Rantz: Prosecutor says ‘get used to’ no jail time for teen gun crimes, assault, theft

Jan 4, 2022, 6:00 PM | Updated: Jan 5, 2022, 8:55 am
crimes, seattle...
A religious center in South Seattle is pictured here in early 2021 as the Seattle police were searching for a gunman after he fatally shot a man during a meeting. (File photo courtesy of SPD Blotter)
(File photo courtesy of SPD Blotter)

A top King County prosecutor told a group of South Sound law enforcement officials that they better “get used to” no jail time for juvenile criminals responsible for the alarming rise of violence in the region. He even joked about their concern, using a popular meme that some on the call found offensive.

Ben Carr is the senior deputy prosecuting attorney for King County. He offered a PowerPoint presentation on how the county treats juvenile offenders driving much of the crime. The meeting was called after mayors criticized the prosecutor’s office for going too easy on criminals, demanding answers. It did not go well.

Local officials didn’t hear any promise to prosecute criminal suspects. In fact, they were told that the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) will not prosecute nearly half of juvenile felonies, even when they bring guns to school or commit assault, motor vehicle theft, or residential burglary.

Instead, violent criminals will be enrolled in restorative justice programs run by police and prison abolitionists.

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‘Get used to’ light on crime approach

The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH obtained a copy of the presentation offered to law enforcement officials from South Sound cities experiencing a surge in violent crime. The Zoom presentation itself was not recorded.

Carr said his office doesn’t plan on prosecuting many juvenile cases. Citing the Juvenile Justice Act of 1977, which mentions the importance of rehabilitation, the office prefers diversion — even for violent felonies.

The eighth slide on this topic angered some leaders on and off the call. It’s titled “rehabilitation,” and states that “even for serious offenses, the focus ​will be primarily on rehabilitation (get used to this concept).”

Given that the office’s inaction on prosecutions is perceived as driving the violence, telling them to “get used to” it didn’t land.

“It was shocking to me,” Kent Mayor Dana Ralph, who was not on the call but was given a meeting recap, told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “That we should ‘get used to it?’ It was shocking to me.”

Click here to see the full PowerPoint presentation. 

‘This is fine’ meme ruffles feathers

Also offending some on and off the call was the opening slide.

Carr featured the popular “This is fine” meme, showing a dog drinking coffee in a building that’s on fire. It’s meant ironically. But some on the call explained that it mocked their valid concerns over several high-profile shootings and murders.

The presentation went so poorly, Carr had to explain the perceived slight to Jimmy Hung, the chief deputy prosecutor in the juvenile division. Hung heard of the complaints, though tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that the context of the slide is important to understand. Carr, he says, wasn’t being flippant.

Carr sent over what he called “the offending PowerPoint” to Hung in an email obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

Carr explained the context.

“Obviously, ‘This is fine’ was used to make two points: 1) that significant system change is happening around us right now, and 2) that a large portion of the changes are overdue, being done to address racial disproportionality and over-incarceration, and that we should take a moment — in all sincerity, not just ironically — to consider that these changes may actually be ‘fine.'”

But the changes aren’t “fine” to local lawmakers, police departments, and community members who are witnessing their city’s murder rates soar.

“Needless to say, future meetings will focus less on collegiality and more on data,” Carr told Hung via email.

Significantly fewer prosecutions

Over the next several slides, Carr offered an example of a case that wouldn’t land a suspect in jail: bringing a gun to school.

It caught the attention of Federal Way officials. The city experienced six instances where guns were confiscated at schools in the district last year.

The slide reads: “Young Timmy brings a pistol to school, ​brandishes it during a confrontation, ​and causes panic​.”

Carr went through different considerations ahead of making a charging decision: Does the juvenile division have jurisdiction?​ Was a crime committed? What will happen to the juvenile and the case if it goes through the juvenile division?​

The prosecutor then discussed different laws that could apply, explaining how the KCPAO would make a charging decision. Ultimately, however, he told participants that “most likely, no time in custody and no ultimate conviction​.” He cited RCW 13.40.070, which he says compels the office to pursue diversion programs.

Restorative justice

Carr then pivoted to the newly-implemented Restorative Community Pathways (RCP). This is a new “restorative justice” program that provides alternatives to jail time. The KCPAO will forward 40% of juvenile criminals to this program, with plans to send a higher percentage in the coming years.

This program was announced in November 2020, and backed by the King County Council. It is not funded via KCPAO.

