EPHRATA — In a repeat of last year’s race for Grant County prosecutor, Albert Lin is challenging incumbent Angus Lee i n the general election Nov. 2.
This time, Lee has served as prosecutor for almost two years.
This year Lin is no longer a deputy prosecutor for Grant County. Lee didn’t reappoint him after a contentious campaign last year. Lin is now working in private practice in Western Washington, coming home weekends to be with his family.
They both say they have more experience to be prosecutor, and both accuse their opponent of slinging mud.
Lee says he’s more experienced as a leader, both in the U.S. Marines and as county prosecutor since Grant County commissioners unanimously appointed him in January 2009.
Lin says he’s had far more experience in the courtroom, and has prosecuted numerous felony cases in his 10 years as deputy prosecutor for Grant County. Among others, he successfully prosecuted the first homicide by controlled substance case for the county, he said.
Here’s what each of the candidates had to say — Lin in a telephone interview, and Lee responding to questions by e-mail. Lee answered a request for an interview with The Wenatchee World with an e-mail, asking to have questions sent to his e-mail address.
• Age: 41
• City: Ephrata
• Work history: Deputy prosecutor for Grant County for 10 years, from 1999 to 2009; currently working in a private practice in Western Washington.
• Experience: Background in immigration law; member of the Grant County Bar Association, participant in the Ephrata Junior Joggers Program.
• Education: Bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies, 1991; law degree from Syracuse University College of Law in Syracuse, N.Y., 1997.
“This election offers a contrast in style. It offers a contrast in experience, and it offers a contrast in judgement and temperament,” Lin said.
As challenger, he criticized the Lee’s lack of experience — saying Lee hasn’t tried a single felony case.
He said trying a case is not the same as handling a case, and Lee is misleading voters when he points to vehicular homicide cases where he’s won convictions.
“What skill does it take to prove a case when a guy says, ‘Yea, I plead guilty’?” Lin asked, and added, “What he does is plea bargain.”
Lin also criticized how Lee operates the Prosecutor’s Office, saying he did not reappoint employees with decades of experience after taking over, and let many of his most experienced deputy prosecutors go.
And he criticized Lee’s character, agreeing with the characterization of other former employees who have called Lee “vindictive.” The accusation came this summer, after Lee filed complaints with the Washington State Bar Association against Lin and four other lawyers who supported Lin in the last election. All five of the complaints filed by Lee were dismissed.
The Bar Association continues to investigate a complaint against Lee, and Lin said the county is paying a Seattle lawyer thousands of dollars to defend him.
“What I intend on doing is restoring honesty, professionalism and integrity to the office,” Lin said.
Experience is the real issue in this race, he said. He worries that many crimes are not being adequately prosecuted.
He claimed that one defendant charged with first-degree premeditated murder pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance. He said another man pleaded guilty to attempted child molestation, despite a confession.
“We have a violent crime epidemic in our community, and the only way to deal with it from a prosecutor’s perspective is to have a team of experienced attorneys who are committed to protecting public safety,” he said. “The fundamental issue is, I have a proven track record. It’s about being in the courtroom and taking cases to trial. I’ve done that,” he said.
• Age: Not provided
• City: Ephrata
• Work history: Grant County prosecutor for two years, since January 2009; deputy prosecutor for Grant County for two years, since 2006.
• Experience: Served in the U.S. Marines in special operations in Iraq; admitted to federal courts in 2009; admitted to U.S. Supreme Court in 2010.
• Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Washington, 2000; law degree from University of Washington, 2004.
In an e-mail to The Wenatchee World, Lee declined to respond to questions about the specific cases in which Lin claimed that people charged with serious felonies were allowed to plead to less serious crimes.
He wrote, “My challenger complains about three cases. Setting aside the fact that he is wrong about the facts of those cases as he has never touched the file or been in court on those cases, we prosecute thousands of cases every year and he can only find three to complain about.”
He did not answer questions about an investigation into his conduct by the Bar Association, or the claim that taxpayers are paying a Seattle lawyer to defend against the claim.
He did write that in 2010, he personally won convictions in numerous vehicular homicides and assaults, and recently secured an exceptionally high sentence of 15 years in a case he took to trial.His e-mail also said that since becoming prosecutor, the overall crime rate has dropped in Grant County, and traffic fatalities have dropped by 53 percent in the county.
He said that Grant County Sheriff Frank DeTrolio pointed to statistics from a Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs report showing property crime in the county dropped by 5.2 percent, burglary dropped by 8.1 percent, and larceny went down by 7.8 percent. The report shows crime statistics for 2009, and the rise or fall compared to 2008.
The report, however, also shows that violent crime throughout the county, including rates for Grant County cities, went up in 2009. Total violent crimes climbed by 2.7 percent, including murder, which jumped from 6 to 10, rising by 66.7 percent; rape, which went from 29 to 41 or 41.4 percent; and robbery, which went from 54 to 65, or 20.4 percent.
Only aggravated assault dropped in the violent crime category, from 171 to 151, dropping by 11.7 percent county-wide.
No report has been issued on crime rates this year.
As for the main issues in this election, Lee wrote, “This race gives the people of this county a very simple choice. I have trial experience and success in everything from simple drug possession to homicide, while my challenger has a lackluster trial success rate. I have experience in leadership both in the Marines, and running the Prosecutor’s Office. In the time I have been in office the overall crime rate in Grant County has gone down. My challenger has no leadership experience or training of any kind.”
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512