Thursday, February 25, 2010

Man sentenced in Island County’s first felony DUI case


Island County’s first drunk driver to be charged with a felony DUI under a relatively new state law was recently sent to prison for more than four years.

Kelly Wayne Shields, a 45-year-old Oak Harbor resident, pleaded guilty in Island County Superior Court Feb. 16 to felony driving under the influence, driving while license suspended or revoked and possession of 40 grams or less of marijuana.

Judge Vickie Churchill sentenced Shields to four years and three months in prison, which was the recommendation set forth by the prosecution and defense under a plea bargain.

“Mr. Shields’ life is marked by poor decisions and a complete disregard for the safety of others,” Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme said. “Hopefully, this guilty plea will be the start of better decisions in the future.

Normally, driving under the influence is a misdemeanor offense, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail. But a 2007 state law turned a DUI into a felony offense under certain circumstances. Prosecutors can charge someone with a felony DUI if he or she has four or more prior DUI offenses or a single past conviction of an intoxication-related vehicular assault or vehicular homicide charge.

In Shields’ case, he was previously convicted of vehicular assault, though he also has a history of driving-related crimes.

In 2004, Shields rolled a car on Campbell Road and injured his passenger after drinking at a South Whidbey bar, according to court documents. The car went off the road, hit a dirt embankment and rolled onto its top. The female passenger suffered a laceration to the head and three of her fingers were crushed severely enough that they had to be amputated.

Shields’ blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.13 at two hours and 38 minutes after the crash. On June 24, 2005, Judge Churchill sentenced him to a year and two months in prison.

According to Ohme, Shields’ criminal history also included convictions for two DUIs, attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, reckless driving, hit and run, and possession of heroin.

In the recent incident, State Patrol Trooper Larry Provoncha saw a car weaving and breaking erratically just outside of Oak Harbor on Heller Road Jan. 29. The trooper pulled the car over and arrested Shields on suspicion of DUI. His blood-alcohol content was 0.23, which is nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08.

In addition, Shields’ license was suspended and he had a small amount of pot in his pocket.

Shields’ attorney, Darrin Hall of Coupeville, said his client quickly agreed to the plea bargain with a sentence recommendation at the bottom of the standard sentencing range.

“He understood it was an uphill battle and took the high road,” Hall said.

In prison, Shields is required to undergo an evaluation for substance abuse and comply with treatment recommendations.

This article was originally published in the Whidbey News Times on February 23, 2010.

South Whidbey activist restarts drive to decriminalize marijuana


South End activist Steve Erickson has put himself on the business end of the statewide push to decriminalize marijuana.

“Unfortunately, the Legislature has failed to act,” Erickson said on Monday.

“If the politicians don’t have the courage to act, then the people will,” he said.

Erickson said several bills that would change the law were submitted during the past Legislative session, “but none of them came up for a vote.

Erickson is the volunteer field organizer for Island County in the effort to put Initiative 1068 on the November ballot.

He has called a meeting this week to explain the measure and how to gather signatures, and to pass out petitions.

The meeting will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, at the Freeland Library, 5495 Harbor Ave.

Erickson is working for free on behalf of Sensible Washington, the statewide group gathering signatures in support of I-1068. He said about 80 people attended a recent organizational meeting in Seattle.

“There are meetings being held all over the state,” he said.

The measure would remove state civil and criminal penalties for persons 18 years or older who “cultivate, possess, transport, sell, or use marijuana.

Restrictions and penalties for persons younger than 18 would be retained.

Erickson said he got involved because he thinks there are better things to do than to keep more than a million people in jail for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

He said he’s also opposed to law enforcement officials harassing people who have pot prescriptions, and to having farmers miss out on a profitable new crop.

I-1068 needs 241,000 valid signatures by Friday, July 2, to be placed on the November ballot.

Erickson said that means that 330,000 or more signatures probably need to be collected.

“I really think people are going to get a lot more,” he said. “This really cuts across political lines.

All the polls say its time to end this war on people,” he added.

He said when the issue was raised in California, a drive to collect

400,000 signatures wound up with 700,000.

“It’s going to happen sooner or later,” Erickson predicted. “And the later is this November.

For information about Thursday’s meeting, the petition drive or Sensible Washington, contact Erickson at or call 579-2332.

This article was originally published in the South Whidbey Record on February 24, 2010.

Roy Jacobson can be reached at

Sunday, February 21, 2010

11 Redmond High students arrested in drug bust


Redmond High School is the center of attention this afternoon after Redmond Police arrested and charged 11 students for violation of the uniform controlled substance act following a seven-month undercover operation.

Starting around 8:30 this morning, police officers swept through the school and city, finding and arresting two 15-year-olds, six 16-year-olds and three 17-year-olds, according to Redmond Police spokesperson, Jim Bove. There may be more arrests as the investigation is ongoing, Bove said.

It was the biggest school drug bust since 2003, when police arrested five Redmond High students for illegal drugs, according to Bove.

During the undercover operation, officers purchased marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, MDMA, and a variety of prescription medications.

Redmond Police and Lake Washington School District officials along with Mayor John Marchione are calling it a "wake-up call" for the community.

