An editor of a weekly newspaper in Colville, who previously ran afoul of campaign finance laws in a former political position in Snohomish County, has been charged with theft stemming from alleged shoplifting incidents at a grocery store in March.
The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday filed four criminal counts against Kevin T. Hulten, 38, stemming from a series of alleged thefts at the Super 1 market in Colville from March 15-25. The total amount of the thefts is valued at roughly $112.
A message left at Hulten’s office at the Statesman-Examiner in Colville requesting comment on the charges was not returned Thursday. A newspaper employee declined comment when reached by phone Thursday afternoon.
Horizon Publications, the Illinois-based company that owns the Statesman-Examiner, referred comment Thursday afternoon back to the Colville newspaper.
Colville police were able to identify Hulten by the use of a payment card and purchased prescriptions at the store’s pharmacy. Video evidence provided by the store allegedly shows Hulten grabbing flowers and leaving the morning of March 15; a cart full of groceries the next day; and again attempting to leave without paying for a cart full of items on March 25.
A store manager convinced him to return to a checkout counter and pay for his final purchase, according to a police report prepared by Colville Police on March 31, but he did not declare a $2 can of Red Bull energy drink he’d consumed and thrown away while in the store.
In each instance, Hulten exhibited nervous behavior captured on camera, according to the police report, including pretending to rent a movie from the store’s Redbox kiosk in an apparent attempt to avoid detection by two potential witnesses in the store’s lobby.
Hulten began work at the Statesman-Examiner in April, according to his Facebook page. He previously worked as an aide to Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, who resigned amid a flurry of scandals in February 2013. Hulten was later fined $2,500 by the Public Disclosure Commission for using his work computer to conduct research against Reardon’s political opponents.
King County prosecutors charged Hulten with evidence tampering in 2014, a gross misdemeanor, for running programs on his computer in an attempt to conceal from investigators records tied to anonymous records requests targeting political rivals that was first reported by The Everett Daily Herald. He was later sentenced to five days on a work crew in Skagit County after pleading guilty to the gross misdemeanor.
It wasn’t clear Thursday if Hulten had hired an attorney.
The Stevens County Prosecutor’s Office has forwarded charges that include three counts of third-degree theft, a gross misdemeanor, and one count of attempted third-degree theft, a misdemeanor. Gross misdemeanors carry a maximum jail sentence of up to 364 days, and a $5,000 fine. Misdemeanors can result in a 90-day sentence a a $1,000 fine.
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