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Tom Shillue

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Did Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes compare cops to Nazis?

(KIRO 7)

There’s a bizarre controversy surrounding an interview Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes gave to The Stranger that’s earned the ire of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild. The guild believes Holmes compared cops to Nazis.

Holmes is running an incumbent campaign against former Mayor Ed Murray adviser Scott Lindsay and both are fighting for an endorsement from The Stranger. In a sit-down interview with the candidates, The Stranger’s Election Control Board asked the two candidates to weigh in on the video of a man punching out someone wearing a Nazi armband.

The candidates were asked if it’s an Assault 4 or a citizen’s arrest. Here’s a partial transcript:

Pete Holmes: If the Nazi is a police officer or a uniformed person, it’s an Assault 3. I can say that, which is a scary thought.

Scott Lindsay: Wait, what?

Holmes: The same assault that on an average citizen is a misdemeanor Assault 4 is an Assault 3 felony if it’s a uniformed officer. Just saying, that’s the law.

Why would Holmes bring up police officers in the context of an Assault 3 if that wasn’t even part of the question? I’m with Lindsay in wondering what in the world Holmes is talking about based on the transcript as presented.

On their Facebook page, SPOG blasted Holmes:

The men and women of the Seattle Police Officers Guild find City Attorney Pete Holmes statements insinuating Seattle Police Officers as Nazis irresponsible, unprofessional, and completely absurd. Seattle Police Officers come from all ethnicities and religions. Many of us are veterans who served this great country and all of us continue to proudly serve Seattle. We should expect more from our elected officials. Is this the type of elected official we want in office?

They’re not the only ones upset. Lindsay is taking advantage of what he believes to be a Holmes misstep, telling me:

I still have no idea what Holmes was attempting to say here. What I do know is that firefighters and police officers have repeatedly told me that they don’t believe the city attorney has their back when they are assaulted. City uniformed personnel face real hazards and, if I am city attorney, will receive the full protection of the law.

I’ve heard the same claims: police are not fans of Holmes. Perhaps that’s why they’re so sensitive to the language Holmes uses?

I reached out to the Holmes campaign asking to clarify the statement and, while I certainly appreciate his attempt, I’m still left confused:

The question posed in the interview was whether someone who strikes a Nazi should be charged with criminal assault. I prefaced my response by clearly admitting I had not seen the video-gone-viral that prompted the question.

In the ensuing discussion, I explained the statutory differences between misdemeanor and felony assault, which would, in turn, determine whether my office or the County Prosecutor would be responsible for considering charges. To summarize, a misdemeanor Assault 4 becomes a felony Assault 3 if the Nazi’s injuries were severe enough. The exception at the root of my comment is that a misdemeanor assault on a uniformed officer such as a police officer or firefighter automatically becomes a felony. Hence, if the victim of the assault (in this case the man in the Nazi armband) were for some reason an officer, THEN it would be a felony. I believe this was clear in the context of the overall conversation, but perhaps not in the excerpt quoted online.

At no time did I compare police officers to Nazis, and for some to misinterpret my statement for political reasons is both inappropriate and ridiculous.

I feel more confused now than I originally did. I accept that he wasn’t saying Nazis are like cops or visa versa, but the example seemed unnecessary. He’s explaining away context that doesn’t exist. And while that may make a good legal argument, it doesn’t seem like a good one to make to the layperson.

I understand that Assault 4 becomes a felony Assault 3 if the injury is severe, except if the assault is on a uniformed officer. But it wasn’t on a uniformed officer. So I’m not sure that example was necessary. No one was asking about exemptions. The Stranger just wanted to know about the Nazi being punched out.

The statement Holmes provided me here seems like someone overthinking an answer a bit too much and it’s leading some to believe he holds a rather dim view of cops. What do you think?

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