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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: steve tucker

7 assault charges reduced in plea deal

A man who fired several gunshots into a house, narrowly missing two toddlers, after a 2009 dispute over a dog accepted a plea bargain Monday that called for 60 days in jail, which he’s already served.

Lucas J. Merrill, 28, had faced seven counts of first-degree assault in a case that previously had been negotiated down to two misdemeanors by Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker. However, a District Court judge in November refused to approve the deal after Tucker declined a request to appear in court and explain the reduction in the severity of the charges against Merrill.

Instead, Merrill pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of third-degree assault, said his defense attorney, Tom Krzyminski. Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza sentenced Merrill to 60 days in jail and gave him credit for 60 days. Third-degree assault is the lowest felony level of that offense.

“I think it’s disappointing that he was not placed in Veterans Court. But it seemed there were too many roadblocks for that,” Krzyminski said.

In November, District Court Judge Debra Hayes questioned whether the plea agreement would put a federal grant that helps pay for Veterans Court in danger if she agreed to reduce the seven felonies to two misdemeanors. “This is about as close to a murder case as I’ve seen as a felony reduction,” Hayes said during a hearing on Nov. 14.

The charges stemmed from an incident in the fall of 2009 when Merrill and his roommate, Brock Woodson, believed that the neighboring Gertlar family had either poisoned or injured their dog. Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Garvin said in court that Merrill got very drunk and shot at the Gertlars’ home, which had seven people inside.

According to court records, bullets just missed two toddlers who were sleeping in the front room. The Gertlars, who indicated they weren’t happy with the previous plea bargain, did not attend the Monday sentencing, Krzyminski said.

Originally from Colville, Merrill served eight years in the military including two tours in Iraq. He has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder and has suffered traumatic brain injury, Krzyminski said at an earlier hearing.

The case file included a letter submitted by Karen Gertlar who said the shooting “has affected our lifestyle and ability to live a safe and normal life. By someone’s careless act, we are constantly in fear and all of us have re-occurring nightmares,” Gertlar wrote.

Judge: Steve Tucker recall won’t proceed

A recall petition against Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Tucker was dismissed this afternoon by a visiting Superior Court judge.

 Judge Craig Matheson of Benton and Franklin counties said that four recall charges drafted by Shannon Sullivan were insufficient and that one of the four lacked a basis of knowledge.

“I’m very relieved,” Tucker said after the hearing.

Read the rest of the story here.

Tucker disputes recall effort’s claims

Prosecutor Steve Tucker said Tuesday that he sees nothing in a petition to recall him except “rumors and hearsay, and ‘facts’ that are not true.”

 The petition for a recall election was organized by Shannon Sullivan, who led the successful recall drive against Spokane Mayor Jim West in 2005.

Read the rest of John Craig's story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 1: Recall effort targets Prosecutor Steve Tucker

Steve Tucker mum on Otto Zehm case

Ten days after a jury convicted Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. in federal court, Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker has given no indication that he will move forward in state court with an investigation into Thompson or other officers involved in the 2006 confrontation with Otto Zehm.

Tucker avoided questions for more than a week. His only response to multiple calls and office visits was an email on Friday asking about the “specific case” reporters were inquiring about. He then didn’t respond by 5 p.m. Friday to a list of emailed questions.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Steve Tucker makes public appearance

“I'm 4,” says Aidan Cameron to Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick at the YWCA Thursday. Kirkpatrick, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and County Prosecutor Steve Tucker read to children at the YWCA to support continued federal and state funding for early childhood programs.

Education experts describe children as sponges of learning, soaking up language and information from those around them.

 “They, like adults, learn languages best in an environment where learning enhances their self-esteem and reinforces their sense of who they are and who they are becoming,” according to the International Children's Education.

A revelation Thursday by largely inaccessible Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker could serve as Exhibit A in that theory.

Tucker, who joined Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich to support early childhood learning programs at the YMCA, shared a humorous vignette about his 3-year-old grandson's impressive vocabulary, including the toddler's unprompted uttering of this all-too-familiar phrase: “I am not availabe to answer that question at this time.”

