Dori: Soft-on-crime King Co Judge wishes she could go lighter on carjacker who shot at cops

Aug 25, 2022, 5:41 PM
Photo from King County Superior Court...
Photo from King County Superior Court

In a startling follow-up to a case that allowed a rapist to serve 15 months in jail – only to beat a man in a wheelchair at Bellevue Transit Center last month – the same King County judge has shocked local law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and even defense attorneys involved in a separate case.

On Wednesday, King County Superior Court judge Maureen McKee ignored the 10-year sentence plea agreement reached by prosecutors and the defense team for Jeffery Hamlet and reduced his sentence to just 7.5 years. With three years already served, Hamlet could be back on the streets in four years.

During her ruling, McKee told Hamlet that if state law allowed her, she would have given him an even lesser sentence, and told Hamlet he was not a threat to the public.

Three years ago, court documents show, Hamlet was arrested after threatening to kill the mother of his son, shooting at two Normandy Park police officers, and using a gun to carjack two people before leading cops on a rush-hour chase that led to a lengthy standoff. Several days earlier, Hamlet learned about the death of his 3-year-old son, allegedly at the hands of the toddler’s mother’s boyfriend.

McKee is the same judge who assigned Gabriel Vargas-Garcia, 25, to just 15 months in jail after his May 2021 conviction for raping a 16-year-old girl in 2019. According to, Vargas-Garcia was also under investigation for another rape in Kent at the time of his conviction.

On July 13, less than two days after his prison release for the rape, Vargas-Garcia was captured on security cameras in the beating death of a 63-year-old disabled man in a wheelchair at Bellevue Transit Center. Video appears to show newly-released Vargas-Garcia bashing his victim’s head for 90 seconds. Vargas-Garcia was captured after witnesses called Bellevue police.

Judge McKee was also on the bench, ignoring prosecutors’ requests in a summer 2021 Belltown shooting case. Prosecutors asked for $2 million bail against murder suspect Isaiah “Junior” Tulasaga, 25, claiming he posed a threat to public safety. Police say Tulasaga shot Ilario Ngauamo, 26, outside a Seattle nightclub during a late-night fight.

McKee chose to reduce Tulasaga’s bail to $150,000 – without requiring him to turn over any of his weapons.

In an unusual move, prosecutors were so concerned about this leniency that they appealed McKee’s decision to Judge Melinda Young. Young maintained Tulasaga’s lower bail but ordered him to surrender his guns and concealed carry permit, wear electronic monitoring, and remain in King County pending trial.

“After the judge’s decision to lower the bail, there were people in our office who lost sleep over that because we don’t want to see violence continuing,” King County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Casey McNerthney said at the time.

And now, this week, despite an emotional plea from one of the Normandy Park police officers who was shot at by Jefferey Hamlet, Judge McKee has done it again: a light sentence despite committing a felony with a gun.

So why is this happening over and over?

Because we have judges like Maureen McKee, Averil Rothrock, and Nelson Lee. They were all appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee and voters somehow re-elect them.

These judges do not believe they are here for us. They believe they are here for the criminals.

We need to remember this next time we vote.

Listen to Dori Monson weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: Soft-on-crime King Co Judge wishes she could go lighter on carjacker who shot at cops