Council approves legal reforms, making it easier for city attorneys to do their jobs

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.

Too often, says City Attorney Stephen Gross, the guys upstairs decline to prosecute lower Class C felonies, like ID theft, preferring instead to kick those back down to municipal court.

As Gross told the Auburn City Council on Monday, this particular practice has created problems for his attorneys, who have only been allowed to charge defendants in those remanded cases with “attempting” to commit Class C felonies, even when the bad guys actually did the deeds.

What Gross sought and council finally approved Monday was to clean up the language of city ordinances so his attorneys could charge defendants in such cases no longer with merely “attempting” to commit Class C felonies, but with actually committing gross misdemeanors.

But convincing council members that that would be the right thing to do turned out to be tougher at first than Gross had perhaps expected.

Council members fretted that the suggested changes would weaken prosecution of felony ID theft in particular by charging it as a lesser gross misdemeanor, and this concern nearly derailed the entire package of sought-after reforms.

Council member Claude DaCorsi 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 debilitating 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. “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.

DaCorsi added that with the ID theft section left in the ordinance, he could not vote yes.

“You could strip that exhibit out of the ordinance,” Gross responded. “My suggestion though, is it would be better to have it in than to add it back in later on. I understand councilman DaCorsi’s position, but we have no authority to tell the prosecutor what to charge and what not to charge. So, if you strip it 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, when council agreed to strip the ID theft section out, DaCorsi joined all of his peers in adopting the reforms.

More in News

Responding to a cry for help

United Way of King County’s Family Resource Exchange serves hundreds of homeless at Green River College

Utility work to affect Auburn Way North, 10th Street NE to 15th Street NE | Update

Beginning Tuesday, Jan. 22, through Friday, Feb. 8, utility work by InfraSource… Continue reading

Auburn Food Bank dedicates service Jan. 23 to help federal employees

The Auburn Food Bank is offering a food bank service Wednesday, Jan.… Continue reading

Microsoft will invest $500 million toward regional housing

Mayors of nine cities — including Auburn, Kent, Federal Way, Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton and Sammamish — have pledged to help

Auburn School Board recognizes outstanding staff member

The Auburn School District Board of Directors recognized Chris Telford, jewelry teacher… Continue reading

City offers assistance to federal employees

Late fees, service interruptions suspended for furloughed Auburn residents

Residents at SeaTac’s Firs Mobile Home Park received a closure notice for October 31, but most have chosen to stay in their homes. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
South King County coalition targets affordable housing

Rent and housing prices hit south end communities hard; SeaTac, Tukwila, Kent, Burien, Renton and Auburn are working to create organization like Eastside’s ARCH

Miss Auburn, Miss Auburn’s Outstanding Teen tiaras up for grabs Saturday

Seven contestants compete for the crown of Miss Auburn, and five vie… Continue reading

‘Super blood moon’ eclipse beams over Auburn

Stargazers in Auburn caught a rare glimpse of a “super blood moon”… Continue reading

Most Read