process and get help from advocates.
The remote protection order program was launched in a year where we saw a dramatic increase in felony domestic violence cases and homicides. Through December 20, our office filed 1,267 felony domestic violence cases — an increase from the 1,183 cases filed in 2019. That includes assault, murders and other felony crimes with a domestic violence component. Over that same time period, we filed 18 domestic violence homicides compared to seven cases in 2019 and seven cases in 2018.
87 murder and manslaughter charges filed — up from 73 in 2019.
Our Most Dangerous Offenders Project (MDOP) unit has been hard at work responding to a high level of violence in the community this year. The team is on call 24 hours a day responding to homicides and attempted homicides, going directly to crime scenes, and this year the team responded to 144 call outs compared to 90 in 2019. Murder cases filed this year include the West Seattle case where two bodies were found along the waterfront, a CHOP-related murder referred to our office, and a recent case involving an Uber Driver in Issaquah. 87 murder and manslaughter charges were filed through December 10.
56 cases filed involving hate crime charges — up from 39 in 2019 and 30 in 2018.
PAO hate crime co-leads, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Leandra Craft and David Bannick handled a sharp increase in hate crimes throughout 2020. They teamed up in a recent media call to help get the word out about the importance of hate crime reporting. 56 cases involving hate crimes were filed through December 10.
Expanded victim services by hiring a new Director of Victim Services.
Colleen McIngalls, who previously worked as a victim advocate, started a new position in our office as Director of Victim Services — a role in which she will improve coordination and expand our growing victim services practice. She will lead efforts to implement the dozens of great ideas generated by employees as part of our officewide listening sessions and survey. Colleen will help lead a formal strategic planning session beginning in January and form implementation teams as we begin to put those great ideas into practice.
Restorative Community Pathways (RCP) approved unanimously by King County Council.
Restorative Community Pathways is a new restorative justice community diversion program for eligible young people in King County. Together, the PAO and a coalition of community groups will work to: immediately meet the individualized needs of both the harmed party and the youth; foster long-lasting relationships and supports for both the harmed party and the youth; provide the harmed party with a voice in their healing process, and; give young people an opportunity to engage in meaningful accountability for the harm they’ve caused without being pushed into the juvenile legal system.
In 2021, RCP and our office will work to provide immediate and comprehensive care, support and restitution to youth, families, and harmed parties for 400 cases (40% of cases prosecuted in the juvenile legal system) and 215 court diversion referrals (55% of current court diversions).
In 2022–23, 700–800 cases (70–80% of cases prosecuted in the juvenile legal system) could be referred to RCP.
Marked a tipping point for juvenile justice — diverting more cases than we filed through the traditional court system.
In 2019, for the first time ever, our office diverted more juvenile cases than we filed through the court system. This critical milestone — which continued in 2020 — marks a tipping point in how juvenile cases are handled by our office, where we seek to emphasize restorative approaches over traditional punitive responses. These efforts have contributed to significantly fewer King County youth in secure detention, and in fall 2020 we saw an all-time low in those numbers.
25 cases filed involving animal cruelty charges — up from 9 in 2019 and 10 in 2018.
Animal cruelty cases were up dramatically, and we worked with staff from the Seattle Animal Shelter and Seattle City Attorney’s Office to share information about how the public can help. Filings included the case involving 220+ animals in West Seattle. The 25 number is through December 11 and does not include two animal fighting cases, which is charged as a separate crime. That too increased from one case filed in 2019 and no cases in 2018.
33% more charges filed involving internet crimes against children.
Our office filed 64 cases involving internet crimes against children. That’s compared to 48 filed in all of 2019. Those totals include four crime types: Dealing in depictions of a minor in sexually explicit conduct, possessing that material, sending or bringing that content into the state, or viewing depictions of a minor in sexually explicit conduct. The 64 number is through Dec. 10.
