Rantz: Seattle judge goes easy on murder suspect, prompting rare second opinion that mostly failed

Aug 3, 2021, 9:05 PM | Updated: Aug 4, 2021, 7:32 am
King County Judge Maureen McKee dramatically reduced bail for a man charged in a murder that occurr...
King County Judge Maureen McKee dramatically reduced bail for a man charged in a murder that occurred during one of Seattle's most deadly weekends in recent memory. (Photo: KIRO 7 TV and King County Courts)
(Photo: KIRO 7 TV and King County Courts)

King County Judge Maureen McKee dramatically reduced bail for a man charged in a murder that occurred during one of Seattle’s most deadly weekends in recent memory.

King County prosecutors asked for $2 million bail after charging Isaiah “Junior” Tulasaga, 25, with second-degree murder. They argued he is a significant risk to the public. But Judge McKee apparently disagreed. She lowered the bail to $150,000. She didn’t even offer any other conditions on his release, like an ankle bracelet or demand he surrender his firearm.

The move was so shocking that King County prosecutors made a rare decision to ask another judge to weigh in.

Rantz: Judge Marcus Naylor released homeless suspect in dog murder, who just skipped hearing, is at-large

Judge McKee goes easy on man accused of murder

Tulasaga was arrested and charged after fatally shooting Ilario Ngauamo, 26.

According to police documents, Tulasaga told police he was attempting to fire a warning shot at Ngauamo. The victim had gotten into a fight with Tulasaga’s friend earlier at the Ohana Club. After security kicked out the rowdy crowd, the conflict extended into a nearby parking lot. Officers arrived, and the scene was winding down when there were several shots fired.

Tulasaga was one of several people detained at the scene. Prosecutors say he was driving away after shooting the victim, but police stopped him. According to police documents, he admitted to Seattle police that he has a concealed carry permit for his Glock and that he fired a shot. He allegedly told police that he intended to merely fire a warning shot at Ngauamo and “whiz one by him.” He said he didn’t intend to shoot the victim.

A witness (and friend of the victim) told police that Tulasaga was angry at Ngauamo for the fight in the bar. In the parking lot, he claims he saw Tulasaga punch the victim. He tried to intervene but said that’s when he saw Tulasaga shoot his friend.

Cutting bail dramatically

Judge McKee ignored the prosecutor’s bail request of $2 million, cutting it down to $150,000.

“After the judge’s decision to lower the bail, there were people on our office who lost sleep over that because we don’t want to see violence continuing,” Casey McNerthney, with the King County Prosecutor’s Office, told KIRO 7 TV.

The prosecutor’s office then appealed the decision to another judge. They didn’t do much better.

Judge Melinda Young ordered Tulasaga to surrender his guns and concealed carry permit, not contact witnesses, wear electronic monitoring while out of custody, and stay in King County. He signed an agreement to adhere to the conditions.

The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH recently highlighted Judge Young after she lowered the bail amount in the case of a homeless man accused of assault. In that case, his original bail was requested for $20,000, but she cut it to $5,000. It was paid for by a local anti-bail fund group, the Northwest Community Bail Fund. Weeks later, the suspect was arrested and charged for stabbing another homeless person to death.

Judges routinely go easy on significant threats

As Seattle reels from a rash of violent crime, it’s important to point out the judges who make the city less safe.

For example, King County Superior Court Judge Marcus Naylor released a homeless man accused of kicking a 14-year-old dog to death while trying to rob the dog’s 67-year-old owner. After the suspect’s release on his own personal recognizance, he skipped out on the next court hearing.

Courts often hide behind claims that Washington law severely restricts their ability to offer high bail amounts. Indeed, Judge Young reportedly explained that she couldn’t raise the bail given the facts of this case.

King County District Court Chief Presiding Judge Susan Mahoney previously offered a defense of Judge Naylor to the Jason Rantz Show. It’s applicable in this case.

“[I]n all cases involving crimes that are not subject to the death penalty, the presumption is that the suspect must be released upon their promise to appear at a future hearing,” Mahoney wrote. “For a judge to impose more restrictive conditions, state law and Washington State Supreme Court rules require that there be demonstrable facts that meet very specific and limited reasons for holding a person.”

Mahoney encouraged me to read the rule concerning bail. I did.

The presumption of release is moot if the prosecution shows there is “a likely danger that the accused: (a) will commit a violent crime.” One’s willingness to use a gun to settle an argument — even if he intended it as merely a warning shot — makes him a danger to the public that warrants a high bail amount. Any reasonable person can see that.

But with too many judges, we’re not dealing with reasonable people. We’re dealing with ideologues.

Did you like this opinion piece? Then listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Parler, and like me on Facebook

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Rantz: Seattle judge goes easy on murder suspect, prompting rare second opinion that mostly failed