Stories about law and politics in the Pacific Northwest, with many from KPLU's Law and Justice reporter, Paula Wissel.

Western District of Washington

June 23, 2011

Defendants Sought Firearms and Grenades to Attack Complex where Enlistees Report

The Justice Department says two men have been arrested in a plot to attack a military recruiting station in Seattle with machine guns and grenades.

Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, also known as Joseph Anthony Davis, of Seattle, and Walli Mujahidh, also known as Frederick Domingue Jr., of Los Angeles, were arrested Wednesday night.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

It isn’t against the law to sip a martini. So why should you face jail time for lighting up a joint? Supporters of the latest initiative to legalize marijuana say both activities should be treated the same.

Liquor in Washington is heavily regulated. And that’s what the group New Approach Washington wants the state to do with pot.

Null Value / Flickr

If you’ve witnessed a crime, you’ll swear you can accurately identify the person who did it. But, there’s a good chance you’re wrong, especially if that person is of a different race. Still, jurors believe eyewitness accounts.

And, in Washington state, the law doesn't allow judges to tell juries about the problems associated with cross-racial eyewitness identification. One Court of Appeals judge says that's wrong.

masonvotes / Flickr photo

Young people have an easier time voting in Washington State than anywhere else in the country. That’s according to a survey by Rock the Vote, a group that encourages youth to participate in the political process.

It found many state laws mesh with the needs of young voters, but there’s still room for improvement.

Associated Press

MISSOULA, Mont. — Authorities thought their dayslong manhunt for a fugitive former anti-government militia leader was reaching a climax as they closed in on a remote Montana forest camp Wednesday after hours of surveillance.

But when officers entered the clearing they discovered that the man they had been watching was a squatter — and that David Burgert is still on the run.

The Washington State Patrol says some evidence was likely damaged by a sprinkler malfunction at its crime lab in Seattle. The patrol says the leak Monday occurred in a freezer used to store evidence.

Seattle firefighters shut off the sprinklers, and the evidence was moved to dry out. Lab manager Jim Tarver says workers are still determining the extent of the damage. Then they'll have to tell police and prosecutors.


Boeing has asked a Seattle judge to dismiss a case brought by the National Labor Relations Board that accuses the plane maker of breaking the law when it built a non-union production line in South Carolina.

Associated Press

In June of 1971, President Richard Nixon officially declared a "war on drugs."  Drug abuse, he said, was "public enemy No. 1."

Forty years later, few would call the war a success.  Even President Obama says we need to stop looking at our drug problem as a war. But, some former top cops say the President isn't doing enough to actually end the war.

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

Last week, Boeing opened a new plant in South Carolina, where it's putting the second assembly line for the 787 Dreamliner.

That’s led to a fight between the aerospace giant and the National Labor Relations Board. The nation’s top enforcer of labor laws filed a complaint against Boeing in April. Proceedings in the case begin Tuesday in Seattle. 

The NLRB alleges Boeing built the second assembly line for the Dreamliner in South Carolina as retaliation for past strikes by the Machinists union in Washington state.  And that, it says, is against the law.

Associated Press

Colton Harris-Moore, who gained a popular following as the "Barefoot Bandit," has pleaded not guilty to all charges in federal court in Seattle.

The 20-year-old is accused of a two-year cross-country burglary spree in stolen cars, boats and planes — some of the crimes allegedly committed while he was barefoot. He entered his plea Thursday.

The lawyer for the young man known as the Barefoot Bandit says plea negotiations have hit a snag as federal prosecutors balk at allowing him to sell the rights to his sensational tale, even if money from movie or book deals is used to repay his victims.

Colton Harris-Moore led authorities on a two-year game of cat-and-mouse in stolen boats, planes and cars that finally ended with his arrest in the Bahamas last summer.

His lawyer, John Henry Browne, says no final decision has been made.

A woman who survived a horrific rape and stabbing in her Seattle home two years ago is telling jurors about her partner, who died in the attack.

The woman took the stand Wednesday afternoon in the trial of Isaiah Kalebu, who is charged in the case. Kalebu has been barred from the trial due to prior outbursts and was not in the courtroom.

The woman frequently flashed a broad smile as she told the jury of how her relationship with Teresa Butz blossomed. But she broke down when she described how the two planned to have children together.

Associated Press

Maybe you didn't get the word that the law changed last June: Using your cellphone while driving -- unless you have a hands-free connection -- is a primary offense in Washington.

