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Judicial sense might have averted Tuesday bloodshed

Thu., June 21, 2012

Count me in as a believer in mercy and charity and all those other virtues preachers yak about on Sunday mornings.

But when it comes to the serious work of our courts, compassion without common sense is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Such is the hard lesson to be learned from the wasted life and crimes of Charles R. Wallace.

On Tuesday, the 41-year-old professional heroin peddler wounded two sheriff’s deputies and led his pursuers on a wild chase before finally doing society a favor by blowing himself away.

Does that sound harsh?

Mission accomplished.

Shocked and outraged citizens are now asking the questions you’d expect shocked and outraged citizens to ask in the aftermath of such chaos.

Questions like:

“How could this have happened?”

And …

“Why wasn’t this guy locked up where he belonged?”

The answers can be found in the compelling story written by my co-worker, Meghann Cuniff.

And I quote:

“Federal prosecutors wanted him (Wallace) to stay in jail to await trial, but U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno allowed him to leave so he could participate in inpatient treatment for chemical dependency.”

Aw, isn’t that sweet?

I can’t say what was going through the mind of Magistrate Imbrogno when she decided to let Wallace walk out of custody last month without so much as posting a nickel’s worth of bond.

Wallace was a career criminal with Hall of Shame stats, after all.

His lengthy rap sheet includes more than two dozen convictions on crimes from dope to burglary to drunken driving to forgery to assault to even an escape from prison.

Staying with the baseball analogy, the guy was a utility player.

Drugs again had brought Wallace to Imbrogno’s attention.

He and five others, according to our coverage, were charged with distributing some 100 grams of heroin.

Did the magistrate see something in the ruin that was Charles Wallace that said, “Hey, Cynthia, this felon deserves a break today?”

Or was the judge sleepwalking as some do in the leaky tugboat we call American justice?

Who knows? The judge isn’t talking.

I’m betting Wallace didn’t give a hoot as to what the magistrate’s motives were.

I’m betting he waltzed off to freedom with a smirk from the knowledge that he had gamed the system again.

Wallace, as we now know, was a no-show at drug treatment.

Imbrogno’s order that he avoid guns and crime was a waste of words, too.

On Monday Wallace was supposed to appear in court to let everyone know how that inpatient drug treatment was going.

Dude didn’t fulfill that commitment, either.

We need to set up another warning system like the Amber Alert. Only this system would warn the public whenever a dangerous felon gets an unwarranted break in court and goes missing.

I do know this. Some judicial common sense could have spared everyone the gunfire and bloodshed that began Tuesday afternoon with a simple traffic stop in north Spokane County.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432

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