New King County Prosecutor Announces First Policy Actions on Gun Violence, Gender-Based Violence, Economic Crimes & More
On Jan. 24, 2023, King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion announced some of the first policy and practice changes of her administration, including the creation of a specialized unit dedicated to gun violence prevention and the creation two new divisions: an Economic Crimes and Wage Theft Division and a division focused on gender-based violence and prevention, including rape cases, sexual assaults and domestic violence.
“As I have shared many times over the past year, public safety is my number one priority,” Manion said. “I believe the changes I am announcing today will improve public safety by addressing and bringing focused attention to some of King County’s greatest areas of concern.”
Among the January 24 announcements:
- A new Gun Violence Prevention Unit is being created in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The purpose of this unit is to identifying and prosecute the individuals perpetuating the most harm in our communities, and also to connect individuals who are close to gun violence to meaningful community-based resources before they become victims or perpetrators of violence. This includes expanding coordination with our Extreme Risk Protection Order team. “In my vision, our new Gun Violence Prevention Unit is at the heart of a strong partnership where prosecutors, police, community leaders, and nonprofits use data to inform our collective approach to tackling gun violence,” Manion said.
- A new division of criminal practice is being created. That division does not yet have an official title, but is focused on gender-based violence and prevention. “Cases involving rape, sexual assault and domestic violence often share some common evidentiary issues, and a focused approach will improve the prosecution of these serious crimes,” Manion said. “While all victims and survivors of crime are relevant and deserve to be heard, the purpose of this new division is to elevate and improve our office’s response to gender-based violence. This division will bring a trauma-informed, victim-centered response to these cases.” The division includes the Domestic Violence Unit, the Sexually Violent Predator Unit, Special Assault Units that handle sex crimes, prosecutors handling commercial sexual exploitation (trafficking), and Hate Crimes, among other practices.
- A new Economic Crimes and Wage Theft Division is being created in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. This new division will include organized retail theft, economic crimes, identity theft, multiple types of fraud, elder abuse and wage theft. “In 2022, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed more than double the number of organized retail theft charges than it did in 2021. Many of those cases were filed in collaboration with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office. Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison is a strong leader and has been a valuable partner in making Seattle a safer city, and I look forward to our continued collaboration.”
- A new Felony Traffic Unit is being created and will be led by Amy Freedheim, who has been with the KCPAO since 1991. “The purpose of this change is to underscore the importance and seriousness of vehicular homicide and assault cases and their devasting impacts on victims and survivors,” Manion said. “Amy is a recognized expert throughout our state and across our nation. Her decades of expertise and skill in prosecuting serious felony traffic cases, particularly vehicular homicides and vehicular assaults, is unsurpassed.”
- Carla Lee was named as Chief of Staff. Carla, who was previously Deputy Chief of Staff since 2013, began her career with the KCPAO in the Criminal Division, and before joining the office was principal and founder of a civil practice law firm focused on the litigation of commercial bankruptcy, consumer protection and employment law cases. Carla has also been the recipient of several awards, including the Washington Women Lawyers Member of the Year Award for the King County Chapter, the Loren Miller Bar Association’s President’s Award, and the Class of 2009 Goldmark Award in recognition of her service on the Washington State Bar Association’s Board of Governors. “Carla is a calm and observant leader, and she brings an important perspective to our office’s leadership ranks,” King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion said. “I value the fact that Carla thinks differently than I do. She regularly challenges me to adopt new perspectives and to consider the equity impacts of every challenge and opportunity.”
- Dan Clark will continue as the Chief of the Criminal Division and Christina Miyamasu will continue as the Assistant Chief of the mainstream Criminal Division. “Together, they led our Criminal Division through the challenges of a multi-year pandemic that upended and disrupted all parts of our criminal justice system,” Manion said. “I am so grateful for their dedication, sacrifice, and hard work — in leading their team and continuing to deliver excellence to our county.”
The volume of felony criminal cases is not expected to decrease with today’s announcements of new divisions and units. Violent crimes and repeat property crimes remain a priority. Prior to today’s announcements of new divisions and units, the mainstream Criminal Division typically filed between 20–30 felony cases each day. (Here’s a summary for December.)
The KCPAO will also be centralizing data analysis to improve analysis and how evidence-based decisions are made throughout the office.
Other than Amy Freedheim’ s new position leading the Felony Traffic Unit, the leaderships roles for the new divisions and units will be determined through an open and competitive process.
Manion also thanked the individuals who were part of her transition team:
- Jesse Anderson, Undersheriff, King County Sheriff’s Office
- Chris Bayley, former King County Prosecuting Attorney
- Tim Burgess, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Seattle Mayor’s Office
- Ann Davison, Seattle City Attorney
- Katie Garrow, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, MLK Labor Council
- Renée Hopkins, CEO, Alliance For Gun Responsibility
- Chris Lampkin, Political Director, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW
- Mike McKay, Partner, K&L Gates and former U.S. Attorney, Western District of Washington and former King County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
- Nina Martinez, Board Chair, Latino Civic Alliance
- Riddhi Mukhopadhyay, Director, Sexual Violence Law Center
- Rachel Smith, CEO, Seattle Chamber of Commerce
- Mason Thompson, Mayor, City of Bothell
- Waldo Waldron-Ramsey, Policy Analyst and Lobbyist, Washington Community Action Network (CAN)
- Sung Yang, Principal, Pacific Public Affairs, and former Deputy King County Executive
- Grace Yuan, Partner, K&L Gates