Olympia police say State Sen. Jim West should be charged with a felony for threatening the life of a lobbyist, but a county prosecutor said he isn’t sure yet.
Phil Harju, supervising attorney for felony cases in the Thurston County prosecutor’s office, said he’ll take a few days to review the police report filed Thursday afternoon.
Olympia police recommended that West be charged with telephone harassment, a Class C felony, after interviewing West, Tom McCabe of the Building Industry Association of Washington, and other people.
That recommendation doesn’t automatically mean a felony charge will be filed, Harju said.
“I’ll be reviewing it next week. I may talk with the officers,” Harju said. “I might consider interviewing the alleged victim.”
Felony telephone harassment, which involves threatening someone with death, carries a standard penalty of up to a year in jail and a $500 fine.
If Harju decides the case isn’t serious enough to warrant a felony charge, it might be turned over to city of Olympia prosecutors to handle as a misdemeanor.
West admits that he called McCabe’s office and left a threatening message on an answering machine after the building industry paid for two full-page ads in The Spokesman-Review. The ads said readers should call or write to West, urging him to support a pair of industry-sponsored bills.
The ad said the bills would help schools and students without raising taxes, and suggested anyone opposing them must “think newer, safer and better schools are not a priority for our children.” The bills died in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which West chairs.
West left an anonymous message that McCabe “better get me, ‘cause if you don’t, you’re dead.”
The Spokane Republican later said he was referring to political death for the lobbyist’s programs, not physical death.
Harju said his office has handled only a few cases involving legislators since they lost their immunity from prosecution in the early 1980s. Most cases were misdemeanors, he said.