WHY I AM RUNNING
I am running for King County Prosecutor because I have witnessed this office apply an unequal system of justice. We enforce the law with a heavy hand towards communities of color, those suffering from mental illness, vulnerable families, and the poor. At the same time, we fall short in holding our most powerful institutions to the same standard of accountability. This is wrong. When
power is not held accountable to our community, our community does not trust justice. We are divided, and we are less safe. As County Prosecutor my job will be to keep our communities safe and strong.
Our criminal justice system is in need of real and urgent reform. That means addressing the systemic unfairnesses that pervade our system and result in racial discrimination and the criminalization of poverty and mental illness. Our current approaches to reform are too little, too slow, and too late. They are a distraction from the urgency with which we must collectively summon the will to institute real change. According to a recent study, at our current pace of reform, we will not fully reverse mass incarceration for another 150 years. I cannot wait that long; nor can I wait four more years for real change to commence. Our criminal justice system should be about fairness, due process, and working together as a community to ensure our collective security. Instead, it has been coopted for the last fifty years by a war against poor people and people of color. Our justice system is in need of urgent and comprehensive reform. Anything less is simply a means by which we allow ourselves to continue to tolerate grotesque injustice.
MY EARLY YEARS
At twenty two I entered law school and quickly discovered my passion for criminal justice. However, it wasn’t until my second year that I realized just how broken the system really is. At the time, Rudolph Giuliani was Mayor of New York and fostered a culture of toxic prosecution that targeted communities of color, vulnerable families, and criminalized poverty.
As I was graduating and beginning my career, Abner Louima, Ahmadou Diallo and many others were brutalized by law enforcement. I watched in disgust as apologists failed to hold power accountable, shattering community trust. For many of us at the time, this was a wake up call that ignited our political activism. We took to the streets to support community, providing legal observation at protests and recommitting ourselves to fight for justice.
MY CHILDREN AND ACTIVISM
Eleven years ago, I became a father to the first of my three children. All three of my kids are students in Seattle Public Schools. It has been one of my greatest blessing in life to teach this activism and passion for justice to my children. Last year, my children, my fiancee, and I were inspired by Nikkita Oliver’s campaign and its focus on speaking up for the most vulnerable people in our community.
I hope my own campaign will also serve as a similar inspiration for my children. Their mother, who died of cancer in 2014, was also a public defender and cared deeply about justice and equity. I want them to know that if they feel strongly about justice, and passionate about solving problems, they should never be afraid to challenge the status quo.
PUBLIC DEFENDING, INDIVIDUALS, EMPATHY AND COMMUNITY
Over the last twenty years I’ve served my community as a public defender. This experience has ideally prepared me to be King County Prosecutor. I believe that justice is best served when we pursue restoration for victims and rehabilitation for perpetrators. I've represented our most vulnerable and marginalized communities, on a deeply personal level, one individual at a time. For me, "the community" is not some abstract notion, it's every one of those individuals I've represented, as well as every victim and witness whose humanity I've respected. I've developed strong connections with prosecutors, judges and other stakeholders. Through those relationships and partnership with the immigrant rights community, I helped develop a statewide judicial “bench card” to ensure that non-citizen defendants receive vital advice on immigration consequences. I worked with judges and disability rights organizations to improve our mental health system. Currently, I’m working with other stakeholders to end under-representation of minorities on our juries.
In my personal time, I volunteer for Crisis Clinic, fielding calls from people in crisis or considering suicide. Helping people in crisis provides me with many emotional rewards and a better understanding of the challenges people are facing in our community.
WE NEED TRANSFORMATIVE CHANGE
In spite of hard won but limited progress, I see the same issues here as I saw in New York twenty years ago. Black lives matter just as much today as they did then, but we have not changed. To truly address these issues we have to change the system from within, and that includes ourselves. I work to challenge and check my own biases and blind spots, so that I can be an ally to a broader vision of justice and accountability for our entire community. It's time for real reform and to let go of failed, tired approaches. Reform must start by truly including vulnerable communities. The job of the prosecutor is not simply to lock people up, but to empower the community to set a high standard for safety, equity and fairness - and then to hold us accountable to it. That's what I will do as King County Prosecutor.