The alternatives are offered to certain felony suspects. Rather than going in front of a judge, RCP puts the suspects in front of a community panel of activists. That panel decides how the suspect can be held accountable.

But the activists likely making the decision have poor track records and far-left political beliefs, which include abolishing the police and jails.

What is RCP, really?

Carr notes in the slides that RCP will not be run by the community groups that originally proposed the idea to the prosecutor’s office.

“RCP was initially proposed by Collective Justice, Creative Justice, CHOOSE 180, and Community Passageways,” a slide notes.

He then assured those on the call that: “Although the organizations submitted the initial proposal, they are NOT RCP.” Carr promises that the RCP “will be designed by and with impacted communities.”

But RCP is, in fact, run by those very groups. The slide’s language, which Carr did not write, was old. He included the old data unintentionally.

Those groups are already responsible for releasing dangerous, violent juvenile criminals and failing to get them on the right path. Now, they’re given more responsibility, bigger budgets, and more legitimacy.

Extremists are behind RCP

RCP explains its “end goal is ABOLITION,” and that they are “fighting to dismantle the carceral state.”

They’ve successfully fought to kill the Children and Family Justice Center project, which would have been used to house juvenile criminals. After their tactics, which included “disrupting Executive Dow Constantine’s events,” “home demonstrations in front of council member houses,” and “shutting down the King County council chambers,” they got their way. The project was abandoned, though not before Antifa terrorists burned down a portion of the construction site during a violent demonstration.

The groups behind RCP are not merely talking about abolishing prison sentences for juveniles. Some of the activists from the groups involved are police abolitionists.

Nikkita Oliver, a failed mayoral and council candidate, is behind one of the organizations involved. The political extremist is a virulently anti-cop, police abolitionist who proposed a 100% defunding of the Seattle Police Department.

Oliver helped release a violent suspect who was engaged in the very kind of restorative justice program the KCPAO claims provides “evidence-based” solutions.

But neither RCP nor the community organizations involved successfully curbed violent crime because they keep violent offenders out of jail.

The case of Jakwaun Shannon

Oliver advocated to keep 16-year-old Jakwaun Shannon out of jail, despite his violent criminal record. To Oliver, no youth belongs in jail.

In 2019, when Shannon was 14 years old, police connected him and a friend to four armed robberies, three drive-by shootings, and a pistol-whipping. The two were arrested after a high-speed chase in which Shannon was allegedly the driver.

He was offered probation instead of juvenile detention. He worked with Oliver’s Creative Justice group, which offers art therapy. Despite that work, Shannon ended up arrested and charged for an armed attempted robbery and a carjacking.

According to police documents, two female victims were shot, one losing her kidney and a portion of her intestines as a result. Pictures taken at the time of his arrest show Shannon was wearing a “No New Youth Jail” T-shirt at the time.

This is the evidence-based system that the KCPAO and Carr support. But they should know better. Carr was the prosecuting attorney assigned to the first Shannon case.

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Mayors fight back but are ignored

The mayors of Federal Way, Renton, Kent, and Auburn asked the KCPAO to pause RCP.

City leaders, with the possible exception of Seattle, were not part of the process to create RCP. They were shocked to learn the violent charges that would be eligible for the program.

But the KCPAO is refusing to pause the program or address their concerns.

“Instead of trying to meet the cities halfway, the King County prosecutor’s office is running in the opposite direction. It’s an outrageous breach of public trust,” said Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell.

Mayor Ralph says the KCPAO has agreed to more meetings, at least. She says she’ll remain “cautiously optimistic.”

What happens in 2022?

Neither the KCPAO nor King County Executive Dow Constantine committed to anything new: They simply refuse to prosecute violent criminals who should be prosecuted.

The KCPAO is doubling down on a failed strategy. The only difference is they’ve given fringe groups more power and a bigger budget.

The criminal juveniles will continue to commit crimes. They are accountable only to activist groups that will do what they can to ensure the teens stay out of jail, regardless of their conduct. And some of the most violent juveniles will get a pass. It seems inevitable that the region will continue to experience a crime surge in 2022.

“I think that we [city leaders] collectively want to be actively engaged in these conversations,” Mayor Ralph tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “It’s our responsibility to keep everyone safe and we don’t think this approach accomplishes that. At the same time, I do want to emphasize, no one is asking for a juvenile who steals a candy bar to go to jail. We support the concept of restorative justice. But allowing juveniles who are committing violent crimes to be released back into the community before the work has been done is wrong.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3–6 pm on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Prosecutor says ‘get used to’ no jail time for teen gun crimes, assault, theft