KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Councilmember argues to keep more criminals out of jail

Oct 1, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: Oct 2, 2023, 5:37 pm

County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay speaks to grant recipients following the press event at Garfiel...

County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay speaks to grant recipients following the press event at Garfield Community Center, located in his Council District. (Photo from Flickr @King County DNRP)

(Photo from Flickr @King County DNRP)

King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay complains that putting criminals in jail is unrealistic because our criminal legal systems are at a “breaking point.” He hopes you don’t realize he’s one of the local radicals pushing to starve the criminal justice system of resources. 

In a local editorial, Zahilay joins fellow extremist Anita Khandelwal, director of the King County Department of Public Defense, to call out proponents of a “tough on crime” approach to the region’s crime crisis. Seattle is on pace to exceed an all-time high number of homicides, while fatal drug overdoses will set another record. Meanwhile, criminals are taking advantage of criminal justice reforms to drive cars into storefronts before robbing them of whatever they can grab. 

Reasonable people want to see criminals punished; the Radical Left views criminals at victims of an unjust society. In 2020, after the death of George Floyd, activists promised to dismantle the criminal justice system because they viewed it as a “system of oppression.” In Washington state, particularly King County and Seattle, that’s exactly what they did. Now, Zahilay feigns concern that “our region’s criminal legal systems are not only at capacity, they are flirting with their breaking points.” 

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Zahilay the revisionist

Zahilay’s editorial offers a laundry list of complaints about a lack of resources within King County’s criminal legal system. 

“The King County Sheriff’s Office cannot find enough new deputies to fill its ranks, historic backlogs in our court system delay cases for years, and the King County Jail has had intractable staffing shortages. Corrections officers themselves have pleaded for more diversion programs, stating their inability to keep themselves and incarcerated people safe at current staffing levels,” he writes.

It’s curious why Zahilay would complain, given he did what he could to chase deputies from their jobs.

He voted to defund the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), moving millions earmarked for law enforcement to diversion programs that don’t work. He doesn’t miss an opportunity to villainize cops, helping activists set the stage for the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP), declaring a rally “peaceful” while a man was shouting threats against cops. KCSO has a staffing crisis because few want to work under rabidly anti-police lawmakers.

But Zahilay blames this — and the other staff openings — on a “national labor crisis.” Right.

Zahilay: A fierce defender of public defenders and corrections staff?

There’s a backlog of cases because Zahilay and other radicals favored criminal justice reforms that kept criminals out of jail to continue to re-offend while inspiring a culture of lawlessness that’s since spiraled out of control.

Zahilay helped signal to criminals that they could get away with virtually anything, and those criminals responded by committing more crimes. Eventually, they get caught, and the case lands on the desk of a public defender who fights to put their clients in diversion programs without accountability or results, only to then complain that they have to defend their client again — after they inevitably commit another crime. They’re trying to keep people out of jail who objectively deserve jail time. Just last year, they tried to keep suspects accused of sex crimes and prolific car thieves out of jail. He appeared to be a supporter of the plan after what seemed like a coordinated effort to push the radical idea through.

Zahilay also voted against a contract to transfer inmates from the overcrowded downtown King County Jail to the South Correctional Entity (SCORE) facility in Des Moines. That would have helped lessen the load taken on by staff, which he pretends to care about now.

This is about freeing more criminals

Of course, Zahilay’s editorial is not intended to argue for more deputies, public defenders, or correction staff. It’s merely to end even more prosecutions.

“Public defenders are the latest justice system employees to test their breaking points,” he contends. “Newly published research spotlights the unsustainable caseloads King County public defenders have been working to manage. These caseloads grow even worse daily as experienced defenders qualified to handle the most serious cases quit, leaving a smaller and smaller number of attorneys to handle those most serious cases.”

He then says the county should only charge “on the gravest allegations of illegal behavior.”

He’s arguing against charging criminals. This isn’t about a lack of resources; it’s about his abolitionist views. And the editorial is co-written by an extremist public defender who is effectively complaining that they have to do their jobs to argue why someone shouldn’t go to jail. 

Emboldening criminals

The area’s most privileged radicals continue to give a pass to criminals. Zahilay is one of them.

He’s not arguing we shouldn’t jail some teen who steals a Butterfinger from a 7-Eleven. We don’t jail them at all. He’s arguing that the lowlife driving a car into a pot shop to steal weed and bongs or a trio of thieves breaking into a family restaurant to steal cash and booze should get out of prosecution. 

Zahilay merely dismisses drug offenses and property crimes as “low-level.” They are undeserving of charges, apparently. 

First, King County rarely charges for “drug offenses”; they’re almost always connected to another crime, such as assault or robbery. Second, felonious property crime is serious — it doesn’t just impact the victim whose property was destroyed; it impacts the neighbors who feel less safe. These criminals almost always graduate to more serious crimes, which would be prevented if they were in jail.

We’ve already undercharged and released dangerous criminals from consequences in record numbers. Does anyone actually think that’s been successful?

We have no choice?

If you listened to Zahilay, you’d think we have no choice but to release even more criminals from jail. He doesn’t think much of his readers or constituents.

“There exists a pervasive narrative that the public safety crisis could be solved if local governments just prosecuted and jailed more people for property and drug offenses. If we were ‘tougher on crime,’ some say, these problems would go away. The individuals who push such ideas, however, have never uttered a sensible plan for how to increase prosecution and incarceration in our current reality,” he says.

This is, of course, a lie. Zahilay not believing in jail time for criminals doesn’t mean there’s no plan.

A quick way to lessen the caseload for public defenders is to prosecute and jail prolific offenders who have no interest in reforming their lives because of enablers like Zahilay. They come in and out of the system often because they’re never punished. And when you’re tough on dangerous criminals who pose threats and lessen our quality of life, we all benefit. 

When you let police actually police, paying them what they’re worth and not demonizing every chance you get, you’ll naturally attract more people into the profession. Zahilay can complain about staffing all he wants, but the fact is that he doesn’t want more cops. He wants the current staffing level because he views the police as the enemy. 

Concurrently, you fund organizations that promote family. Children, particularly boys, from broken families are more likely to go down the wrong path. We used to talk about that, but radicals declared this conversation somehow racist.

None of this is especially innovative; it’s going back to the way things were before the Radical Left declared everything an example of “white supremacy culture.”

Zahilay gets mad

When I called Zahilay out for his hypocritical position, he got upset.

He claimed the evidence of his voting history and past comments didn’t exist because he knew his constituency wouldn’t care enough to look them up. But the rest of us keep the receipts.

Zahilay is welcome to hold his extremist views and vote how his constituents want him to vote. But he’s trying to pull a fast one on us, arguing his position of wanting to prosecute fewer dangerous criminals will somehow make us safer. It’s not. Like his previous positions and actions around criminal justice, it will just create more victims. But given his editorial is in a newspaper that seldom represents a reasonable view on these issues, it wouldn’t be surprising if locals fell for his disingenuous argument. 

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow him on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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