Hirzel, Creach decision will be next week

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker will announce next week whether Deputy Brian Hirzel will face criminal charges for shooting Pastor Wayne Scott Creach on Aug. 25 in Spokane Valley.

Spokane Police Department investigators met Tuesday to discuss the findings of a private investigator hired by the Creach family.

“In consideration of that meeting and whether there will be any ramifications for the criminal investigation, (Tucker) has decided to wait until next week to release the results of the investigation conducted by his office,” according to a news release by Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter, Spokane County spokeswoman.

Tucker close to decision in Creach case

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker said Friday that he is close to making a decision on whether Deputy Brian Hirzel will face criminal charges for shooting Pastor Wayne Scott Creach on Aug. 25 in Spokane Valley. 

Tucker said Chief Deputy Criminal Prosecutor Jack Driscoll needs to review the report with Spokane Police Detective Brian Hamond early next week before handing it over for Tucker’s review.

“Also, I understand that SPD investigators are meeting on Tuesday to consider if any of the private investigators’ information has criminal/civil implications and needs further investigation before a final decision is made,” Tucker wrote in an e-mail responding to questions.

 Alan Creach, son of the slain pastor, reminded Tucker in a different e-mail Friday that he promised to meet with the family before announcing his decision.

Creach expressed concern that he has had no updates about the progress of the case from the prosecutor’s office.

Tucker wins 4th term as prosecutor

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker was reelected Tuesday night. 

Tucker (right) was leading defense lawyer Frank Malone 33,111 to 28,322 with 37 percent of ballots counted.

Meanwhile, Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor Jim Reierson campaigned for write-in votes despite the fact that he wasn’t eligible to win the race because he lost in the primary. 

After complaining that the newspaper was ignoring his campaign, Reierson (left) backed out on a planned interview with a reporter on Tuesday, saying he wanted to enjoy the nice weather instead.

“I apologize for not calling you this morning, but I just did not feel like it,” Reierson said. 

Jim Camden has the full story at the Spin Control blog.

Stevens says he voted for Frank Malone

Dave Stevens, a Republican who lost his bid this summer for Spokane County prosecutor to incumbent Republican Steve Tucker and Democrat Frank Malone, said Wednesday that he cast his vote for Malone in the November election.

Jon Brunt has the full story at the Spin Control blog.

Past coverage:

Feb. 18: Stevens releases letter to Tucker

Hirzel’s order to drop gun was lawful

Although the Constitution gives citizens the right to bear arms, state laws passed since then dictate how citizens can legally carry and use weapons.

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker and other legal experts say the law is crystal clear on this point: A person must follow a lawful order from police.

“When an officer asks you to drop a weapon, you drop it,” Tucker said this week. “Even in the Old West, if a deputy sheriff comes up on an outlaw and says ‘Drop the gun,’ you drop the gun or a gunbattle starts.”

But Alan Creach, son of Wayne Scott Creach, who was killed Aug. 25, said it’s also clear that his father was no “outlaw,” and was well within his rights to carry a gun to protect his property as he had done for years.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Sept. 17: Police report details pastor’s shooting

Chris Bugbee: I’ll retire as prosecutor

When defense attorney Chris Bugbee (right) addressed a room full of Republicans in June, he told them that he not only intends to defeat incumbent Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker (left), Bugbee said he intends to retire from the office. 

The bold prediction not only illustrates Bugbee’s quick emergence as a front-runner but how contentious the primary contest has become. 

The five-way race also features Republican David Stevens (right), Democrat Frank Malone (bottom right), unaffiliated candidate Jim Reierson (bottom left) and Tucker, a Republican, who has repeatedly said that his opponents don’t understand what it takes to manage 140 employees and points to his experience as the reason he is the best choice.

All of the candidates are experienced lawyers.

 “I am the only one with law enforcement experience. I have more management experience than all the others and more time in the prosecutor’s office,” Tucker said. “It gives me a better base to make decisions.”

 But Bugbee, who up until 2002 worked under Tucker, deadpanned: “What good is experience if you are not actually doing the job?”