That means officers can pull you over and write you a $124 ticket, even if you're otherwise obeying the traffic laws. It used to be only a secondary offense, meaning police had to see you speeding, or making an illegal turn, for example, before ticketing you.

The Seattle Times has figured out that Seattle Police have issued about six times as many cellphone tickets since the law changed, compared to the previous year, and the Washington State Patrol has issued about five times more tickets. 

Associated Press

The details are heartbreaking. A lesbian couple subject to unspeakable horror after a stranger breaks into their home in the middle of the night. The high profile case happened in 2009 in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle. Now, the man accused of rape and murder, Isaiah Kalebu,  is on trial.

The young man accused of one of Seattle's most heinous murders in recent years sat strapped in a heavy green smock, his hands and legs shackled to the restraint chair used to bring him to court. He looked up and told the judge, "Get the (expletive) out of here."

Mic Smith / AP

Three employees at Boeing Co.'s North Charleston, South Carolina plant want roles in a lawsuit filed by the National Labor Relations Board.

Meredith Going Sr., Dennis Murray and Cynthia Ramaker say in a motion filed Wednesday that they are sure to lose their jobs if the federal agency is successful in its suit against Boeing and the plant shuts down.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

It’s late Saturday night and you get a phone call. Your teenage son has been arrested. You show up for court on Monday morning unsure what to do or say.  Now there’s help for parents in this predicament. It's called Juvenile Justice 101.

Elaine Thompson / AP

This week, the state legislature took the first step toward privatizing liquor distribution. The new legislation allows private companies to submit bids to be the sole distributor of liquor in the state. In Olympia, Bryan Buckalew reports not all advocates of privatizing liquor are happy with the development.

Red light camera opponents in Longview and Monroe submitted initiatives Monday against the automatic traffic ticketing system. If approved, the Monroe initiative would require the city to remove its cameras and ask for voter approval before installing more.

Seattle voters will have a chance to chime in again on the planned deep-bore tunnel that's supposed to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. 

That's the word from Judge Laura Middaugh who this afternoon sided with the supporters of a referendum, saying  her goal is to make sure that the voices of the people are heard when a policy decision is made.  She said she had not been able to find any precedents in case law to support her stance.

Paula Wissel/KPLU

How do you convince someone not to text or talk on the cell phone while  driving?  How about an in-your- face reminder of what can happen if you do?  That's the tactic Seattle Police have been using this week. 

They've been parking a black Honda, with the driver's side smashed in, outside area high schools.  A Tumwater teenager, Heather Lerch, died in the car in February of 2010 while texting and driving.

It’s do-or-die week in the Washington Legislature. A budget deal will have to come together over the next several days if lawmakers are to finish business within the 30-day special session.

A vote on whether to build a tunnel to replace the aging Alaskan Way viaduct can take place, a King County Judge ruled today (Friday).

King County Superior Court Judge Laura Middaugh said some parts of the agreements that cover utilities, insurance, right-of-way and other issues can be in the referendum but others can't. She'll hear arguments next Friday on which parts could be included in an August vote and whether she has the authority to partially rewrite language in the referendum.

Lakewood gang sweep

May 12, 2011

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist has charged eleven people with gang-related crimes. The defendants are all alleged to be members or associates of the Tillicum Park Gangsters, also known as the TPG. The Lakewood Police Department says the TPG is a criminal street gang associated with the Tillicum neighborhood of Lakewood.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Governor Chris Gregoire says she wants all the states that allow medical marijuana to ask the federal government to reclassify the drug. She scheduled a conference call among those states Thursday. Meanwhile, a state Senate committee heard testimony Wednesday on a last ditch effort to pass an overhaul of Washington’s medical marijuana law.

Decades after the federal government stopped taking Native American children from their homes and putting them in boarding schools, Native families still face challenges staying together.

Paula Wissel/KPLU

A lesbian Air Force Major who was trying to get her job back has decided to retire instead.  Under an agreement reached with the Pentagon, flight nurse Margaret Witt will retire with full benefits and her discharge will be removed from her record.

A federal judge has ruled the city of Seattle can go ahead with its effort to limit free phone books on doorsteps. Yellow pages companies were trying to block the city’s anti-phone book plan.

Department of Homeland Security

Former U.S. Senator from Washington state, Slade Gorton,  says the killing of bin Laden is proof that intelligence agencies in the United States have improved.  Gorton sat on the 9/11 Commission, which investigated the terrorist attacks.