Spokane Has a Prosecutor Problem
Crime and Punishment
On January 27, The Inlander posted an article by Daniel Walters entitled “Lesley Haskell, wife of Spokane County Prosecutor, calls herself 'White nationalist,' uses N-word as slur” (not yet in the paper version of The Inlander). Walters has gathered Lesley Haskell quotes from Gab, an alt-social media platform she frequents. (Click and read. The Inlander article is free, comprehensive, and should be shared.) Lesley Haskell is free to express herself however she likes. Decent people, once acquainted with her words, will find her statements and the mindset they reflect revolting.
Daniel Walters’ article rang true to me. I had the displeasure of sitting a few rows in front of Mr. and Mrs. Haskell at Sherrif Ozzie Knezovich’s and former State Senator John Smith’s presentation of “The Threats We Face” (referring to Matt Shea and company) in Spokane Valley in October 2019. Lesley periodically shouted out verbal attacks toward the podium over our heads. I thought at the time that anyone who could sit next to someone spouting like that had to be signaling silent agreement.
Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell, should not be surprised if his wife’s vile views cause voters to wonder how his actions as prosecutor can avoid being tainted by her incessant slime. She invokes him:
"My husband is the Spo Co Prosecutor and he’s the last line of conservative armor that the County has," writes Lesley Haskell, wife of Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell. "Spokane has gone to shit."
Back then [in response to coverage of a 2015 Lesley outburst], Prosecutor Larry Haskell sent the Inlander a statement that Lesley "is a strong, independent, and conservative woman" who "does not represent me in these forums, either personally or professionally" and that he supported "the right to freedom of speech of all people."
Attorney Haskell still wishes us to believe that listening to his wife’s diatribes over the dinner table have no effect on his prosecutorial conduct. Obviously stung by the Inlander article that appeared online on on January 27, the next day Attorney Haskell posted a lengthy defense of the impartiality he claims on the Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney’s website. In part he writes:
I do not and will not tolerate racial bias or discrimination in any form. People that know me fully understand those are not my views. I do not tolerate racial bias or disparate treatment of any kind as proven by my words, deeds, and treatment of others during my tenure as prosecutor.
Larry Haskell was first elected to the supposedly non-partisan office of Spokane County Prosecutor in 2014 to replace the outgoing prosecutor, Steve Tucker. Larry’s wife Lesley’s vile discourse didn’t surface until the next year, 2015, and (judging by searches for “Lesley Haskell” at the Spokesman and The Inlander) the flap over her statements soon died down. Haskell ran unopposed in 2018. In the Spokesman’s endorsement of Haskell in 2014 much was made of Haskell’s nearly seventeen years experience working in the office of the county prosecutor. As an innocent voter at the time I probably assumed that continuity of the culture at the prosecutor’s office, a culture that Attorney Haskell helped shape, would be a good thing. I was sucked in by “tough on crime” rhetoric. I didn’t do my homework.
The Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney’s office has a race problem. It is a problem baked into its culture, a culture in which Larry Haskell was steeped and which he now leads. There is a measure that stands out at Spokane Trends, a non-partisan provider of Spokane County data based at Eastern Washington University. At Spokane Trends there is a metric labelled “Average Daily Jail Population: Share of the Adult Population Incarcerated Compared to Total Adult Population by Race”. For all adults in Spokane County the number is about 0.15% or 1 in 667. For African American adults in Spokane County that percentage hovers around 1.5%, that is, one of every 67 African American adults in the County is, on average, in jail on an average daily basis, ten times the average rate for all adults. If anyone reading this is tempted to suggest that this ratio of rates within Spokane County is an expression of the lawlessness of African Americans, then you need to look at the state statistics in the next paragraph.
Over the last ten years the rate of African American adults incarcerated in Spokane County on any given day (about 1.5%) is consistently more than twice the average rate of incarceration of African Americans statewide (about 0.75%). In 2019 the Spokane County rate was four times the state rate. This disparity between the Spokane County and the state rates of incarceration is very similar for Native American adults.
Lesley Haskell’s vile rhetoric and a photo of her posing with the Proud Boys made a blip on national news. It should shine a spotlight on the racial bias endemic to the Prosecutor’s Office and Larry Haskell’s leadership. As Luke Baumgarten of RANGE points out, Larry Haskell has made other moves to undercut racial equity:
In January 2020 and again that July, Haskell tried to remove racial equity language from criminal justice goals proposed by a reform task force composed of community members, elected officials and stakeholders. Haskell was joined in perseveration by County Commissioners Kerns and French, all white men.
If Larry Haskell is to retain control and continue to nurture the warped culture of the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office he will need to run for re-election this year. There are rumblings of an opposing candidate who could begin to change the culture of that office. Lesley and Larry’s current notoriety and the light it shines on that culture needs to be kept in the public mind.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. A somewhat dry, but very informative, Zoom video presentation on disinformation put on by the non-partisan People for Effective Government Spokane (PEG) recently introduced me to Spokane Trends and Dr. D. Patrick Jones, Ph.D., the the director of the office at EWU that gathers the data. I highly recommend a visit. The graphical data presentations are interactive: hover your cursor over a data point and more detail emerges.