Case News, DREAM Graduations, First Step Act, Civics Day, and Intern News
Tacoma FPD Office Secures a Two Month Jail Sentence for Client Originally Facing a Mandatory Minimum of 5 Years
Our young Tacoma client, who struggles with a myriad of emotional, intellectual, social, and personal obstacles received a lenient sentence of 60 days in jail, followed by 2 months in a residential reentry center, in a case where he had faced a mandatory 5-year prison term. Our defense team was Tacoma AFD Miriam Schwartz, investigator (and mitigator) Stacey Brownstein, and paralegal Carolynn Cohn. Through diligent advocacy with two mental health experts and our client's therapist, we convinced the U.S Probation Office to submit a (highly unusual) recommendation for 5 years probation - with no time in custody, even as the U.S. Attorney's Office asked Judge Settle to send our client to prison for 41 months. While our client and his family were hoping for no jail time, this result was a great relief, considering the factual and legal challenges in the case, the Government's position, and the client's original jeopardy.
We celebrated the graduation of three DREAM participants this month. The graduates had unique stories and backgrounds – one was introduced to opioids as an adult due to a neck injury, the other two were sadly introduced to alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and/or opioids at a very young age. And yet all three worked tirelessly since their arrest and time in DREAM, with honesty and humility, to ultimately realize that while they are accountable for their mistakes, they were far more than their worst mistake. These graduates not only achieved strength in their recovery by virtue of their character and hard work in all aspects of life, including both substance abuse and mental health care, but also a home, renewed ties with family, and careers. We are so proud of the January DREAM graduates. Congratulations!
First Step Act:
Former FPD intern and Georgetown Law Professor Shon Hopwood successfully advocated for one of the first prisoners released under the First Step Act. Read the story here.
Seattle AFD Vanessa Pai-Thompson led 2019 Civics Day sessions in eight Kent and Renton high schools in collaboration with local community partners. Seattle AFDs Jesse Cantor, Dennis Carroll, Corey Endo, Andy Kennedy, Christopher Sanders, and Jennifer Wellman, and FPD investigators Stacey Brownstein and Jennifer Davis also volunteered.
Civics Day was started in 2016 by Twyla Carter, a former public defender, in partnership with the Kent School District. In 2017, Civics Day was expanded to the Renton School District. By 2018, Ms. Carter left her position in the King County public defender system and moved to her current position with the ACLU national office in New York. That year, the Federal Public Defender's Office for the Western District of Washington agreed to partner with Ms. Carter for Civics Day 2018. That partnership continues in 2019.
The FPD’s contribution to Civics Day is consistent with the office's historical commitment to community engagement through speaking at school events and participating in court or bar-related events focused on high school students. Because the students will one day be voters and jurors, it is vital that they learn about civics within the context of the judicial system.
Civics Day offers students the opportunity to speak with youth who are or have been involved with the juvenile and criminal justice systems, lawyers, defense investigators, and law enforcement officers. Each Civics Day also includes a Know Your Rights workshop and mock trial.
Many organizations in addition to the FPD contribute to make Civics Day possible, including: ACLU of Washington; Community Passageways, a nonprofit organization that works directly with youth involved with the criminal justice system; Kent Police Department; King County District and Superior Court Judges; King County Department of Public Defense; King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office; King County Sheriff's Office; Renton Police Department; the Washington Minority and Justice Commission; and local civil rights and criminal defense attorneys.
(from top left: AFD Andy Kennedy & Renton HS student, Vanessa Hernandez (ACLU), Youth panel from Community Passageways, AFD Vanessa Pai-Thompson and youth panel member, KCSC Judge David Keenan & mock trial participants from Renton HS)
Former 2017 Summer undergrad intern, Quinn Gardner, has been accepted to attend USC School of Law this Fall. He credits his work in our office with inspiring him to continue on in pursuit of a law degree. We wish continued success to Quinn!