Concerned mayors meet with prosecutors over handling of felony cases

VIDEO: Frustration over felony arrests that don't result in felony charges

KENT, Wash. — Kent Mayor Dana Ralph said she and Renton’s mayor recently met with King County prosecutors to discuss why some people suspected of committing certain felony crimes in their cities aren’t being held accountable.

Ralph said Kent has likely spent tens of thousands of extra taxpayer dollars in recent months handling criminal cases that were sent to King County prosecutors as felonies, only to be returned as misdemeanors.

"Either we take them and treat them as a misdemeanor, so we can get some accountability, or nothing happens at all,” said Ralph. “And then that sends a message, right, that I can commit a crime in the City of Kent or some place in the region and there's not a consequence."

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The mayor pointed to recent policy changes she said were made by King County prosecutors that Kent did not learn about until after the fact. Ralph expressed concern about repeat offenders who have been able to avoid jail time.

"The biggest change has been in what they're terming low-level drug offenses,” said Ralph.

KIRO 7 obtained a copy of a letter Kent City Attorney Arthur Fitzpatrick sent to King County prosecutors last month voicing concerns about filing policies that, “have the potential to impact community safety and have a significant impact on city resources.”

“It makes me crazy,” said Ralph. “It’s not OK.”

Ralph said she and Renton’s mayor, who shared similar concerns according to the letter, and frustrated police leadership have all recently met with prosecutors to open new channels of communication, especially about repeat offenders connected to crimes beyond drug-related offenses.

Kent’s letter to prosecutors said the city would like to be more involved, “when county filing policy decisions are considered or made.”

“We set up a plan that we have when we know that we’ve got those high impact offenders,” said Ralph. “There’s a process as a city that we can go through to bring that to the attention of the prosecutor’s office.”

In a statement to KIRO 7, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said:

“We always welcome meetings with leaders of municipalities from different parts of the county. It was a valuable meeting as we are working to prioritize our collective resources to have the biggest impact on public safety issues in south King County. We pledged to coordinate our efforts to focus on the high impact repeat property crime offenders who have such a negative impact on our south end communities. We will continue to maintain a line of communication and work together to address issues impacting the south end.”

Ralph said she’s been happy with the recent dialogue between the city and King County prosecutors.

“They have absolutely said, ‘you know what, in the future we’re going to handle that differently,’” said Ralph. “And so to me, that’s a huge win.”