U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno is no stranger to controversial rulings.
Imbrogno is the judge who released suspected cop shooter Charles R. Wallace from jail to attend drug treatment while awaiting trial on his latest heroin trafficking charges. Wallace almost immediately left the treatment program without returning to court, setting in motion the chain of events that led to Tuesday’s shootings.
It isn’t the first time Imbrogno’s pre-trial release decisions have drawn scrutiny.
Back in 2009, Imbrogno approved a temporary release for suspected drug dealer Terrence A. “T-Baby” Kinard so he could enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with his family — despite a long history of skipping out on promised court obligations. Among other things, Kinard had failed to appear for scheduled court hearings on 75 separate occasions.
And in 2010, she allowed Scott Nicholas Cassell, an accused marijuana peddler linked to a major distribution ring, to take a five-day family vacation to Disneyland in Southern California before returning to accept a plea bargain in the case.
Lawyers at the time defended Imbrogno as a tough but fair-minded judge: “She’s been on the bench long enough to know there’s reasons and people you have to take a chance on,” Spokane defense lawyer Mark Vovos said of Imbrogno back in 2010. “It depends on your background, your criminal history, your family support and things like that.”
Now, with two Spokane County sheriff’s deputies still hospitalized with gunshot wounds from a suspected heroin trafficker she let out of jail without bail, more questions are surfacing about Imbrogno’s pre-trial release rulings.
Imbrogno has not returned calls seeking comment, nor have prosecutors or the public defender assigned to Wallace’s federal case.
A 1979 cum laude graduate of Gonzaga University School of Law, Imbrogno was a 1970 honors graudate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she studied biology and chemistry. She was first appointed to the federal bench in 1991.
Unlike federal district judges who enjoy lifetime appointments, magistrates are appointed to eight-year terms. They are chosen by the district judges of the courts they serve. In Spokane, Imbrogno’s responsibilities include presiding over all initial court appearances of crime suspects, as well as bail and detention hearings.