Crime, Law and Justice

Authorities Search For Person Who Sent Ricin-Laced Letters

May 17, 2013
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

The FBI is trying to find the person who sent two threatening letters containing deadly ricin in Spokane. One of the letters was addressed to a federal judge.

It's back to work-as-usual at Spokane’s historic Post Office after the two letters made it into the mailstream here. Police say the discovery prompted an evacuation. Authorities don't believe any workers were exposed to the highly toxic substance, but they are remaining tight-lipped about the case.

Representatives from the FBI and local police declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

There’s a new development in the case of a Richland, Wash. florist who refused to sell flowers for a same sex couple’s wedding. The business owner’s lawyers announced a counter suit Thursday saying the florist “will not wilt.”

The owner of Arlene’s Flowers argues there are plenty of other shops in the Tri-Cities that could cater to a gay or lesbian wedding. But lawyers for Barronelle Stutzman say she’s refusing that business because of her religious beliefs.

Anti-Logging Protesters: 'We Are Not Terrorists'

May 6, 2013
Jay Plater / Flickr

Some environmental groups say they're being unfairly targeted by legislation working its way through the Oregon capitol. A pair of measures take aim at protesters who get in the way of tree harvesting operations on state-owned forest land.

One bill would make it easier for timber companies to sue protesters. Another would increase criminal penalties for people who block logging operations.

Or, as Republican representative Wayne Krieger put it on the House floor, "The bill addresses environmental terrorism."

US Department of Transportation

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and lawmakers want to move swiftly to crack down on repeat drunk drivers. This after two recent high profile tragedies in Seattle. But Thursday they got some pushback from judges, prosecutors, civil libertarians and even the restaurant industry.

It’s a classic case of the devil’s in the details. Take ignition interlock devices. There’s a proposal to install them at the impound lot after a drunk driver is arrested. But the installers say that isn’t technically feasible and lawyers question whether it’s legal prior to a conviction.

In a case that’s garnered national attention, a gay couple is suing their once favorite florist in southeast Washington. The case filed Thursday, is in addition to the anti-discrimination lawsuit filed by the state Attorney General last week.

Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll, both professionals in the Tri-Cities, have been a couple for almost nine years. The ACLU is bringing their case agains Arlene’s Flowers. The shop refused to sell flowers to the couple for their September wedding.

Doug Honig with the ACLU says that violates the Washington’s anti-discrimination law.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Repeat drunk drivers in Washington may soon carry a scarlet letter driver license and have to wear an alcohol detection bracelet. Those are just two of the requirements contained in DUI legislation proposed Tuesday in Olympia.

The bipartisan plan follows two recent drunk driving tragedies in the Seattle area.

Rally for David Warner / Facebook

Two more suspects in the brutal beating of a professor at Washington State University in Pullman came forward to police Friday.

The two suspects have been released on the condition they don’t talk with other participants, go to bars or consume alcohol. Whitman County’s prosecutor is expected to file charges against all four suspects soon. Two are WSU students.

American studies professor David Warner is in serious, but stable, condition at a Spokane hospital following the March 30 beating.

Rosauers Supermarket In Idaho Bans Trans Woman From Store

Apr 11, 2013
Courtesy photo

A supermarket in north Idaho has banned a transgendered woman from the store after she used the women's restroom. Police issued Ally Robledo a trespass notice that will make it a misdemeanor for her to enter the store for one year.

Managers at the Rosauers in Lewiston told police they received complaints from women about Robledo using the restroom. Robledo was born male as Alberto, but identifies and dresses like a woman and is the process of transitioning physically.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Recent tragedies in Seattle have triggered an emergency discussion of drunk driving laws. Governor Jay Inslee said Tuesday it’s not acceptable that it takes a fifth DUI in ten years before a driver is charged with a felony. But changing that policy would be costly.

Flickr

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Governor Jay Inslee is demanding a renewed crackdown on drunk drivers. This after recent tragedies in the Seattle area.

The Democrat Tuesday called for more DUI patrols, more resources for prosecutors and stricter rules for ignition interlock devices.

