Seattle-Times Does Hatchet Job on Angus Lee

You have to wonder what criteria writers use when coming up with newspaper stories.   When the bar association announced that it would consider complaints filed against Grant County Prosecutor Angus Lee, you wouldn’t think that would even be a story.   It is an allegation only.    But journalist Ken Armstrong used it as an opportunity to track down everyone who dislikes Angus Lee to discuss everything they think he has ever done wrong.

The title of the article was “Chief Prosecutor, predicted to be an unmitigated disaster, now facing disciplinary charges.”    How is that a news headline?  Particularly when the people who made the “prediction” are the ones who are making the accusations against him? 

How do you measure a prosecutor’s success?  How about whether he and his staff are working hard?  Treating people fairly and equally without regard to race or class? Getting justice for victims?  Keeping a court system running smoothly?  Making do with less fiscal resources?  We don’t hear about this in Ken Armstrong’s piece.  Instead we hear 1) Angus Lee had little experience 4 years ago, 2) Angus Lee uses corny salutations in emails 3) he got a DUI charge back when he was 20 years old, 4) he has an employee working for him that has a criminal record [the employee was already there from the prior administration] 5) he has been accused by political rivals of having a conflict of interest but the bar hasn’t made a decision on this.

I understand the Ken Armstrong is a hotshot writer who has won a Pulitzer prize, but this story on Angus Lee doesn’t seem to be news at all.

The article went into detail about how Angus Lee got a DUI charge, and attracted the attention of the police by slamming on the breaks, and then the gas, and that he admitted to showing off for some girls in the car.   But this happened when he was 20 years old, and in college!    Contrast Armstrong’s story with the toned-down Seattle Times coverage of Bobbi Bridges’ drunken rampage when she was a 58-year-old Supreme Court Justice!  Or how about when the State School Superintendent got his DUI!   Two years later the Seattle Times endorsed Randy Dorn for re-election!



One Response to “Seattle-Times Does Hatchet Job on Angus Lee”

  • Equal:

    I check in every so often to your blog, because you publish some interesting articles. I appreciate all the work you do here.

    You make some good points about the Times article, especially when it comes to media treating everyone equally. Maybe Mr. Lee did get the hatchet job with the Times. Maybe not. The Times is not there to advertise Mr. Lee’s possible successes either. You have a unique perspective that as a former young prosecutor, so I don’t want to criticize your views at all, but just present an alternative view.

    You ask how is this news? The article specifies that according to the Bar Association, this is the first time ever in their memory that Bar CHARGES have been brought against a sitting prosecutor, in this case, Angus Lee. That is news. As you may know, there may be some analogies between the criminal justice system and a Bar action, but they are quite different. The Bar does a thorough investigation before bringing charges. Charges against an attorney, let alone a sitting prosecutor, are quite rare. Unlike the criminal justice system, the vast majority of Bar complaints get dropped. There are often exceptional circumstances leading up to the rare Bar charge.

    You seem to be confusing attorney ethics with Lee’s various successes or failures in office. Unfortunately, I agree that the article does not describe the conflicts of interest in detail. Based on other materials I’ve seen, it is apparent Mr. Lee put other lawyers at risk of their licenses by attempting to force them to do work that would be in obvious conflict, such as trying to get others to review questionable criminal charges against potential political enemies and their friends, just to harass. Mr. Lee filed numerous Bar complaints against his opponents and perceived enemies, all of which were dropped. That is stressful for attorneys, and not funny. He has misused the powers of the state to harass others including other officials who did not agree with his unethical ways. As a previous prosecutor, I hope you do not think that is appropriate conduct of a lawyer prosecutor.

    The fact that so many others in the office predicted his “unmitigated disaster”, and that an efficient and ethical office that took years to build up is now destroyed, is not relevant to Bar issues. That the Grant County Commissioners completely ignored it, presents a provocative political question where one can only ask, “WHY?!?”, but that still does not affect Mr. Lee’s personal responsibility to act as an ethical lawyer. I do find it laughable that Grant County Commission Cindy Carter alludes that these Bar charges are “politically motivated”.

    Anyway, I assume you and I are not privy to the details, but there are many issues surrounding Mr. Lee, in the role of a prosecutor, that have landed him right where he should be… in trouble with the Bar. That IS newsworthy, and the outcome, with probable Bar action, will be even more so.

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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:
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