Leftist judges in one of America’s fastest-growing cities are being criticized for putting violent offenders and accused sex criminals back on the streets where they remain a risk to the community.
Not that Spokane is about to give Seattle a run for its money as Washington State’s most crime-infested city but the results of an examination of records by The Spokesman-Review should put residents on notice that there is something rotten in the jewel of the Pacific Northwest’s judicial system.
The paper examined records from January 1, 2021, to September 30, 2023, and found that on 665 occasions, judges had released offenders who had been arrested for such crimes as rape, child molestation, assault, making death threats and vehicular homicide on their own recognizance, putting them right back on the street after a promise that they’d behave.
Among those released was ex-Spokane cop Nathan Nash who was convicted of raping two women after using his badge to gain their confidence but was allowed to stay out of jail for years while awaiting trial. Nash was sentenced to at least 14 years in prison last year.
Also given a get-out jail-free card was Jordan Knippling who was accused of punching a nurse at a hospital and throwing medical equipment. He would later be accused by prosecutors of killing a man at a homeless encampment. Daniel Silva was arrested for allegedly slashing a co-worker’s face with a handsaw but was released without bail the very same day.
“The data is alarming,” said Spokane County Commissioner Al French. “We are assessing how to respond.”
State law says that those arrested and accused of crimes are presumed to be innocent and subject to be released but judges must consider the scope of the law with the consideration being subjective and left to the discretion of judges.
“The presumption when they hit jail is that they are going to go right back out. That’s where we start from because that’s what the law says,” said Spokane County Superior Court Judge Julie McKay who is quoted by the Spokesman-Review.
“From there, you are looking at an analysis of if you’re going to hold somebody, then you have to be able to hold them saying they are going to fail to come to court or they are at risk of committing a violent offense. Or, they’re at risk of interfering with witnesses, tampering with witnesses or interfering with the administration of justice that we do,” McKay added.
“Then from there, we’re looking at various things. For instance, criminal history, mental health history if it’s available. How old their criminal history is, what the actual facts of the case are, whether it is what would be considered a violent crime,” she said.
The paper’s review comes at a time when crime is on the rise in Spokane, with the state being one that is under the control of Democrats who have enacted laws and policies that coddle criminals and put the safety of law-abiding citizens at risk.
“Since the start of 2021, there have been 33 times defendants arrested on accusations of rape were released without having to post bail. Among those cases, 19 involved a child. An additional 24 were accused of child molestation. In each case, the defendant was released from jail on their own recognizance,” the paper reported. “Sixteen no-bail releases included a domestic violence flag, which signals the victim was likely a spouse or family member.”
“Some judges are good at protecting,” Commissioner French said. “Some are not.”
Judge McKay acknowledged the public’s anger over putting accused violent criminals back on the streets and said that she and other judges aren’t just going to “cut everybody loose.”
“I’m speaking only in hypotheticals, but you could have a situation where this person is alleged to have committed a rape or an offense against a child, something of that nature, and they have no criminal history. You have no history to show that they won’t come to court. You have no history to show that they’re going to interfere with witnesses, but what you do have is a pretty heinous crime,” the judge said. “So you’re faced with, ‘Now what do I do here?’ And what we’re required to do is say, ‘Do we have other safety factors that we can put in place so that release can still be presumed?’
“When these judges decide whether someone is released or if they keep them – at some point for every person they keep, someone has to be released. They’re going to try to release the property crime offenders to keep a violent offender in,” Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl said, a problem due to the city’s overcrowded jails.
McKay, however, said that the full jail is not an issue.
“That’s not part of the analysis that we do under the court rule that I refer to,” she said. “I don’t take the bench and say, ‘Well, I’m gonna let this guy go because the jail is full.’ That’s wholly inappropriate. It is not what anybody does. I have yet to talk to a judicial officer that does make that decision.”
“Nowhere does it tell them they have to consider all of these other things and let those outweigh the severity of the crime. They choose to interpret it a different way, and that’s fine, but they are elected officials. They should be able to stand on their decisions,” said Spokane County Sheriff John Nowels. “They have to be accountable. They are elected officials.”