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Spokane County prosecutor fired after quarreling with judge

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 25, 2019

The Spokane County Courthouse is seen on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane County Courthouse is seen on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A longtime Spokane County deputy prosecutor was fired last week after he was held in contempt for quarreling with a judge over admission of video evidence in a robbery and kidnapping case.

Kyle Treece, who worked in the prosecutor’s office for 13 years, was fired on Oct. 18. Earlier this month, Superior Court Judge Tony Hazel found Treece in contempt and fined him $500 for “disrespect, rude interruption, insolence towards the tribunal and a refusal to follow (the) court’s lawful instructions.”

Treece, who earned his law degree from Gonzaga University, began his legal career prosecuting misdemeanors in District Court before he was promoted to the domestic violence and major crimes units. He eventually earned the title of senior attorney, working on high-profile cases including the trial of former Spokane police Sgt. Gordon Ennis, which ended with a rape conviction last year.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Treece said the contempt ruling played a role in his termination. The 44-year-old said he did not intend to appeal the decision.

“This has been my career,” he said. “I’m disappointed with what happened, but I wish the office well.”

The county’s elected prosecutor, Larry Haskell, declined to comment Wednesday, saying he could not discuss personnel matters.

Judge Hazel – who worked in the prosecutor’s office until he was appointed to the Superior Court position in 2017 – found Treece in contempt during an Oct. 3 hearing when the jury was not present.

It was the second day in the trial of LaDarion M. Roberts, who stood accused of tying up and robbing her ex-boyfriend’s grandmother in the victim’s Spokane Valley home in May 2018.

Roberts, who was 22 at the time, used a “ruse” to get the elderly woman to open her front door, then pulled out a pistol and pushed her way inside the home, according to court records.

Roberts then used a large knife to cut lengths of black cord, which she used to tie the grandmother to a chair, according to court records. While the victim was restrained, Roberts stole her wallet, two rings from her fingers and the keys to her Subaru Impreza, which she then drove away from the house.

To help establish a timeline of the crime, Treece sought to present surveillance footage in the courtroom. But Hazel deemed that evidence inadmissible, writing that Treece “had apparently thought it sound to rely solely on the (sheriff’s) detective for laying a foundation and for authenticating surveillance video obtained from employees of Safeway Corp., Ace Hardware and a private ATM machine.”

According to a memo that Hazel wrote to support his contempt ruling, Treece was allowed to make additional arguments for admitting the surveillance video, but Hazel stood by his decision.

As Hazel tried to state that the video would not be admitted, Treece interrupted him about half a dozen times with a “condescending and argumentative tone,” Hazel wrote.

According to the memo, Hazel told Treece he was acting inappropriately, to which Treece retorted, “I think raising your voice is inappropriate, your Honor.”

Roberts was originally charged with burglary, robbery and kidnapping in connection with the incident, though Hazel dismissed the burglary count because Roberts’ pistol turned out to be a BB gun. The trial continued after Hazel found Treece in contempt, and a jury convicted Roberts of robbery and kidnapping.

Following an Oct. 11 meeting of Hazel, Treece and Kelly Fitzgerald, who supervises the major crimes unit in the prosecutor’s office, Hazel wrote that Treece “explained himself and gave a genuine apology to the court.”

“The court accepted the apology and noted its confidence that (Treece) would take necessary steps for future appearances and has accepted terms of contempt,” Hazel wrote. “The court finds no other disciplinary action by the court necessary and will not be reporting matter to the bar.”

A week later, Treece was fired.

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