Rantz: Deputy Seattle City Attorney lives in NYC, releases criminals that won’t hurt him
Jan 3, 2021, 4:59 PM | Updated: Jan 4, 2021, 10:26 am
(Screengrab: Seattle Channel)
The Deputy Seattle City Attorney doesn’t live in Seattle. John Schochet doesn’t even live in Washington state. He lives across the country, working remotely in an office that’s already in over its head.
Maybe the out-of-state location makes it easier for the deputy attorney to back policies that so willingly release criminals back on the streets where they so often reoffend. What’s worse, Schochet is the deputy helping advise on the so-called “poverty defense” bill that effectively legalizes most misdemeanor crimes in Seattle.
When you personally face no threat, it’s much easier to defend policies that put others at great harm.
Seattle deputy lives out of state while his office releases criminals
Schochet, a personal friend of Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, is an executive member of the office.
The Deputy City Attorney moved to New York last year after marrying a New Yorker. The arrangement was to accommodate a reasonable and admirable family commitment for his new wife.
“The CAO [City Attorney’s Office] has been on remote work status since March 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. I moved from Seattle to New York in October 2020,” Schochet told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “As you likely know, the City of Seattle does not have residency requirements for its employees, other than elected officials. The CAO is continuing remote work through at least July 5, 2021. I’m not sure what will happen after then, but it’s still quite a ways off at this point.”
To be clear, there’s no reason to believe Schochet is in derelict of his duties, as it were, by working remotely. He was also quite open about the situation, which is refreshing. And in my experiences with him on this and other stories, he has been quick to respond to inquiries.
But that’s not what this is about. His location in the context of current policy from the City Attorney’s Office matters.
Seattle City Attorney policy actively releases criminals
Under Holmes, the City Attorney’s Office adopted a light-on-crime approach.
Driven by an ideology that favors endless chances at redemption over jail, criminals are released with little to no punishment. Unfortunately, these offenders go back to the streets and recommit crimes.
The latest high profile example occurred on Christmas night when suspect Abdalla Jama was arrested for head-butting a security guard. Despite witness testimony, Jama was released by the City Attorney’s Office without charges or conditions. Hours later, Jama was again arrested. He’s accused of nearly stomping a man to death with kicks so hard a witness could hear them from inside a car.
This example isn’t an anomaly. It’s the rule.
Almost all of Seattle’s 100 most prolific offenders, all of whom deal with homelessness based on a 2019 report, refuse to comply with court-ordered conditions. Yet under guidance by Holmes, the City Attorney’s Office still offers kid gloves when dealing with repeat offenders.
Why Schochet’s location matters
The prosecutors who live in or visit Seattle already seem immune from concern over the negative effects their work has on the city.
But I can only hope that one day it will hit them what they’re doing to this city. Though I sincerely hope not literally in the form of a prolific offender they’ve released assaulting them the way they do innocent passers-by. I hope that when the prosecutors walk past the courthouse and see the human misery they’re causing, they’ll realize that maybe they should be part of the solution instead of the problem.
Not living here at all, even if his move is relatively recent? Every day that separates him from the city is another day where I imagine it gets easier for Schochet, or anyone, to justify a policy that doesn’t pursue nearly 50% of misdemeanor charges.
He won’t ever be a theft victim of the criminal his office keeps releasing or charging lightly. The car prowler with a drug habit won’t ever break into his car. It’s parked on the other side of the country.
Would Schochet push back harder against the dangerous, first-of-its-kind poverty defense bill that will effectively legalize most misdemeanor crimes in Seattle if he lived in the city?
Move back, or move on
I wish him the best in New York, which is where Schochet should find a job if he’s unwilling to move back to Seattle. Staying on the East Coast seems like the goal, which does seem like he’s taking advantage of the permissive city policy as he’s shopping around for a better out-of-state job.
As of December, Schochet was admitted to practice in NY. He tells me that “many attorneys are admitted in multiple states.” While his future plans are “TBD” at this point, he’s only practicing law in Washington, working full time, remotely, for the City Attorney. (I did confirm he won’t turn against the Seahawks, which I suppose is one small victory.)
Not experiencing the results of the policies you’re enacting should be a disqualifier for the position, no matter how talented a lawyer or how nice a guy he seems over email.
Is Schochet the biggest problem facing the Seattle City Attorney’s Office? Not by a longshot. The office staff is full of ideologues. And Pete Holmes is a partisan radical. Until his replacement, this city is not safe.
But he is part of the problem and it is fixable — if he does the right thing and steps aside.
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