Division of Family Support Goes Digital
The PAO’s Division of Family Support, which helps parents connect to community services and to the King County Superior Court to establish, modify and enforce child support obligations, successfully reinvented their business practices in order to continue to effectively provide services to the public. With the help of the division’s IT gurus, Kady Coglon and Jeff Oppliger, in 2020 the division integrated remote technology and telecommuting capabilities. The majority of employees are teleworking now and by early 2021 all 49 employees of the division will be working remotely.
According to the head of the division, Kathleen O’Brien, the process was “both humbling and inspiring, and only serves to reinforce the theory that nothing is impossible when we work together.”
147 Drug Court participants graduated on a path to recovery.
King County Drug Diversion Court is a program started in 1994 that allows eligible defendants charged with drug and property crimes to complete substance use disorder and mental health treatment. If they complete the five phases of the program — which includes regular treatment sessions and random urinalysis — they graduate from the program and their pending charges are dismissed. The program is a minimum of 10 months, but the average graduate requires 18 months. Beginning in March, Drug Court case managers started providing daily recovery support meetings on Zoom. Drug Court graduations also are available by Zoom so that participants can still be recognized for their hard work.
Formally launched our Sentence Review Unit.
We announced the formalization of our Sentence Review Unit, which will handle resentencing cases as authorized by Senate Bill 6164. This law gives prosecutors the discretion to petition a court to modify the sentence of an incarcerated individual, resulting in a reduced sentence or early release, when it serves in the interest of justice. In the initial stages of this work, our office is particularly interested in three strikes life without parole cases involving robbery 2 — which no longer counts as a strike under Washington law after action by state lawmakers.
Sounding the alarm of child sex abuse with schools out.
Ben Santos of the Special Assault Unit (SAU) helped shine a spotlight on the concerning drop in child abuse reports. We know abuse is still happening, Ben explained, but the case numbers are down because children are out of school and having less contact with mandatory reporters. Ben talked about what the public can do to recognize and report abuse and shared how the SAU is preparing for an increase in cases.
Quarterly “Shots Fired” reports tracked an increase in gun violence.
Building on our public health approach to understanding gun violence, we released quarterly reports tracking homicide victims, nonfatal shooting victims, and total shots across King County.
The graphs below depict the total number of shots fired incidents broken down by type for Q1-Q3 2020 and the total number of non-fatal and fatal shooting victims for Q1-Q3 from 2017–2020. While the total number of shots fired incidents during that time period in 2020 (767) was up around 15% compared to the three year average (668), the number of overall shooting victims (256) was up nearly 39% from the three year average (184) with a 58% increase in the number of fatal shooting victims and a 34% increase in the number of non-fatal shooting victims.
Developing a data dashboard — to launch in 2021.
The PAO is working to develop a data dashboard to promote transparency and help inform the public, decision makers, and criminal justice system partners about the trajectory of felony criminal justice cases in King County. The dashboard is expected to launch in 2021.
Charges filed against Auburn police officer after I-940 changes approved by voters statewide.
This case marked the first time charges were filed by a prosecutor in Washington State under Initiative 940. I-940, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters, substantially changed the legal standard for criminally prosecuting police officers in instances of deadly force. Before I-940, prosecutors in Washington State had to show that officers acted with malice and a lack of good faith, which was essentially an impossible standard to meet. Under the new law, prosecutors have greater ability to bring criminal charges against police officers in cases involving deadly force.
Holding accountable those who took advantage of protests while protecting First Amendment rights
On May 29, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg joined elected prosecutors from around the country in denouncing the murder of George Floyd and outlining steps towards reform. Our office also immediately and consistently made it clear that we would not charge peaceful protestors — and had no plans to do so.
Since the beginning of the protests, we have followed through with that promise — emphasizing the important distinction between people who are gathered to non-violently air grievances against their government and those who take advantage of the otherwise peaceful protest to commit acts of violence, victimize peaceful protesters, or commit acts of arson, property destruction and theft. Though the overwhelming majority of protest-related arrests are never referred as criminal cases to our office for charges (misdemeanors are handled by the City Attorney’s Office, which is separate from the PAO), we have filed 28 protest-related cases through December 20, including two cases where protesters were victims. We believe that when people in the community read those public documents about the non-peaceful cases they’ll see the distinction, too.
