Skagit County Prosecutor Refuses to file Hate Crime Charge; Ignores Community Requests for Explanation

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Editors’ Note: The brutal beating of a Skagit youth in Bow on March 21, 2020 was reported by the Skagit Valley Herald and Skagit Breaking. What follows below are three perspectives of Skagit residents regarding Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich’s failure to charge the beating as a hate crime.

No Response from Prosecutor to Community Concerns

By John Day
The March 25, 2020 Skagit Valley Herald article “Bow man charged with assault”, describes a vicious, premeditated assault by 18-year old Trevor McCabe on a 17-year old boy that left the victim hospitalized with serious brain and other injuries.  The article notes that during the assault, the alleged perpetrator wrote a slur on the boy’s forehead with a magic marker.  A more detailed account by the investigating Sheriff’s deputy is contained in the Affidavit of Probable Cause filed by the Skagit County Prosecutor’s Office.  This document, which the writer obtained under a Superior Court records request, includes a graphic description of cell phone videos made by McCabe during the assault.  During the videos, McCabe is repeatedly heard calling the victim “nigga”, a further indication that the attack would very likely qualify as a hate crime under the Washington State Hate Crime Offense law.  The Skagit County Prosecutor’s Office has charged McCabe with serious offenses fitting the alleged crime, but has not charged McCabe with a hate crime.    

The Anti-Defamation League of the Pacific Northwest and the Latino Civic Alliance jointly reached out to the Prosecutor twice in April asking him to discuss his decision not to charge a hate crime with them, but to date have received no response. Members of the Indivisible Skagit Immigrant Support Task Force sent a letter to County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich over a month ago urging him to add the hate crime enhancement to the existing charges.  The letter stressed that doing so was not only appropriate to the crime, but would send a message to minority community members that hate crimes will not be ignored in Skagit County.  To date, the group has received no response. 

Our state legislature passed the hate crime law for a reason, which was to help protect individual victims and groups of victims from being physically and/or psychologically harmed due at least in part to someone’s perception of their race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, or mental, physical, or sensory disability.  This assault very strongly appears to fit that description.  Prosecutor Weyrich must either charge McCabe under the hate crime statute or clearly explain to the public why he has not done so. 

John Day is retired and lives with his wife Martha Bray near Sedro-Woolley.  He is a member of the Indivisible Skagit Immigrant Support Task Force and Rapid Response Team.

The kids already recognize this as a hate crime

by Lisa Krivanek

I am deeply distressed by the lack of response from Rich Weyrich, the Skagit County Prosecutor, to various community groups who have demanded consideration of a hate crime enhancement for horrific offenses perpetrated by Trevor McCabe against a Skagit County youth. As a middle school teacher, my colleagues and I will be faced with processing this racist attack with our students. We must prepare ourselves to reflect on its impact on our districts’ efforts to fight against bullying and systemic racism, but also to mitigate the emotional fall-out while the young people in our community manage their own fear and hurt in response. Our students know what happened and deserve to understand our local current events within the greater and even more confusing context of our country and the world.

The American Psychological Association notes that hate crimes occur during times of transition as a result of fear. One group works to dehumanize another and extreme results of such movements can be exposed as boundaries are pushed. These types of crimes are so harmful the immediately impacted victim and family have been shown to suffer more and require more time and resources to heal; additionally hate crimes have been shown to cause psychological damage to other vulnerable members of our community, even those who are not directly impacted.

Washington State law requires a hate crime enhancement in cases when elements of the victim’s identity was the rationale for victimization. Thanks to the revealing reporting by Skagit Breaking, we know the young man was lured to a property, robbed, beaten, dehumanized (slur written on his face) and broadcasted live while having a seizure due to the resulting brain injury. Now take a moment and imagine that young man is your son, grandson, nephew, cousin, whomever. Really, let that sink in. Then, when officers arrived at the home of the alleged perpetrator the next day, his explanation to them was a racial slur and the implication that he had been protecting his property from the victim. The live broadcast of such inhumane behavior clearly shows an intention to share the event, to promote the perpetrator’s sick views.

Even the maximum sentence for assault and robbery is nothing….it is nothing compared to the physical, emotional, and psychological damage done to our young community member and his family. It is insufficient to counter the injustice directed at community members who are repeatedly targeted for core elements of their personal identity during contentious times! In order to heal our community, we must come together and demand that our local justice officials honor Washington State law! Prosecutor Weyrich is disregarding the will of his community. Please take a stand for our quality of life. Fight extreme toxic racism and the systems that are sanctioning it. Demand proper prosecution of hate crimes.

Lisa Krivanek is a bilingual educator and a Skagit Valley mom.

