The article outlining the expense of defending 36 Hilltop Crips (TNT, 7-31), left out some key facts and misstated one.
As lead deputy prosecutor in the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office Gang Unit, I can tell you that a judge did not “reject” the conspiracy theory. In fact, 24 defendants were convicted of conspiracy charges.
Twelve defendants in this sweep went to trial. All 12 were convicted, including on conspiracy charges. Defendants who went to trial are serving, on average, more than 20 years in prison. Twenty-two defendants pleaded guilty. They are serving, on average, more than 10 years in prison.
These defendants accounted for more than 200 felony convictions prior to the sweep. The financial, emotional and physical toll these 36 defendants had on our community cannot be measured in dollars. Consider, however, in one case, restitution for medical bills and other expenses incurred by the victim totaled more than $133,000. His physical and emotional scars are not so easily tallied.
After the sweep, local violent crime rates dropped, and gang violence in particular is down by at least one third. Preventing one violent incident is worth the cost. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence shows that this successful prosecution has discouraged young people from joining gangs.
Private attorneys generally charge $5,000 to $10,000 to defend driving-under-the-influence charges. The $7,200 paid per defense attorney in defending serious felony charges such as these represents a bargain for the citizens of our community, especially considering this prosecution reduced crime so dramatically.