February 6, 1996 in City

Hasson Urged Leniency For Ticketed Driver Action Came While He Criticized Lowering Of Traffic Fines By Judges

By The Spokesman-Review
 

While Spokane County Commissioner Steve Hasson was attacking judges recently for discounting traffic tickets, he was asking the court to grant “favorable consideration” for a constituent, records show.

Hasson intervened on behalf of 23-year-old Bryan John Thatcher, a Spokane Valley car salesman.

Thatcher was ticketed $66 on Oct. 11 for going 40 mph in a 30-mph zone at Division and Ruby. He lost the ticket, incurring an additional $47 late charge.

When he couldn’t get a court hearing, Thatcher said he appealed to Hasson, whom he did not know.

“I don’t know this guy from Adam,” Hasson said Monday. “It looks bad, but it isn’t bad. I wasn’t trying to garner him any special favors. Gee, if he was a friend of mine, then it would be inappropriate.”

In December, Hasson attacked “high-and-mighty” District Court judges for routinely discounting traffic infractions.

By law, judges have the discretion to reduce tickets by as much as they want. They have agreed in Spokane County to slice fines by 33 percent for first-time offenders.

Hasson angered judges by referring to traffic fines as a “reliable court funding source.” The judges responded that the judiciary is not a county cash register and should remain independent of government’s executive branch.

On Nov. 27, Hasson fired off a short memorandum on county stationery to Court Commissioner Vance Peterson.

“Any favorable consideration you may be able to offer Bryan Thatcher regarding his traffic infraction would be greatly appreciated,” wrote Hasson, who is up for reelection this year.

Thatcher wrote at the bottom of Hasson’s memo that he lost the ticket and had a death in the family - extenuating circumstances he believed warranted forgiving the late charge.

Peterson immediately submitted Hasson’s memo to presiding Judge Daniel Maggs. A municipal court staffer wrote Thatcher that the only way for him to settle the matter was by paying the $113 or risk losing his license.

“He didn’t even look at my case. Now I have a nice ticket on my record,” said Thatcher, whose driving record is otherwise clean. “Justice wasn’t served. I don’t think I was treated fair at all.”

Hasson said Thatcher approached him on Nov. 27 because he was frustrated with the “bureaucratic morass.”

Said Hasson: “I’d do the same thing for anyone who walked through the front door.”

Maggs said the court receives many letters from people asking for special consideration, but seldom does it get inquiries from other elected officials. “We don’t play favorites,” he said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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