"Adults are naive if they think there's not drugs in every high school," Marchione told The Reporter following a ribbon cutting ceremony at Eastside Basketball Club Friday afternoon. "The fact that we can be proactive in reaching out to kids in both rehabilitation and enforcement is important. To pretend drugs don't exist in high school perpetuates the problem. They're there and if people are shocked if they are found at Redmond High — or any high school — I think they are naive."

The most alarming part about the bust was "the variety of drugs," Bove said.

"We hope it's a wake-up call to what's going on in our society," Bove said. "We hope families use this as a learning opportunity and have conversations with their children, know who their friends are, and educate them on the negative effects of using controlled substances.

"This school is a large and positive part of our community and we share in the school’s no-tolerance mission," Bove continued. "This in no way reflects the overall student body.

The undercover operation was a collaborative effort with the Redmond High School administration and part of a well-planned undercover operation, targeting the use, possession, and distribution of illegal substances on and off campus since the beginning of the school year.

Bove said all of the charges, which includes use, possession and distribution of illegal substances, "stemmed from the students delivering the drugs to our staff." In other words, the undercover officers never sold drugs to the students, they only bought them from the students, Bove said.

Bove did confirm that the teenage suspects were processed and released this afternoon following the morning arrests. Redmond Police will forward the charging documents to the King County Prosecutor's Office, probably sometime early next week, Bove said.

"It was a collaborative effort," Bove said. "The Lake Washington School District has a zero tolerance for drugs and so do we. We are not happy this is occurring in our schools, but we hope this makes an impact of getting (drugs) out of our schools and city."

School administrators will sit down with the arrested students and their families and conduct their own investigation, according to Kathryn Reith, Lake Washington School District Communications Director. From there, they will determine the consequences — most likely a suspension of some sort, Reith said.

"There have to be consequences, but we also want to make sure the student continues their education," Reith said. "We want to help them get back on track."

Reith made clear that the arrests "are not a reflection that there is a (drug) problem at Redmond High." Instead "it is a reflection that this is an issue at all high schools," she said.

Reith cited the 2008 Washington State Healthy Use Survey, which stated that 20.4 percent 10th-graders around the state admitted to using illegal drugs in the last 30 days, while 11 percent of 10th-graders at Redmond High said they tried illegal drugs.

As for high school seniors, the state percentage was 24.6 and the Redmond percentage was 22.7, Reith said.

"I can bet you a lot of parents will be talking with their kids tonight and that's a very positive thing to happen," Reith said. "This is a wake-up call for some people."

Marchione, who has a college-age son and a daughter who attends Redmond High, said that he and his wife have been very proactive in educating their children about the dangers of illegal drugs.

"It was a problem in high school when I was kid, it doesn't surprise me that drugs are still around my kids in high school," Marchione said. "It was always a concern of mine from day one to work with my kids constantly so it's not a problem in my family."

This article was originally published in the Redmond Reporter on February 19, 2010.
Bill Christianson can be reached at

Six arrested in Mill Creek prostitution stin


MILL CREEK -- The quiet Snohomish County town of Mill Creek was the unlikely location for an undercover prostitution sting operation that resulted in six arrests on Friday.

Five women were arrested on suspicion of soliciting prostitution and one man also was arrested on suspicion of promoting prostitution, police said. One woman also was busted for possession of marijuana.

Mill Creek police spokeswoman Sgt. Kate Hamilton said she is not surprised to find prostitution happening in the quiet, mostly upscale town of gated communities.

"It goes on everywhere. I think it's one of those adult activities that can happen anywhere," she said. "No, I am not surprised. I think it's something that maybe the citizens aren't aware of - but it's just something that's going on, probably, like an underbelly - it happens everywhere."

During the sting, police officers responded to advertisements posted in the "adult service" category on the Craigslist web site, and arranged for a meeting at an apartment in Mill Creek.

Undercover officers posed as "Johns" at the apartment and greeted the unsuspecting women when they arrived.

After the women offered the officers sexual services in exchange for cash, other officers entered the apartment and arrested the suspects.

All of the women were interviewed to determine their level of involvement in prostitution and investigated for the possibility of underage exploitation. All were adults over 18 and were booked in to the Snohomish County Jail.

"The ladies were told this is not a safe thing to do, and requested not to return to Mill Creek again," Hamilton said.

The sting was part of a special operations plan dubbed "Operation Dial-up," created after a regional sting uncovered underage girls being exploited for prostitution.

Teacher arrested on suspicion of having sex with student


Auburn police arrested a teacher at Auburn Adventist Academy Tuesday on suspicion of having sex with a female teenage student, KOMO News 4 reported Saturday.

Police Spokesman Sgt. David Colglazier told KOMO that Scott A. Spies, 49, was subsequently booked into the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent,

Spies is being held on $150,000 bail for investigation of molestation, indecent liberties and sex with a minor.

Spies has been fired and school officials are helping the girl and providing counselors for other students.

Sgt. Colglazier told KOMO the relationship appears to have started in February 2009, when the girl, now 16, was 15. He said it became sexual last fall after she returned from a visit to Thailand.

The two had intercourse about 15 times - usually at the teacher's Auburn apartment - Colglazier told KOMO.

The sexual relationship continued until about two weeks ago, Colglazier told KOMO.

When administrators began to hear the rumors that Spies was taking the girl back to his apartment in Auburn they started an investigation.

Spies, who graduated from the school in 1979, has a master's degree in theology.

This article was originally published in the Auburn Reporter on February 20, 2010.