Friday, January 23, 2009

P-I wins award for police series


The Seattle P-I has earned a national award for its series on the Seattle Police Department's failure to investigate and discipline itself.

The series, "The Strong Arm of the Law," won the 2009 Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award in the series category given by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Reported by Eric Nalder, Lewis Kamb and Daniel Lathrop, and edited by Rita Hibbard, the series (which ran in January and February 2008) exposed the questionable handling of complaints against Seattle police over the wrongful use of force, and the overuse of obstruction charges used to cover up wrongdoing.

In the single-story category, Christine Young of The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., won for her investigation of a man who has spent the past 20 years in prison for the murder of a prostitute.

Washington legislation would test police for drugs

Residents of cities and counties could vote to randomly test police officers for drugs under legislation proposed by Rep. Charles Ross of Naches (na-CHEEZ').

OLYMPIA, Wash. —

Residents of cities and counties could vote to randomly test police officers for drugs under legislation proposed by Rep. Charles Ross of Naches (na-CHEEZ').

He told The Yakima Herald-Republic most people he talks to support the idea. A similar bill died in last year's Legislature.

Random drug testing is opposed by police unions. The incoming president of the Yakima Police Patrolmans Association, Det. Mike Nielsen, says officers want to maintain their constitutional protection from unwarranted invasion of privacy.

The city of Yakima and the police union took the issue to arbitration in 2007, and the arbitrator ruled the city could not impose random drug testing.


Information from: Yakima Herald-Republic,

Demonstration against Granger police chief

More than 30 people demonstrated in front of the Granger City Hall against the return of fired Police Chief Robert Perales.

More than 30 people demonstrated in front of the Granger City Hall against the return of fired Police Chief Robert Perales.

The Yakima Herald Republic reports they carried signs Thursday that said, "How Can Anyone Be Above the Law?"

Perales was fired after he was accused of using a stun gun on an animal control officer and interfering with officers interested in forming a union.

An arbitrator ruled this month that the mayor didn't have convincing proof to fire Perales in May for improper conduct. He was reinstated with back pay.

The 45-year-old chief has been with the department 15 years. He says he has done nothing wrong.


Information from: Yakima Herald-Republic,

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Man charged with possessing weapons arsenal


Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents charged a 65-year-old Spokane man Tuesday with possession of an arsenal of military weapons and explosives that he had stashed in a Bellevue commercial storage unit.

Ronald Struve's alleged cache of weapons -- which includes dozens of machine guns and blocks of C-4 plastic explosives -- was discovered by a man who purchased at auction the contents of the storage unit at 12863 Northrup Way when rent on the unit lapsed, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday.

ATF Special Agent Heidi Wallace received a call from the winning bidder at the auction last November who explained that there were firearms among the items he had purchased "and that he wanted ATF to examine the firearms to determine whether they were legal to possess."

Over the next two days Wallace and other agents found crates of firearms, munitions and high explosives including 54 40MM M406 grenades, the complaint says. They also found silencers, flares, CS gas grenades, 41 pounds of gunpowder and blasting caps.

Agents tracked Struve to Spokane where he was arrested Jan. 6, then returned to Seattle for Tuesday's hearing. Agents initially charged Struve with one count of unlawful storage of explosives and one count of possession of unregistered firearms. The firearms charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Because Strove was charged by complaint, the case will likely be referred to a grand jury, which could return other charges against him.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler ordered Struve held pending a detention hearing later in the week.

An ATF source said after the hearing that there is no evidence that Struve assembled the arsenal for terrorism purposes, but declined to elaborate on what motivated him.

Monday, January 19, 2009


By: Dena Alo-Colbeck

The following cases of note were decided recently in Washington's high courts:

Division Three Court of Appeals:

State v. Bainard: The Court held that the defendant should have been sentenced to a two-year deadly weapons enhancement to his conviction on two counts of second degree murder rather than the five-year firearm enhancement, as the jury found that he was armed with a deadly weapon, not a firearm. The Court also upheld the trial court's vacation of the first-degree arson charge against the defendant, holding that, as the victims were already deceased when the defendant set fire to the building in which they were found, they were not human beings within the definition of the statute requiring a human being to be present in a building to elevate a charge to first degree arson. A copy of the decision may be viewed online at:

State v. Francisco: The Court held that the evidence was insufficient to establish the defendant's conviction for minor in possession of alcohol as the State established only that the defendant was inebriated, which is insufficient, without other coorborating evidence, such as proximity to alcohol, to establish an MIP charge. However, the court rejected the defendant's other assignments of error, including error assigned to the court's fialure to grant his motion for a directed verdict, admission of testimony that drug users typically do not give away drugs, failure to sustain his objection to the State testifying about matters not in the record during rebuttal, and the denial of his motion for a mistrial based on prosecutorial misconduct and judicial comments on the evidence. The court found that the detective's comments that drug users generally do not give away drugs was supported by experience and was not prejudicial, as it was countered by subsequent testimony that drug users do sometimes give away drugs. The Court further found that the prosecution's comments that the State must have a court order to obtain a U.A. from the jail were made in response to defense arguments that no dirty U.A. had been produced, and that the trial court's statement supporting the prosecution's assertion that the State must have a court order to obtain a U.A. from the jail was not a comment on the evidence and, even if it was, was not prejudicial to the defendant. A copy of the decision may be found online at:

In re Detention of C.M.: The court found that the defendant's trial was timely even though not held within thirty days of the time of the defendant's commitment petition as required by statute, holding that the court rule governs over the statute with regard to procedural issues, such as the timing of a commitment trial, and the court rule allowed for extentions for multiple reasons, which extensions were excluded from the time for trial. The court further held that even if the subsequent delays challenged by the defendant were inappropriate, those delays did not prevent the case from being held within the time for trial. A copy of the decision may be found online at:

In other news, as you know, many clients charged with DUI can now continue to drive with Washington's new Ignition Interlock Device license (IIL). Defendants who have a valid license at the time of the proposed suspension for a pending DUI will qualify for the IID license provided they are not charged with Vehicular Homicide or Vehicular Assault, or have not been convicted of either of these offenses within the past seven years. There is a fee to apply for the license, as well as a $20 monthly fee that goes to assist indigent licensees. Clients are eligible for an IIL even after losing an administrative hearing contesting the suspension of their license. Note that the time to request an administrative hearing has now been shortened from 30 to 20 days. Applications for IILs are available online through DOL at: