A jury has found Pierce County Superior Court Judge Michael Hecht guilty of felony harassment and patronizing a prostitute.
The verdict was announced just after 10 a.m. today. After the first verdict was announced, there was an audible gasp in the courtroom.
Afterward, two of Hecht’s grown children and his wife, who have sat through the trial, started crying. They hugged Hecht.
“It’s OK. It’s OK,” he told them.
Jurors started deliberating the case about 1 p.m. Tuesday after hearing evidence and witness testimony over six days. They deliberated for three hours Tuesday before adjourning for the night.
Prosecutors had charged Hecht, 59, with felony harassment and patronizing a prostitute, a misdemeanor.
Assistant attorney general John Hillman has contended that Hecht bought sex from one young man on multiple occasions in 2008 and 2009 and threatened to kill another who last summer was telling people about his alleged previous sexual relationship with Hecht.
Hecht’s attorney, Wayne Fricke, argued in his closing statement that Hecht is an honorable man whose efforts to help struggling members of society gave his political enemies ammunition to attack him.
Hecht will be sentenced Nov. 19. He faces from zero to 90 days in jail.
After the verdict, the judge was defiant, saying he was set up by the authorities and Morgan Armijo, the son of the man he defeated in the election for the judgeship.
“It’s absolutely a setup,” Hecht said.
Asked what he would say to the jury that found him guilty, he replied: I say to the jurors, they were duped.
Hecht also said he was happy for the love of his family.
Hecht was elected to the Pierce County bench in August 2008, and he was sworn into office Jan. 12, the day after The News Tribune reported that Tacoma police were investigating allegations that he’d bought sex from Joseph Hesketh IV several years ago and threatened to kill him in downtown last August.
Hecht took a voluntary leave of absence from his $148,000-a-year job in March after his arraignment on the two criminal charges.
Hecht also faces charges brought by the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct. The commission has alleged Hecht violated the state’s judicial conduct code by allegedly exchanging cash and legal advice for sex, threatening two men, using racially insensitive language and engaging in unfair campaign conduct.
Find previous coverage of the trial here.