SOUTH BEND — During the first Superior Court docket of 2019 on Jan. 4, outgoing Judge Doug Goelz and his successor, Judge Don Richter, dealt with several interesting criminal cases, including two people who were convicted of serious crimes after stealing cell phones.

Judicial shifts

Goelz formally retired last year after serving two years of his four-year term. Richter, whom Gov. Jay Inslee appointed to replace him, was sworn in at a late December ceremony. However, Goelz won’t actually be fully retired for a long time. Because Richter served as deputy prosecutor for several years prior to his appointment, there are dozens of cases he can’t hear due to conflicts of interest. It could be months — or even years — before Goelz and other local judges will no longer need to pinch-hit for Richter.

On Fridays, the judge spends most of the day handling court hearings, starting with civil cases and protection order petitions in the morning and moving on to arraignments and check-ins on ongoing criminal cases in the afternoon. On Jan. 4, Richter and Goelz switched off throughout the day to ensure that everyone on the docket got an impartial judge.

Phone theft

Goelz heard most of the criminal cases, including that of Shy Rose Larue, 24, formerly of Raymond. In November, Larue barged into her ex-boyfriend’s trailer and reportedly began punching him. Although she later claimed the ex assaulted her first, a witness said she was the aggressor. During the altercation, the victim’s phone fell out of his pocket. Larue grabbed it and ran away.

Larue pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary. Prosecutor Mark McClain recommended a sentence of 15 months in prison followed by 18 months of probation. The crime is a “strike offense,” meaning that if she gets two more strikes, she could go to prison for life.

Goelz mulled over the proposal for several minutes, saying he didn’t like it. He asked McClain, Larue and her attorney several questions about her history and the circumstances of the assault. McClain acknowledged that, at first glance, a strike offense seemed too harsh for the theft of a phone. However, he said, Larue had a long, escalating history of violence and crime. Court records show she was arrested at 13 for pulling a knife on another girl in the Raymond library. At 17, she was arrested for a violent outburst after a family member told her she couldn’t go to a youth group meeting. Between 2012 and 2018, she had 14 cases in district courts, which handle traffic violations and misdemeanor crimes. Some of those were ongoing at the time of her most recent arrest.

McClain said Larue would not have a shot at cleaning up her life unless she could get away from her drug-loving social circle.

“We are going to close out all of her cases with her going to prison. Hopefully, that will help her to get out of this community and this crowd,” McClain said. In the end, Goelz agreed to the sentence.

Wifi whoopsie

Goelz also heard the cases of Kristopher Allen Laine, 36, of Naselle, and Jenelle Dee Ann Berry, 32, of Chinook.

Laine pleaded guilty to residential burglary and was sentence to 15 months in prison. He was arrested after his injudicious internet use gave him away. Laine stole a phone during a burglary at a Naselle home. The victim was able to access phone records remotely, and learned the phone had recently connected to a residential wifi account. Deputy Sean Eastham tracked the wifi connection to a local home, got a warrant, and found the stolen phone. Eastham also found meth during the search, and Laine and his brother were both arrested.

Parade perp

Berry made headlines last May, when she led a Long Beach officer on a chase at the end of the Loyalty Day Children’s Parade in Ilwaco. Berry, a heroin addict, had been hiding from the law for months, so when the officer saw her, he didn’t want to miss his chance. He parked his motorcycle and pursued her on foot to a driveway, where she was arrested. It was her third drug charge since 2016. Berry entered the county’s drug court program. She made some progress, McClain said, but failed to follow the program’s strict rules and was dismissed. As a result, she had to serve her original sentence of 12 months in jail. Berry asked to be sent to prison instead, so that she could take advantage of drug treatment programs. After release, she will be on probation for a year.

Goelz said that she would have to cut ties with Pacific County if she wanted to stay clean. He urged her to make a “fresh start” somewhere else.

after release.

Natalie St. John is a staff writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact her at 360-642-8181 or nstjohn@chinookobserver.com.

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(1) comment

Hugh Whinfrey

The positive thing here is that the ethics of of the judge presiding over cases where he has an open and obvious conflict of interest are actually being addressed. Many kudos for that. In my direct and personal experience it has been needed for many decades in that Courthouse in South Bend, so it is great to hear that it is receiving some attention. There is however a deeply negative side to it in that "other judges" are being brought in to do the work. Who in God's name are these other people: why are judges who 'retire' under a cloud of disgrace and suspicions of misconduct allowed back into the system through such a backdoor. It is just a soft coup and IMO highly, highly unethical. When other judges need to be brought in - then get them from elsewhere instead of recycling the discredited riff-raff and essentially keeping quiet about it. Clean it up for real, don't just give it the lip service.

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