Increasing crime and COVID-19 restrictions have added to court backlogs in Seattle, allowing criminals to be released back on the streets as they await trial, Komo News reported Friday.
Law enforcement has continued to make arrests for minor and major crimes, even as arraignment has halted, which leaves the courts and prosecutors to decide who is jailed for safety reasons and who is released, Komo News reported. Over 500 out-of-custody cases have not been arraigned since the court stopped holding them in person due to COVID-19 restrictions in November, and several defendants were booked into jail and released on promises to appear in court.
“[The] municipal court is not doing any out of custody arraignments,” Democratic Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said, Komo News reported. “Well, you can’t start the … criminal process until someone has been arraigned, so we have to fix all parts of it.”
King County District Court Judge Susan Mahoney said she “saw probably close to 10 people who had felonies pending, that they’ve been released on, yet they are still breaking into people’s homes,” Komo News reported.
NEW: #Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes is addressing the new crack down on property crime downtown.
There is a backlog of ‘well over 5000 cases that are tee’d up, once the court resumes normal operations’.
Seattle courts have been severely impacted by the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/qLUUjL348P
— Jake Whittenberg 🎥 (@jwhittenbergK5) January 26, 2021
Patrick Kindness, for example, was released from jail after serving several weeks for pleading guilty in February 2020 for threatening a woman with a knife, according to Komo News. In May, he was arrested and accused of assaulting two people and harassing a third, but was released days later.
Kindness has more than 100 convictions over the last 30 years. He has yet to be arraigned and remains out of custody, according to Komo News.
“We are at a historic level of backlogs,” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said, Komo News reported. “Normal pre-COVID backlog of felony cases that have been filed but not yet resolved hovered around 3,000. We are probably about 7,000 now and it could be 10,000 before we get back to work in the middle of the summer.”
The number of homicides in Seattle in 2020 nearly doubled that of 2019. The city also faced criticism over the failure to prosecute and jail protesters from the summer who were accused of resisting arrest, failing to disperse and vandalism had been prosecuted or jailed, Komo News reported.