The family deserves an explanation

By Mary Kay Barbieri

As a former deputy prosecutor and chief criminal prosecutor in King County, I was surprised when Prosecutor Weyrich did not charge Trevor McCabe with a hate crime in addition to the assault and robbery charges. The sworn affidavit of the investigating police officer indicates that, in addition to the lengthy and vicious beating, McCabe repeatedly made racial slurs and also wrote a slur on the victim’s face with a marker.

In early April, I wrote to Weyrich asking why a hate crime had not been charged. He replied that he stood behind the filing decision of his deputy prosecutor but did not provide the reasoning behind the decision. Later in April, a member of the victim’s family, along with another community member, asked the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for help in discussing with Weyrich the decision to decline filing a  hate crime. The ADL agreed to intervene and its Pacific Northwest director, along with Latino Civic Alliance, reached out to Weyrich (twice) and asked to discuss the issue. Weyrich did not even give them the courtesy of a reply.

In mid-May, State Senator Liz Lovelett wrote to Weyrich about the issue. In her letter, she quoted the following language from the hate crime statute RCW 9A.e36.078

The legislature finds that the state interest in preventing crimes and threats motivated by bigotry and bias goes beyond the state interest in preventing other felonies or misdemeanors such as criminal trespass, malicious mischief, assault, or other crimes that are not motivated by hatred, bigotry, and bias, and that prosecution of those other crimes inadequately protects citizens from crimes and threats motivated by bigotry and bias. Therefore, the legislature finds that protection of those citizens from threats of harm due to bias and bigotry is a compelling state interest.

Her letter went on to say:

“The hate crime statutes are an important tool for the state to combat the growing rise of hate-based crimes that we have seen in the last few years. It is my hope that you can provide clarity as to why this particular case is not being prosecuted as such.”

In his return letter, Weyrich wrote:

There are very specific facts that led us to that conclusion. Because of the fact that this matter is still in litigation I am unable to give you details of the facts that led us to that conclusion. This is based upon the rules of professional conduct for attorneys and prosecutors in particular.

The rules that Weyrich references (the Washington State Court Rules of Professional Conduct, Rules 3.6 and 3.8) are intended to keep attorneys, and especially prosecutors in criminal cases, from making public statements that could prejudice the defendant’s right to a fair trial. However, an explanation of why a prosecutor thinks the defendant is not guilty of a crime does not prejudice that defendant.

During my tenure in the King County Prosecutor’s Office, we always answered a family’s questions about our reasons for declining to file a charge. We considered that kind of transparency absolutely essential to the community’s need to assess whether we were making fair prosecutorial decisions. Imagine, for example, a case where a prosecutor declined to bring charges against a white man who viciously beat a black man. The community would have a right to assess whether the failure to charge was based on correct legal standards (e.g., lack of evidence) as opposed to racial prejudice (e.g.,“black lives don’t matter”).

Prosecutor Weyrich owes the family of McCabe’s victim an explanation of his decision not to file a hate crime charge. If the family chose the ADL as its representative to talk to Weyrich, which it did, then Weyrich should meet with the ADL and help the family understand his decision.   

 Mary Kay Barbieri served as a King County Deputy Prosecutor in the 1970s and 1980s, ultimately serving as the Chief Criminal Prosecutor. After leaving the prosecutor’s office and teaching law for a few years, Mary Kay obtained a graduate degree in clinical-counseling psychology and practiced in Skagit County as a mental health counselor until her retirement. She has lived in Skagit County for 34 years. 

19 thoughts on “Skagit County Prosecutor Refuses to file Hate Crime Charge; Ignores Community Requests for Explanation

  1. Thank you for bringing this crime to our attention and trying to find answers for the family and our community. Hate crimes have the power to hurt entire communities, making the most vulnerable people live in fear. They must be recognized for the damage done to our society.

    1. Brenda, I so agree with you and will lodge my protest to this decision.

  2. Thank you is just not adequate to express my deepest appreciation for the work being done here to ensure the accountability we deserve in our community. When we wonder why other areas are suffering, we know it is because the fabric of responsibility was either never in place or was unwoven by people who failed to follow through. Our laws are only as good as those we ask to enforce them. I will share this widely and urge other to subscribe. Please let me know if there is a way I can offer financial support for your efforts.

  3. The hate and racism that exists in this county MUST be addressed! Brown, Black and white all feel the pressure of this sickness and mental illness that allows this kind of conduct to persist. What are the schools teaching? It’s not tolerance that we aim for, it’s a completely new way of being. Seeing each other as total and complete human beings is essential if our society us to prosper and thrive.

    1. Hi Edwyna!
      I understand the point you are making here, but I have one small quibble with how you describe it. You write ” Brown, Black and white all feel the pressure of this sickness and mental illness that allows this kind of conduct to persist.”

