The ordinance spun out of an Auburn City Council inquiry late last summer: what to do about King County Prosecutors’ practice of leaving the prosecution of lesser misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors to municipal courts like Auburn’s.
On the table that night, a package of reforms that would clean up the language of ordinances so City Attorney Steven Gross and his lawyers could charge defendants in such cases no longer with merely “attempting” to commit Class C felonies, but with actually committing gross misdemeanors.
Council later approved the reforms.
But led by Auburn City Councilman Claude DaCorsi, council singled out one crime for particular attention — identity theft. Since then, the City Attorney’s office has distilled councilmember concerns into a proposed ordinance that deals with identity theft as its own monster.
A draft of the ordinance comes up for discussion at the council study session at 7 p.m., Jan. 14, at Auburn City Hall, 25 W. Main St., though whether it does or not is subject to change. It is not yet available to the public.
DaCorsi on that occasion recounted the pain to which he and his wife had been subjected over the years in their efforts to overcome multiple instances of identity theft, and the terrible after-effects on their finances and credit.
“When I see, in my personal opinion, a lessening of the crime of identity theft from a felony to a gross misdemeanor, to me, that’s unacceptable,” DaCorsi said then. “Many, many people go through the pain of ID theft, and it is painful. I understand we have 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine for gross misdemeanors, but in many cases, even with the Class C felony portion of it, the judge will slap the wrists of the perpetrator and say, ‘OK, suspended sentence, and pay your fines.’
“… I believe we should put the emphasis on county prosecutors to do their job. Declining felonies because (prosecutors) are either overworked or don’t have the staff – whatever their reason – is to me not a reason not to prosecute. In my opinion, a Class C felony is a felony, and should not be a gross misdemeanor,” DaCorsi said.
State law gives Superior Court the sole authority in King County to prosecute felonies like murder and armed robbery and leaves the prosecution of lesser misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors to municipal courts like Auburn’s.
” I understand councilman DaCorsi’s position, but we have no authority to tell the prosecutor what to charge and what not to charge,” Gross said. “So, if you strip (identity theft) out of this ordinance, we can’t charge anything but an “attempt” again, and we’re back doing the same things we are, which creates more work for my prosecutors.”
In the end, however, council agreed to strip the ID theft section out and DaCorsi joined all of his peers in adopting the reforms.