Traffic Accident for Judge Becomes Political Football (Harold Hochstatter Ambushes Angus Lee at Candidates’ Night for Grant County Prosecuting Attorney Election)

Before Angus Lee was a candidate for Prosecuting Attorney in Grant County, he served in the Marines Recon where he got shot up in a gun battle with the enemies.  You have to wonder if he is looking for a foxhole now, as some pretty big opponents see fit to go after him in this year’s election battle.

Angus Lee in Iraq

Angus Lee was once a soldier in Iraq, but now faces a different sort of combat.

Former State Senator Harold Hochstatter took aim at Angus Lee at a candidate’s forum where he ambushed Lee with an awkward question about Richard Fitterer, a judge in Grant County.   The outspoken Hochstatter asked Angus Lee about an incident where Fitterer allegedly sideswiped another car.  The incident was covered in the Columbia Basin Harold, and an excerpt follows:

Former state Senator Harold Hochstatter stood up, asking for permission to address Lee, receiving permission from Simpson (the moderator).  Hochstatter recounted an accident occurring June 5 of this year. He claimed Judge Rich Fitterer sideswiped a car coming out of Quincy. He said an officer stopped the judge’s car at Rocky Ford Creek.  “The officer who didn’t arrest, recognized the judge. I knew that in July when I was here at another debate and nothing has been done,” Hochstatter said. “That was June 5 and now it is four months later. Are you going to do anything about that?” 528271.47 “So you’re telling me that a judge got into a fender-bender and you want me to prosecute him?” Lee asked. “Let me point out the way a justice system works Harold. The police write reports and they arrest people and send that to my office. My office has never received any information of any kind, regarding what you are talking about. If we receive any information from law enforcement that there is probable cause for a crime, we prosecute it, regardless of who it is.”  Hochstatter pulled out a CD he claimed to be a recording of officers identifying the judge and speaking about the incident as it took place, and brought it over to Lee.  “This is from the (Multiple Agency Communication Center),” he said.  Lee accepted it.  “OK,” Lee said. “I’ll take a look at it tomorrow morning.”

This is what you call an ambush.  Hochstatter knows how to zing somebody at a candidates night, having run for governor in 2000.  And Harold Hochstatter should find a better way to spend his retirement then picking on young, local prosecutor candidates.  Hochstatter is one of those attention hounds that probably found it hard to sit still and watch other candidates talk, and couldn’t resist the urge to elbow his way back into the spotlight.  Since when is it fair to ask a prosecutor candidate about any particular pending case anyhow?  Angus Lee has to practice in front of Judge Fitterer as an attorney, and Harold Hochstatter put him in an awkward position.  Why didn’t Harold Hochstatter go to see Angus Lee about his concerns man-to-man?  That would have deprived Hochstatter of the element of surprise, and Hochstatter needed the theatrics to draw the spotlight on to him.

When I say Harold Hochstatter took aim at Angus Lee, that is a gun metaphor, and gun metaphors are something that Hochstatter is particularly fond of.  Hochstatter drew a rebuke from the governor when he stated that he thought sometimes it was awfully close to the time when “shooting” would be necessary to defend against unfair government regulation.

One of Angus Lee’s assistant prosecuting attorneys, Teddy Chow, later said that the office had received some reports months after the incident, and that Angus Lee wasn’t being straight with Hochstatter.  But I do not see how it is that a prosecuting attorney in a county with the population of 75,000 can be expected to keep track of every police report for every traffic case.  Anyhow, even if Angus Lee knew something about the matter, he was correct to bite his tongue at candidates’ night on any incident pertaining to a Judge.  The lawyer rules of professional conduct RPC 8.3 say that all lawyers should make “efforts to defend judges and courts from unjust criticism”.  And Angus Lee was correct not to put Judge Fitterer on trial at a candidate’s night, particularly when Fitterer was not around to defend himself.   If Teddy Chow thinks Richard Fitterer should be prosecuted, he should have referred the matter to a special prosecutor.   A traffic accident for a judge should not be allowed to become a political football.

Aside for his other qualifications for office, Angus Lee is definitely developing one particular characteristic that you need for public office.  You need to have a hide like an alligator.

One Response to “Traffic Accident for Judge Becomes Political Football (Harold Hochstatter Ambushes Angus Lee at Candidates’ Night for Grant County Prosecuting Attorney Election)”

  • Heidi:

    I agree. We need more balanced, fair, committed people who are willing to run for office. Candidates, and elected officials take a lot of abuse from some members of the public, especially when people with axes to grind choose to tear them down instead of working constructively. Many very qualified people with expertise and good judgement who would otherwise run for public office instead take another path. I give a lot of credit to those who do commit to public service.

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking: www.grahamdefense.com
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