County Prosecutor Race Pits Establishment Against Reformer
The candidates for Spokane County Prosecutor represent a member of the establishment, and a challenger who says he wants to change the status quo. Larry Haskell has worked in the county prosecutor’s office since 1998, minus a three year stint in the Air Force following 9-11. He also spent a year working in the US attorney’s office in Spokane, working as an assistant U-S attorney.
Haskell points to that background as a reason why he is already qualified to hold the position of the new county prosecutor. He contrasts his experience with that of his opponent BreeanBeggs, who Haskell says has mostly worked as a civil rights, and personal injury lawyer.
Haskell: “Mr. Beggs work on the periphery of the criminal justice system, and I think he does good work, in the area he has the experience ,where he doesn’t have the expertise is the criminal justice system and knowing the basics of the things we deal with day in and day out.”
BreeanBeggs has been an attorney for 24 years, He managed the largest private law firm in Bellingham and served as Executive Director at the Center for Justice in Spokane for six years. He represented the family of Otto Zehm , the man who died at the hands of Spokane police. He currently works in private law practice.
Beggs says it’s time the status quo in the county justice system be shaken up. He points to the fact that 74 percent for the county budget is spent on criminal justice, and says there are saving to be had by practicing what he calls “Smart Justice”, a plan that seeks to keep nonviolent criminals out of jail, and rehabilitate them in the community.
Beggs is opposed to the idea of spending money for a new jail. He says only 17 percent of the people in jail are serving time after a conviction, as opposed to the other 83 percent.
Beggs: “And the main reason they’re there is they missed a hearing and the court doesn’t trust them to come back. So they leave them in jail and they don’t have bail money. A lot could be at home with a monitoring bracelet, and it’s linked to the internet, and you know if they’re not at school or if they step off their block and you save 100 bucks a day at least on that.”
Larry Haskell: "Home monitoring is not a panacea. There a lot of people that can commit crimes out of their homes. I made the comment that people can deal dope, and be the fence with a bracelet on, that sort of thing.”
Beggs may be best known for representing the family of Otto Zehm, a man beaten to death at the hands of Spokane Police. But does not want people to think that snapshot of his career tells the whole story.
Beggs: “What I've been working on the last 23 years is victims of crimes. I have been representing them to get compensation for being sexually molested, for being assaulted, families who have lost people to drunk drivers, to shootings So I am hard on crime, and take it seriously, I represent actual victims.”
Haskell also believes that his opponents’ notoriety as the attorney for Otto Zehm, coupled with his advocacy for independent oversight of the police department, may put him at a disadvantage if he were elected county prosecutor.
Haskell: “For Mr. Beggs, he’s made a point of showing kind of a cultural distrust of the police, and I think going to present him with some handicaps in earning their trust if he were elected.”
Beggs has been a staunch advocate of independent oversight of the Spokane Police department. He says he has his own plan of how that can be achieved in a case of police involvement in a shooting death.
Beggs: “My proposal is there is a law that says the county prosecutor can call in the attorney generals office anytime there is a law enforcement type of shooting, and let them decide where there is criminal conduct."
Haskell says that is a rarely used procedure.
Haskell: “It’s mainly designed, or fashioned for those instances where a local prosecutor can’t prosecute because of political concerns or in large county with a capital murder case, where their budget might be eaten up five times over by the mere proceedings that you have to go through.”