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Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell apologizes for wife's racist public statements

Rebecca White
Larry Haskell addresses the local press in a news conference Friday, February 11.

Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell apologized to the public Friday for racist comments his wife made on social media. Haskell’s wife, Lesley Haskell, publicly identifies as a white nationalist, and used racial slurs, as well as other offensive language on a far-right social media website.

Haskell called his wife’s comments reprehensible and racist.

“If a deputy prosecutor made comments like that, well, that legal relationship changes now doesn't it, and they would be summarily terminated,” he said. “They would however get due process, but once an allegation like that is proven, they would be terminated from the office. But it's not a marital relationship, it's an employment relationship, and they’re a huge difference.”

Lesley Haskell’s posts were first reported in The Inlander, which found she had publicly posed with pictures of the Proud Boys, a far-right group known for causing violence at protests, and shared arguments online that she should be able to use racial slurs.

Larry Haskell acknowledged there are racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and in the Spokane County jail. He said his office is not biased against people of color, has people of different nationalities working there, and would welcome an audit of their practices.

“I can tell you, that as your county prosecutor, I will continue to prosecute in the matter in which we have, strong, just, ethical and only based on the motives that are required by the law,” he said.

Prior to his wife’s comments becoming public, Larry Haskell faced criticism for his opposition to some criminal justice reforms, and the continued racial disparities in the Spokane County Jail.

Spokane County is at risk of losing a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, a nonprofit that works to reform the criminal justice system and address racial inequity, according to The Spokesman-Review.

One of the key programs the foundation funded in Spokane County that may address some racial disparities in the jail is supported release.

The program is designed for people arrested for low-level crimes who cannot afford to make their low bond amount, often less than $1,000. Those people would be released, connected with services and a social worker, who would help them appear in court.

Haskell’s office opposed that version of the program, arguing it was a liability for the county.

His office has also come under scrutiny for the unusually high number of felonies they file and their requests for high bail amounts.

He’s also faced criticism for his, and Spokane County Commissioners Josh Kerns and Al French’s opposition to including the phrase “racial equity” in a set of criminal justice goals for the county. Haskell argued the word equity, could mean the county would “tip the scales” of justice is some people’s favor.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.