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Whoever threatens a judge, either directly or indirectly, e.g., through a third person, because of an official ruling or decision by that particular judge, is chargeable under Wash. Rev. Code § 9A.72.160. The threat may ultimately find its way to the judge, but that is irrelevant with regard to the commission of the crime.
In January 1988, defendant Michael Ross Hansen was convicted of a felony and was sentenced to 24 months in prison. Several months after his release, defendant began contacting attorneys in order to bring a civil action against the State, the Judge, his defense attorney and the prosecutor from the earlier trial. In March 1990, defendant telephoned Chris Youtz, an attorney, with the stated desire that Youtz would take his case. But the lawyer explained to him that he would not take the case and that he might want to seek another attorney with more experience in criminal law which made him upset, defendant threatened to get a gun and blow them all away. The police department conducted an investigation and subsequently arrested defendant and charged him with the crime of intimidating a judge under RCW 9A.72.160 and was sentenced to 24 months in prison. Defendant appealed this conviction, contending the trial court erred in its application of RCW 9A.72.160. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's conviction. In affirming, the court interpreted RCW 9A.72.160 to mean that an individual who threatens a judge does so with the intention or knowledge that the threat will reach the judge. The court found that there was sufficient evidence that defendant had this intent when he made the threat. The court also held that the attorney-client privilege did not apply. Defendant filed a petition for review.
Was petitioner’s conviction of a crime of intimidating a judge proper?
The court affirmed the conviction for intimidating a judge as he threatened a judge by telling an attorney he would get a gun and blow the judge away because of an adverse ruling. However, the court rejected the appellate court’s statutory interpretation that required the state to prove that defendant knew or intended the threat to reach a judge. The court held that the proper interpretation was that whoever threatened a judge, either directly or indirectly, because of an official ruling or decision by that judge, could be charged with intimidation of a judge. Also, the court found that the record reflected all these elements as present. Further, the court ruled that the attorney-client relationship was not established in this case as the attorney refused to represent defendant, but even if the relationship existed, it will not apply in this situation as defendant's remarks concerned the contemplation of a future crime.