“We've got to understand a drinking driver is just as dangerous as someone out there with a bomb in their car because that’s what they are," the governor said. "They’re rolling time bombs and that’s why I believe we need to be much more aggressive.”

Virginia Alvino / Northwest News Network

SALEM, Ore. - Survivors of childhood sex abuse are lobbying in Salem to eliminate the time limit to press charges against their perpetrators. A committee held a hearing on a new bill Monday.

Letty Merritt, with the group OAASIS, is an advocate for sex abuse survivors. She says she was abused by four male relatives when she was younger. It wasn’t until her mid-30s, after years of therapy that she was finally able to speak out and press charges against her abusers. But Oregon’s criminal statute of limitations expires when victims like Merritt turn 30.

Oregon state lawmakers have scheduled a marathon public hearing Friday on four gun control bills. The proposals include a ban on guns in schools and criminal background checks for private gun sales.

Opponents are lining up against the measures, but some gun control advocates say the proposals don't go far enough.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – For decades, police officers in Washington have been able to obtain false driver licenses for undercover work. But this quasi-secret program inside the Department of Licensing only recently came to light. It turns out the confidential ID program was never approved by the legislature. Now two state lawmakers are calling for more oversight to prevent possible abuses.

As a street cop in the early 1980s, Mitch Barker went undercover to work drugs and vice. The Washington Department of Licensing helped him assume a fake identity.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Police officers could search students’ lockers, backpacks and pockets without permission under a bill in the Washington legislature. The measure has already passed the Washington state Senate and was the subject of a hearing Thursday in the House.

Sen. Mike Carrell introduced the bill. He’s a former high school teacher. He says it would give trained officers greater ability to head off possible tragedies.

“We’re putting our schools, our children and our personnel at potential risk," Carrell says. "You know what has happened in schools.”

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SALEM, Ore. – Corrections officers in Oregon say they need the option of being armed while they commute to and from work. Lawmakers are considering a measure to overturn a rule that bans corrections officers from bringing personal guns to the grounds of state prisons.

The 2009 personal gun rule applies to employees and visitors at most state buildings. More than a dozen lawmakers have signed onto a bill that would allow corrections officers to bring their personal weapons with them to work, as long as they leave them in a locked gun box inside their vehicle.

OLYMPIA, Wash. –Liquor control officers in Washington say they need more authority to combat the black market for booze, cigarettes and, soon, marijuana. State lawmakers on Tuesday will take testimony on a proposal to give full police powers to liquor enforcement officers.

Washington has 56 officers who police the stores and restaurants that sell liquor and tobacco products. Now that private retailers can sell booze, there are nearly three times as many liquor licenses statewide and theft has become a significant problem.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Fronts for organized crime may try to get a piece of the action as Washington moves to implement legalized marijuana. That’s the prediction of former US Attorney John McKay, a key supporter of Washington’s new pot law.

As US Attorney, John McKay prosecuted marijuana smugglers. Now he teaches law school and has become a visible activist in the legalization movement. McKay believes the regulated sale of pot to adult, recreational users is key to ending the border violence in Mexico. But he acknowledges the black market won’t go quietly into the night.

RICHLAND, Wash. – The state of Washington’s largest public sector embezzlement case ever moves forward Thursday with a guilty plea. A public works employee admits he took the money over more than 20 years in Franklin County in the southeast part of the state.

R0Ng / Flickr

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it easier to lock up juveniles who carry guns illegally. Currently, it takes five felony convictions on firearms charges before someone under 18 is sent to a juvenile lockup.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg told a panel of Washington lawmakers the proposal would help curb youth violence.

“The truth is we don’t get many kids who get five convictions for carrying a gun because, sometime between that first one and the fifth one, they pull the gun out of their pocket and they shoot somebody.”

Supreme Court Justice Urges Funding For Video Translation

Jan 23, 2013

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The chief justice of the Washington Supreme Court wants state lawmakers to fund video translation for people in court who don’t speak English. Chief Justice Barbara Madsen told a joint session of the state legislature Wednesday that a remote interpreter service would be less expensive than having a translator present.

