‘I didn’t think anybody took me that seriously,’ Seattle candidate says about anti-police tweets

Oct 8, 2021, 5:02 AM | Updated: 7:17 am
Seattle City Attorney abolitionist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, candidate...
Seattle City Attorney candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy. (Campaign photo)
(Campaign photo)

With the general election in Washington now less than a month away, there’s been a lot of attention on two big races in Seattle: mayor and city attorney.

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Seattle city attorney candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy has previously stated that she would not prosecute most misdemeanors if elected. When she joined KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show, they asked her to explain how that would be a benefit to the city and how it would help improve our safety.

“Right now, the reality is that a lot of the misdemeanors that are currently being charged are crimes of poverty and disability,” she replied. “And there is nothing about prosecuting crimes of poverty or disability that change the underlying conditions of poverty or disability. So I would like to actually address the root causes of crimes, so that way we can deter crimes in the future.”

Thomas-Kennedy says during her time as a public defender, she’s seen a number of cases like stealing a sandwich, a block of cheese and beer, or sleeping under an awning.

“There’s really nothing about putting someone in jail for a temporary amount of time — because that’s all that’s allowed for misdemeanors, is a temporary jail stay — there’s nothing about those situations that make it less likely from happening again,” she said. “So I would like to spend more money on scaling up resources for people, whether around mental health, around addiction, and around poverty that are going to allow them to be self-reliant and flourish instead of continuing to destabilize people through expensive prosecution.”

Thomas-Kennedy wondered how it’s in the public interest to prosecute someone for sleeping under an awning — adding that each prosecution costs $10,000 in taxpayer money — instead of spending that money on housing.

“We are the only country in the world that incarcerates the way that we do,” she said. “[And] we are far from the safest. I would like to take us in a new direction where we’re actually addressing root problems instead of continuing to cycle through punishment.”

She did admit that prosecution does have to remain an option in some cases.

“What I have said multiple times is that for some cases, especially interpersonal violence and repeat DUIs, traditional prosecution has to remain an option,” Thomas-Kennedy said. “But there’s a huge amount of area in between not doing anything and prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law. So while prosecution has to remain an option in some cases, there are other ways of dealing with these situations, there’s other ways of fostering accountability, there’s other ways of addressing these problems where jail has shown to be a failure.”

“I think one of the biggest indications of this is when people talk about prolific offenders,” she added. “Yes, there are people who continually cycled in and out of jail for misdemeanors and it is a problem. But I want to solve the problem. I don’t want to just keep perpetuating the problem because when we are talking about misdemeanors, the maximum sentence is less than a year.”

If we want true public safety, she says we have to do something different.

Responding to tweets posted in 2020

Before Thomas-Kennedy was a candidate for Seattle city attorney last year, she posted to Twitter, referring to police officers as “pigs,” “Nazis,” and “stains on humanity.”

Host Gee Scott asked: Why did you tweet that?

“So that was in 2020, and the reality of what was happening at that time was it was huge, massive protests all across the country against racist police killings,” she replied. “And the response by police in Seattle was to become even more brutal than they had ever been before.”

“My neighborhood was gassed 11 times in a row,” she continued. “I had to buy a gas mask for my 9-year-old daughter. SPD repeatedly lied about why they did it. They said an umbrella was a riot and a candle was a bomb. I mean, there were a lot of things that were going on at that time and I was angry.”

Seattle city attorney candidate defends past inflammatory tweets as ‘satire and sarcasm’

“And so I definitely trolled police at that time on Twitter,” she said. “I didn’t cause any property damage, I didn’t hurt a cop, I didn’t do anything like that, but I definitely spoke back to power on Twitter. I was not a candidate for office at that time. I was a private citizen, I defend the right of every private citizen to troll whoever they want on Twitter.”

She says she would not tweet like that as a candidate for office, and notes she wasn’t at the time.

Gee says there’s a lot that happened in 2020 that he would want police officers held accountable for, but he hasn’t tweeted it out. He asked if Thomas-Kennedy realizes that even if she didn’t take action against anyone, someone else could read her tweets, be empowered, and take action themselves toward police.

“It’s not like I was the President of the United States of America,” Thomas-Kennedy responded. “I was a private citizen. A lot of those tweets have one ‘like’ maybe, I think the most have six likes. … I’m sorry, I guess I didn’t think anybody took me that seriously.”

Host Ursula Reutin says police officers and community members do take it seriously. She asked Thomas-Kennedy how police officers can feel like she will represent them in civil litigation as city attorney or have their back.

“Because I’m a professional. I’m a professional lawyer,” Thomas-Kennedy answered. “I’ve done over 600 cases and I’ve never lost a trial. I was a public defender, which means I don’t get to choose the cases. I defend the people that are brought to me, I defend my clients, and I always have. And so whether my client is the city or whether my client is the residents of the city, that is what the job is. And I have shown that I can do that job very well.”

Listen to the full interview with Nicole Thomas-Kennedy in the audio player above or online here.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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‘I didn’t think anybody took me that seriously,’ Seattle candidate says about anti-police tweets