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Human Rights Network backs Laurie’s ruling

For the first time in recent memory, the Kitsap Human Rights Network (KHRN) has weighed in officially on a highly-publicized and controversial criminal case tried here in Kitsap Superior Court.

It’s a new twist on a shooting case that’s outraged the police community and publicly pitted the county’s prosecutor against an elected Superior Court judge.

KHRN president Jerry Hebert was in the courtroom on Monday when Aaron Williams, 22, was sentenced to just over nine years in prison for the shootings at Lions Field in Bremerton last July.

Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Anna Laurie sentenced Williams this week to 112 months for firing a gun in the direction of Bremerton Police Officer Mike Davis after fatally shooting Davis’ K-9 partner, Buddy.

Before Williams received his sentence, the public had a chance to address the court. And Hebert did so, wanting to read from the following prepared statement, a portion of which reads:

“The Network has concluded that several normal practices of law enforcement investigative procedure were not adhered to by the investigating agency.”

But Hebert was unable to read the entire document because Laurie asked him to confine his comments to the sentencing itself.

The Human Rights Network performed an independent analysis of the investigation into the pair of shootings at Lions Field, Hebert said, in which the agency found the police investigation lacking and inconsistent in several areas. Most notably, the report assets, police investigators didn’t pursue an independent theory of the crime last year in Bremerton.

“There are two things the Network wanted to accomplish with this report,” Hebert saidm “and one is this: an independent agency (not related to the defendant or the prosecutor) has found reason to substantiate Judge Laurie’s verdict.

“The other,” he said, “is to raise awareness.”

Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge established an office policy directing deputy prosecutors to ban Laurie from hearing any future criminal cases.

That decision stems from Laurie’s Aug. 22 verdict in the Williams case.

Laurie found Williams guilty of second-degree assault — a lesser charge than the attempted murder charges or first-degree assault charge sought by prosecutors — and of harming a police dog.

“We just can’t take discretionary powers out of the hands of or judges; there is a lot of reasonable doubt in this case,” said Hebert of Hauge’s decision to bar Laurie from hearing future criminal cases.

Hauge has publicly disagreed.

“The (Laurie’s) decision was so unsupportable another one like it can’t be risked,” Hauge has said.

Hauge was unavailable for comment this week, and is out of the office until next week for medical reasons.

There is still the issue of awareness, Hebert said.

Hebert and other Network volunteers want to see a citizens’ oversight committee installed at the Bremerton Police Department, but so far his proposal has been rejected.

“I haven’t done anything yet on that,” said Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman. “It just hasn’t been on our priority list. Maybe next year we can talk about it after more is done on the redevelopment of downtown.

“You have to create economic vitality in the community to have enough money to keep our police officers,” he said.

As for the investigation into the Lions Field shootings, Bozeman said the Bremerton police conducted an exhaustive examination of all the information available.

“We were all disappointed in the verdict,” Bozeman said.

That disappointment has caused angst among law enforcement officials.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor’s office can bar Laurie from hearing future criminal cases by filing what are called affidavits of prejudice, a non-appealable legal maneuver. That policy is, for the time-being, permanent.

Yet Laurie is still scheduled to preside over the first-degree aggravated murder trial of former Bainbridge Island minister Nicholas Hacheney because she has already made discretionary rulings in the case.

Bainbridge Island attorney John Muenster, who represented Williams during the criminal trial, said he wasn’t disappointed by the police investigation.

“I don’t really have anything critical to say about the investigation,” Muenster said.

“The physical evidence showed where everybody was at the time,” Muenster said. “The officer was nowhere near where the shot was fired, about 15 feet away, and it hit a fence post. I could prove where the officer was because of where the spent cartridges were found. That all speaks to intent.”

In her Aug. 22 verdict, Laurie ruled Williams had fired at least one shot in the direction of Davis after shooting and killing his police dog.

But that shot was taken in an attempt to escape the scene, Laurie ruled, not to kill or injure. That supported the second-degree assault conviction and the conviction of harming a police dog, Laurie ruled.

Laurie also found Williams was armed with a gun in committing both of those crimes and convicted him of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The conviction and sentencing of Williams is expected to go to appeal.

Muenster said an appeal could challenge the verdict that Williams was the shooter, and that the shooting of Buddy was malicious. An appeal could also address the exceptional sentencing, which is 10 months longer than the highest range for those crimes.

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