 Bugbee, 43, has raised twice as much money as his closest rival – Tucker – and has racked up the most influential law enforcement endorsements, landing the Spokane Police Guild, the Spokane County Deputy Sheriff’s Association and the Fraternal Order of Police, which is made up of retired law enforcement.

Read the rest of Thomas Clouses’s story here.

Read more about the candidates here.

Knezovich’s ‘support’ falls in gray area

A testament to the popularity of Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich may be the level to which candidates for Spokane County prosecutor are seeking his support.

The situation came to a head last week when incumbent Steve Tucker announced during a debate that he had the support of Knezovich (pictured).

Asked to clarify that support, Tucker made it clear that the sheriff has not endorsed his candidacy.

But Tucker’s opponents – fellow Republicans Chris Bugbee and Dave Stevens, Democrat Frank Malone and unaffiliated candidate Jim Reierson – all said they believe the average voter may not know the difference between support and an official endorsement.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Bugbee earns another endorsement

The Spokane County Deputy Sheriff’s Association has endorsed defense attorney Chris Bugbee for the race for Spokane County Prosecutor, according to a campaign news release.

Bugbee, who is currently defending double-homicide suspect Justin W. Crenshaw, said he was informed of the decision late Wednesday. It adds to his list of endorsements that includes the Spokane Police Guild, the Fraternal Order of Police, Local Lodge #20mand a split endorsement from the Republicans of Spokane County.

However, incumbent Steve Tucker earned the other half of the endorsement from the Republicans of Spokane County. But, Deputy Prosecutor David Stevens received the official Republican Party endorsement.

Tucker, Stevens, and Bugbee, all Republicans, face Democrat Frank Malone and Jim Reierson, who has no political affiliation, in the August 17 primary election. The two candidates with the most votes will advance to the general election.

GOP group endorses both Bugbee, Tucker

The Republicans of Spokane County endorsed both incumbent Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker and challenger Chris Bugbee after an election forum this week.

That left out Republican challenger Dave Stevens, who earlier earned the endorsement of the Spokane County Republican Party.

Democrat Frank Malone and self-proclaimed “Law and Order” candidate Jim Reierson were not invited to the Monday forum sponsored by Republicans of Spokane County, which endorses candidates separate from the main party.

Tucker said he also received the endorsement of the Spokane Regional Labor Council, which includes several large unions.

Bugbee earlier received the endorsement of the Spokane Police Guild.

Separately, Tucker was elected Wednesday as the secretary of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. He said he’ll become president of that organization in two years if he is re-elected.

GOP prosecutor forum set for tonight

A forum for three of the five candidates seeking the Spokane County prosecutor’s spot is set for tonight..

The forum, sponsored by the Republicans of Spokane County, will be moderated by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who has not endorsed a candidate. It starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Quality Inn Valley Suites, 8923 E. Mission Ave., in Millwood, and will include incumbent Steve Tucker, Chris Bugbee and Dave Stevens, who all list themselves as Republicans.

Not invited are Democratic candidate Frank Malone and “Law and Order” candidate Jim Reierson, who works as a deputy prosecutor in Kootenai County.

Read a story on the debate here.

Elton’s wife donated to Stevens’ campaign

A candidate for Spokane County prosecutor has accepted a $500 campaign contribution from the wife of a man being prosecuted by the office he wants to oversee.

Records show that Republican prosecuting attorney candidate Dave Stevens accepted the donation in February and has kept the money despite knowing that the contributor’s husband, David Elton (left), faces three counts of felony harassment.

David Elton wrote in an e-mail in February that he would “donate as much as he could afford” to Stevens’ campaign. Documents from the state Public Disclosure Commission show that Elton’s wife, Belinda Elton, contributed $500 in February.

Read the rest of Jonathan Brunt’s story here.

Elton, 44, is accused of making threats in e-mail messages to his ex-wife, Robin Stewart, Cowles Co. Chairwoman Betsy Cowles and Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan. Deputy Prosecutor Dale Nagy is seeking a bench warrant for Elton, alleging he’s failed to notify Nagy on several occasions that he’s leaving town 48 hours in advance as required by a court order.

