Regional News Roundup

State high court upholds ‘three strikes’ law for those first convicted as young adults

OLYMPIA — The Washington state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the state’s “three strikes, you’re out” law as constitutional even if a defendant’s prior strike was committed as a young adult.

The law requires that a person convicted of a third “most serious offense” be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Young adult is not defined in the Supreme Court’s decision or the petition for review.

In hearing the matter, the high court consolidated three cases in which the people were convicted of their first strike at age 19 or 20 — and their third strikes in their 30s or 40s.

“The petitioners have not shown a national consensus against this sentencing practice, and our own independent judgment confirms that there is nothing to suggest that these petitioners are less culpable than other POAA offenders,” the court wrote in its unanimous decision, referring to the formal name of the law, the Persistent Offender Accountability Act.

Attorneys representing people convicted under the “three strikes” law argued that sentencing adult offenders to mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole when one of their prior strike offenses was committed as a young adult violated the state Constitution as “cruel” or was barred under the U.S. Constitution as “cruel and unusual.”

The high court disagreed, adding: “We also hold that the sentences in these cases are not grossly disproportionate to the crimes.”

A juvenile is defined as a person under the age of 18, and juvenile adjudications are not counted under the three strikes law.

— The News Tribune

Three charged with maintaining large-scale marijuana grow

Three men were arrested Monday south of Chehalis after Lewis County deputies reported finding an illegal large-scale marijuana growing operation on their property.

Zhuonong Li, 52, Yuqi Liang, 60, and Shi Yu, 41, were all charged with possession of marijuana with intent to manufacture and unlawful use of a building for drug purposes. They were all placed on $10,000 unsecured bail.

According to a probable cause affidavit, on Monday deputies served a warrant on a property in the 400 block of Harmon Road near Chehalis. Inside a detached shop on the property, they found a “sophisticated, large scale grow operation” outfitted with high intensity lights, fans, electric ballasts, air filters and fertilizer.

Court documents don’t indicate the number of plants deputies reported finding inside the shop. Li and Liang were allegedly inside the shop at the time and were taken into custody. Yu was found in a residence on the same property and also arrested.

All three appeared in Lewis County Superior Court Tuesday afternoon in custody, where Judge Andrew Toynbee imposed $10,000 unsecured bail on each, meaning they will remain out of custody throughout the case as long as they abide by conditions of release.

All three have arraignment hearings set for Wednesday.

— The Chronicle

Washington takes lead in 13-state legal challenge to immigration rule

Washington is taking the lead among 13 states in challenging new immigration rules that could disqualify some applicants for citizenship or legal residence because they received some forms of public assistance.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Richland on Wednesday, the states contend the Trump administration is attempting a “radical overhaul of federal immigration law” with the final rules it announced earlier this week that change the definition of “public charge.”

The term originally meant a pauper who was unlikely to ever be able to support himself, the 169-page lawsuit contends.

The new rules expand the meaning to anyone who temporarily receives many common government services such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing vouchers. Federal officials can also determine whether an applicant can become a public charge in the future based on income, employment, education and proficiency in English.

In announcing the rule change Monday, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli said the administration was “re-enforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America.”

The suit charges that a motivating factor behind the rule change is discrimination against people of color, based in part on statements by President Donald Trump and Cuccinelli “reflecting animus toward non-European immigrants.”

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson called the law “un-American, anti-immigrant and unlawful” in a news release announcing the lawsuit.

Joining Washington in the legal challenge are Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Virginia. The lawsuit asks the federal court to overturn the rule and declare it unconstitutional.

— The Spokesman-Review

Two more suspicious cat deaths under investigation

Two cat deaths in the past week are being investigated as suspicious.

On Wednesday morning, a cat was found cut in half on 28th Avenue Southeast near Allen Road Southeast in Olympia. Thurston County Animal Services Officer Erika Johnson called the cat’s death suspicious but said it appeared different than last year’s spate of cat killings.

Last year, more than a dozen mutilated cats were found across Thurston County, though investigators later determined at least five were killed by other animals.

The killings gained national attention and had local cat owners on edge.

The body of the cat found Wednesday will be sent to the University of Washington to find out how it died, Johnson said, along with the body of another cat found the afternoon of Aug. 7 in the yard of a home on Sheridan Drive Southeast in Lacey.

That cat was cut open and its organs were removed, said Lacey police Sgt. Jaime Newcomb.

Two other dead cats found in Olympia and near Lacey in June and July were also investigated, though officials were not able to determine what killed them.

— The Olympian