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Sunday, February 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

City misguided in pressing pastor case, 500 Mom Strong organizer writes

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 13, 2019

Hundreds of untested rape kits. An opioid epidemic. A serial killer on the loose.

Anna Bohach said Spokane should concern itself with these issues, not the pastor who was arrested outside of Drag Queen Story Hour in June.

Bohach, the woman behind the 500 Mom Strong group that protested the Drag Queen Story Hour at the South Hill Spokane Public Library in June, published an article Thursday in the Federalist that was critical of how the Spokane City Prosecutor’s Office handled an arrest from the event.

“This last June, a Christian pastor named Afshin Yaghtin dared to question the sexualization and objectification of our children on public property, and he paid the price,” Anna Hall Bohach wrote.

Yaghtin, New Covenant Baptist pastor, was arrested June 15 at the South Hill library for obstruction while trying to enter the library. Yaghtin claimed he attended the meeting as an observer. On Dec. 2, Judge Tracy Staab dismissed the charge and characterized the case in terms of Yaghtin’s actions, not his beliefs.

“Assuming facts in a light most favorable to the City, Mr. Yaghtin was not arrested for the content of his speech,” Staab wrote in her analysis of the case. “He was arrested for refusing to obey an officer’s order to move to a protest zone.”

Yaghtin’s defense argued that the order by law enforcement to move to the protest zone was unlawful. Staab said the police’s policy of separating people into zones wasn’t narrowly tailored to be the least restrictive of free speech.

“The grass strip where Mr. Yaghtin was standing was not closed to the public in general,” Staab wrote. “Instead, it was apparently closed to persons who manifested a certain belief regardless of whether that belief was being conveyed to the public.”

This is where Bohach’s article begins. After the dismissal, the prosecutor’s office announced it would appeal the judge’s ruling. City Prosecutor Justin Bingham said he could not comment on specifics of the case because it is ongoing litigation, but he did confirm that Sean O’Quinn is the prosecutor handling the case.

Bohach wrote that O’Quinn has an agenda.

“Does the City of Spokane Attorney’s Office have an anti-Christian bias?” Bohach wrote. “The lead prosecutor’s social media indicates so. On Facebook, he referred to people associated with the case as ‘religious loonies.’ ”

Bohach provided a screenshot that appears to be from O’Quinn’s Facebook account. The post reads, “Old picture. I had a picture of my 8th grader here, but as a result of the religious loonies associated with a case I am prosecuting, I was advised to change the pic so I switch to this old picture briefly.”

Bingham said O’Quinn is currently traveling and not available for comment.

“I was taken aback that they were going to appeal it because it’s not really that big of a thing that they would want to prosecute that,” Bohach said in a phone interview. “With everything else that’s going on in Spokane, that they would focus on a Christian pastor I thought was outrageous.”

Bohach’s article explained what she saw to be more pressing matters in Spokane: untested rape kits, opioids and a serial killer at large.

Sgt. Terry Preuninger, a police spokesman, acknowledges there are untested rape kits that have been sent to Washington State Lab but said he did not know of an area serial killer.

Bohach said she was referring to 2017 and 2018 KHQ reports on the potential “serial killer in the making” after the murders of Heather Higgins and Kala Williams. The man thought to be responsible for their murders – Robert G. Davis – is in prison for a 2014 attack against a Coeur d’Alene woman. Davis will not have a parole hearing until 2024.

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