100+ PAO employees joined new officewide equity action workgroups.
As part of our efforts to address equity in the criminal justice system, we created equity action workgroups on issues including diversifying the PAO and outreach to community partners.
Shared tips on how to protect yourself from fraudulent unemployment claims — which increased during the pandemic.
When thousands of people became victims of bogus unemployment claims in May, Patrick Hinds, Chair of our Economic Crimes Unit, helped get the word out. Patrick outlined steps everyone can take if they receive a letter from the Employment Security Department about a claim they didn’t make or if they believe that they were a victim of unemployment fraud.
Community Diversion Program approved unanimously by King County Council.
The King County Executive’s Office will work with the Department of Community and Human Services, and community organizations to implement King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg’s proposal to divert some of our lowest-level cases from the judicial system each year. Instead of facing traditional prosecution these individuals — who are facing their first non-violent offense — will be offered a community-based alternative that emphasizes restorative justice and restoration for victims. Violent crimes and crimes against persons are not eligible, and traditional prosecution is possible for those who choose not to take the community-based alternative, fail to engage, or reoffend. Design will occur through mid-2021 and the program will be implemented no later than the beginning of 2022. The program will eventually be fully funded through savings in reduced use of courts, jails, and legal services. Eligibility standards and programming details will be developed and refined in collaboration with partners in the community, County and criminal justice system.
Working with media to answer the public’s questions.
We value the work of the media — through daily emails, phone calls, and public disclosure requests. We will continue to be accountable, and plan to expand interview opportunities with various parts of our office in 2021.
Here are the few of the articles this year from media in King County:
· Associated Press (Martha Bellisle): $1.2 million bail for driver that hit 2 Seattle protesters
· Auburn Examiner (Elizabeth Miller): King County Prosecuting Attorney Responds to DOJ Labeling Seattle ‘Anarchist Jurisdiction’
· Capitol Hill Seattle Blog (Justin Carder): Fernandez charged in Capitol Hill protest shooting
· Crosscut (Lilly Fowler): New tools to help WA abuse victims put to the test during coronavirus
· Kent Reporter (Steve Hunter): Kent man charged with sex trafficking of a juvenile
· KING 5 (Vanessa Misciagna): King County prosecutors blame pandemic for increase of internet crimes against children
· KIRO 7 (Deedee Sun): Ballard bias crime suspect has history of targeting Asians; mental health history
· KIRO Radio (Gene & Ursula Show): King County group hopes to prove diversion program can be ‘far more effective’ than prison time
· KOMO News (Joel Moreno): King County bypasses jail with new effort to help teens in trouble
· KUOW (Liz Brazile): ‘A crime that thrives in isolation.’ Animal cruelty on the rise in Seattle area
· My Ballard (Meghan Walker): Suspect in Ballard harassment incidents being charged for hate crimes
· My Northwest (Hanna Scott): King County prosecutor sets record straight on protest arrests
· Q13 (Olivia LaVoice): King County prosecutors combat repeat offenders and increase in commercial break-ins
· Seattle Medium (Aaron Allen): Prosecutor’s Office Encourages People To Report Hate Crimes
· Seattle Times (Sara Jean Green): Arrest warrant issued for Redmond man accused of fatally shooting his mother, hiding rifle in cluttered apartment
· South Seattle Emerald (Elizabeth Turnbull): YWCA HOSTS ‘WEEK WITHOUT VIOLENCE’ TO RAISE AWARENESS AROUND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AGAINST BLACK WOMEN
· West Seattle Blog (Tracy Record): FOLLOWUP: Where Delridge animal-cruelty case stands, and how it’s part of a troubling trend