Seattle Judge McKenna responds to allegations, will not step aside
Following a letter from City Attorney Pete Holmes and Department of Public Defense Director Anita Khandelwal asking that Ed McKenna step down from his role as Seattle’s Presiding Municipal Judge, Judge McKenna has responded.
“I am declining your suggestion to step aside,” McKenna wrote in a letter addressed to Holmes and Khandelwal, acquired by The Seattle Times. “I was elected to this position by my peers and enjoy continued support from the bench. The court, as the judicial branch of City government, is a separate branch and independently elected and should act free of outside influence.”
In the original letter from Holmes and Khandelwal, the city’s two top legal authorities objected to McKenna’s criticisms of prosecutor sentencing recommendations. Holmes and Khandelwal also took offense at McKenna’s participation in a Downtown Seattle Association City Maker breakfast, moderated by KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. McKenna spoke about the challenges he faces as a judge at the forum.
“We are very clear that we have profound concerns about the conduct of Judge McKenna and believe that he is in violation of the canons of judicial conduct,” Khandelwal said.
They went on to accuse him of inviting the public and KOMO 4 reporter Matt Markovich to his courtroom to see him impose a sentence of 364 days in jail on one defendant, even though the prosecution and defense had already agreed on the 50 days already served.
Markovich has since dismissed the claim as “laughable,” saying that he was in the courtroom that day working on a story about Seattle’s habitual offenders, and had received a tip about the hearing from a source unrelated to the court.
“What Pete Holmes is asserting is absolutely untrue,” Markovich told The Dori Monson Show on Thursday.
Markovich’s story aired on KOMO 4 about a month later, just after a report of Seattle’s 100 prolific offenders, commissioned by neighborhood districts and the city’s tourism industry, was released. According to the study, 100 prolific offenders are responsible for 3,500 crimes committed in Seattle — and rather than being put behind bars for extended periods of time, these offenders keep getting released onto the streets.
“What’s finally happening is we’re starting to show what happens in these court cases,” Markovich said.
In McKenna’s own response, he “categorically” denies claims that he violated the canons of judicial conduct, and asks that Holmes and Khandelwal “initiate an effort to publicly correct” their allegations.
KIRO 7 TV contributed to this report