She says courts currently have certified interpreters for only 35 languages.

Mischa Cowles, Washington State Parks.

It could be one of the largest Maple wood thefts from Washington State Parks land. Thieves in search of valuable “figured maple” wood cut down 21 Big Leaf Maple trees on undeveloped property in southern Puget Sound. Park Ranger Mischa Cowles discovered the theft Friday on Harstine Island. She says she first noticed a road had been punched through a wall of ferns, Salal, and Huckleberry bushes.

Search For Victims Lives On After Killer's Death

Jan 15, 2013
FBI

SPOKANE, Wash. - In December, a suspected serial killer from Washington killed himself in a jail cell in Anchorage, Alaska. Israel Keyes’ suicide abruptly halted progress into uncovering one of the widest-ranging serial killing sprees in the U.S.

Now, the FBI is trying to piece together exactly what he did. Investigators are struggling to connect seemingly random dots that they hope will lead them to other victims.

SoulRider.222 / Flickr

SALEM, Ore. – Police officers in Oregon can continue to use random license plate checks as a law enforcement tool. That's the upshot of a decision issued Thursday by the Oregon Supreme Court.

Have you ever been stopped at a red light and noticed a police car in your rearview mirror? There's a good chance that officer is running your license plate number through his or her computer. In seconds a state database can show if everything's kosher about your car. If not, you'll probably get pulled over.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – We’re starting to see real world fallout from some of the state budget cuts made in last few years. One of the clearest examples in Washington is juvenile parole. It turns out that the chief suspect in a recent high profile bar shooting had committed a previous murder – but did not qualify for intensive parole supervision because of cutbacks. One study finds juveniles who don’t receive parole are far more likely to be re-arrested within nine months of their release.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – An ethics hearing is underway for a former top Washington prison official. In opening statements Wednesday, the state accused Belinda Stewart of misusing state resources. Her attorney calls it a “political prosecution.”

Washington Department of Corrections

OLYMPIA, Wash. – It’s been nearly two years since Washington corrections officer Jayme Biendl was murdered on the job. But the union that represents prison guards says safety is still a major concern. The Teamsters plan to rally Thursday at the Capitol to demand safer work conditions. They also want the right to call in an arbitrator to resolve bargaining disputes.

Union representative Michelle Woodrow says since August seven officers have been assaulted at three different Washington prisons.

Northwesterners Pause To Remember Sandy Hook Victims

Dec 21, 2012
Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

SALEM, Ore. – One week after 26 people were shot and killed at a Connecticut elementary school, Northwesterners paused to remember the victims. The Governors of Oregon, Washington and Idaho asked their citizens to observe a moment of silence Friday morning. Afterward, many churches rang their bells 26 times to honor those who died.

These bells rang out at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Salem. Shawn Murray stood on the sidewalk and listened silently.

High Desert Warrior. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales

The top forces commander at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord has decided to seek the death penalty against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. He’s the 39-year old soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians earlier this year.

Bales is accused of conducting two predawn raids on villages in southern Afghanistan. The victims were mostly women and children and the Army says some of the bodies were burned. Prosecutors had asked for a death penalty trial and top commanders at Lewis-McChord agreed.

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SALEM, Ore. – Some of Oregon’s voter-approved criminal sentencing laws would get a second look under a series of recommendations approved Monday by a high level commission. It’s part of a package of ideas aimed at slowing the growth of Oregon’s prison population.

The Commission on Public Safety didn't wholeheartedly endorse the proposal to scale back some voter-approved mandatory minimum sentences. Those include some types of robbery, assault and sex abuse. But the panel did list the strategy as one way for lawmakers to avoid having to open a costly new prison.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Governor-elect Jay Inslee says in the days to come he will be listening for ideas on how to prevent the kind of school violence that occurred in Connecticut Friday. Inslee did not indicate if that would include gun control proposals.

Mike Donlin heads Washington’s School Safety Center. He says all Washington schools now have safety plans -- but normally a visit by the adult child of a teacher would not trigger alarm.

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