Judge Maryann Moreno is set to hear that motion on April 15.

Mark Vovos withdrew as Elton’s lawyer late last month. Elton has said he may represent himself.

Past coverage:

Trial set for Elton on threat charges

‘Murder’ email meant as joke, suspect says

Tucker tepid about prosecutor’s office review

Prosecutor Steve Tucker doesn’t know the guy’s name or where he’s from, but he’s hoping that the “professional prosecutor” found by a consultant can help Spokane County solve a worsening problem of releasing crime suspects back into the community because his office is unable to file necessary paperwork.

“I’m not too much in favor of hiring more consultants,” Tucker said. “That money could be used hiring attorneys back and getting them back to work here.”

But he said he agreed to the plan rather than risk being labeled an “obstructionist.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Election update: Stevens gets new manager

The former deputy prosecutor challenging his boss for the top prosecutor’s spot has a new campaign manager.

Rae Lynn Conger will manage Dave Stevens’ campaign against Prosecutor Steve Tucker, Stevens announced today. His former manager Michael Cathcart, left the campaign to become campaign manager for Michael Baumgartner, who is running for state Senate in the 6th district against Chris Marr.

Conger has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Eastern Washington University. In 2006, she spoke with The Spokesman-Review about her objection to identify her race on forms or applications. Read that story here.

Stevens was fired by Tucker last month. He’s challenging the dismissal through his union.

Past coverage:

Stevens releases letter to Tucker

Spokane prosecutor fires election opponent

Democrat joins prosecutor race

Deputy prosecutor vying for boss’s job put on paid leave

Stevens will challenge Tucker for Spokane County prosecutor

Spokane cop killer will stay in prison

OLYMPIA — Convicted cop-killer Lonnie Link does not warrant a lighter sentence for shooting Spokane Police Officer Brian Orchard in 1983, even though he helped federal prosecutors bring down more than two dozen members of a criminal motorcycle gang after he went to prison, a state board said today.

The state Clemency and Pardons Board heard what members agreed was an extraordinary plea to commute Link’s sentence of life without parole to simply life, a move that could allow him to be released some day.

The prosecutor who convicted him, former County Prosecutor Don Brockett, and one of the detectives involved in the case, joined Link’s former defense attorney Mark Vovos in arguing for clemency for Link.

But the current prosecutor, Steve Tucker, joined members of Orchard’s family and other members of the state’s law enforcement community in arguing against it.

Read the rest of Jim Camden’s story here.

Stevens releases letter to Tucker

David Stevens has released his response to the complaints that led to his firing as a deputy prosecutor.

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker fired Stevens, who had been with the office since 2002, yesterday after putting him on leave shortly after he announced he was running for Tucker’s job.

“It was a management decision,” Tucker said. “To work effectively, we have to have a unified team. Unfortunately, when (Stevens) decided to run, he went back during work time and started making statements about who he would fire and about replacing the entire management team. “

In a five-page letter addressed to Tucker Feb. 11 and released publicly today, Stevens said no one would be fired if he’s elected.

He detailed a conversation he had with another deputy prosecutor who had asked if his job was safe if Stevens won. Stevens says he told him yes but mentioned a supervisor he feels lacks necessary skills.

“In response to his questions, I said that I found it unusual that supervisor and the people they supervise aren’t separated better,” Stevens wrote. “If elected, it’s an issue I would like to consider, but in no way did I ever say that supervisors shouldn’t’ be union members.”

Stevens continues, “Mr. Grasso asked me if I thought I would be fired. In response to his question, I told Mr. Grasso that I hoped not but many of my friends thought it might be good publicity and I shared what my friends had said about how it would “get a few bites at this apple…” I was clear in responding to his question, saying that I hoped not to be fired and that I was just as committed to working my cases as I had always been.”

Read the entire letter here

Past coverage:

Spokane prosecutor fires election opponent

Democrat joins prosecutor race

Deputy prosecutor vying for boss’s job put on paid leave

Stevens will challenge Tucker for Spokane County prosecutor

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