      I’d like to make a distinction between mental illness and those who victimize others, especially in a hateful way. It is very uncommon for a mentally ill or mentally challenged person to harm any individual other than themselves. The suicide rate of the mentally ill is incredible. The fact is that people who attack others with hate in their heart are not mentally ill. They suffer from maladjustment, fear, an infatuation with brutality and/or anti-social behaviors. These are not mental illness. They are despicable examples of human behavior. We might call them personality deficits, but that is also not a mental illness. These conditions are often the product of upbringing rather than schooling. I’ve never heard of a public school that taught hate, brutality or attacking others. Certainly if a teacher was involved in sharing these ideas with children they would be dismissed.
      I must admit I personally don’t like the idea of schools imparting morality to kids other than the social norms we expect of them. I don’t trust that kids will be taught the kinds of ethics I live by or they may conflict with what I believe is how people should treat others with respect, without regard to class, gender, race, physical or mental challenges, sexual identity or religious affiliation…there’s probably a few things I forgot to mention there. I’m really saying that I think it is a parent’s job to instill respect and tolerance into a child, not a teacher who might be overwhelmed by being a teacher, a babysitter, a disciplinarian, and the person responsible for a child’s moral compass.

      I don’t mean to be offensive in this disagreement-or what I would rather call a “quibble”. I understood completely with what you wrote and the spirit with which you wrote it. I only wanted to point out a couple of different points of view. Here’s to happiness, health to you and your loved ones.

    2. unfortunately, few of the teachers are people of color in our public schools. are any of the teachers in Skagit County black or brown? what can be learned about racial justice when children seldom see a black or brown people in positions of responsibility in our communities and in our schools.

      that could, and must, be change.

      thanks for your comments. to see each other, we must see each other as people to be respected and admired.

  4. Hello, would it be helpful if members of the community contacted prosecutor Weyrich requesting further explanation for his decision to not file this horrific incident as a hate crime?

    1. Yes! I just called Weyrich’s office and was told they take note of and tally all public comments. The number is 360-416-1600

  5. Thank you for sharing. People need to know about this. We need to protest, we need to write letters. He must be charged accordingly!

  6. Please stay on this story, not just for the communities of the Skagit, but also for the People of Color in our state. Washington’s systemic prejudice is just as present as that in the deep south, only more hidden. We must face it if we TRULY intend to eradicate it.

  7. It looks like our prosecuter feels a little too comfortable in his cushy job. But there are consequences for failing so spectacularly to to do your job with integrity.. Weyrich can expect plenty of oppositon in his next election.

  8. Please go through chain of commands .. bring this lack of competence on prosecution responsibility to Washington state officials as well. Everyone who the prosecutor answers to should be informed until the law is held and functions as it should.

    Educate yourselves and VOTE .. and again, contact Mr R’s authorities to demand action and due process. It sounds like this prosecutor should also have higher up oversight once he does uphold the law and he should be investigated as well. This office sounds like it’s been practicing under questionable ideals so an audit of some sort that goes back about 10 years minimum should also be pressed for.. you can do this Skagit County.

  9. As a person considering where to spend a significant portion of my retirement years in Skagit County, these disclosures about the lack of intentional support in the application of equal justice under the law are troubling to me. Will my Black, Brown and Asian friends be safe and welcome in visits to me if I live in the area? Will their children and grandchildren expect to find both respect and welcome? I hope the community will make a strong commitment to oversight of the current systems that seem to lack a rigorous and equitable application of the law in relation to race and other categories of systemic victimization. I wonder if the young person victimized will believe that the legal system values him as a member of the community. Will the young person-and those his video broadcast of the crime was intended for–believe there is license for violence against folks if they are not white? This level of disregard by the legal authorities feels like a possible example of state sanctioned white supremacy to many of us who are working for a of society that is equitable and just.

  10. This cannot be tolerated any longer! It is appalling that such a blatant hate crime can go without being charged as such. Prosecutor Weyrich is at the top of the heap and must explain his decision to ignore the hate crime. Please reach out if I can help any organizers in this regard.

  11. I too have been looking at retirement property in the Bow-Edison area but will reconsider with this event in mind. The perpetrator and prosecutor disgust me.

  12. We need to dig into this deeper and fight this harder. Do you know what the case number is? Why hasn’t anyone requested records or the case file! I’m waiting to hear back on what the case number is along with the specific date and time of the incident. I was told directly by the prosecuting attorney that the motive was not based in race. I think most of us can see that this is a narrative being told by a white male.

    Please reach out to me with the case number and date and time of incident! All Case files can be requested by the public, let’s do more.

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