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Hecht’s goodbye is 10 months overdue

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Oct. 28, 2009 at 6:10 pm with 5 Comments »
October 30, 2009 10:30 am

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

We are not counting on Judge Michael Hecht’s sense of decency. But if he still possesses any vestige of one, he will resign immediately from the Pierce County Superior Court bench.

A jury found him guilty Wednesday of hiring one young prostitute, a misdemeanor, and threatening to kill another, a felony. Every hour he remains on the court is a further disgrace to the bench.

State law appears to mandate automatic dismissal of any judge convicted of a felony. The trigger point, presumably, will be his formal sentencing next month.

Were Hecht capable of shame, it would never have come to this. He would never have filed for office, knowing the personal scrutiny his election might bring. He would never have taken the oath of office almost 10 months ago, the day after this newspaper reported he’d been under criminal investigation by Tacoma police. He’d have stepped down long, long ago, rather than cling to his $148,000 salary despite being barred from the courtroom by scandal.

It’s not a matter of being innocent until proven guilty. Hecht has known all along that, until recently, he was frequenting the young male prostitutes who sell themselves on Tacoma’s Antique Row.

It’s a matter of the intrinsic foulness of these crimes. Contrary to common notions of prostitution as a victimless offense, this is a viciously self-destructive “survival” tactic that traps some of society’s most vulnerable people.

Hecht’s victims were commonly young, addicted, frequently homeless and literally hungry. Joseph Pfeiffer, whom the prosecution built part of its case upon, was 20 years old when Hecht was hiring him for – according to Pfeiffer – as little as $10 a turn.

Pfeiffer, a pathetic figure with a ninth-grade education, testified that he sold himself to buy drugs and did just that with the pittances Hecht paid him.
Hecht presented himself in the trial as a “helpful grandpa type” who befriended homeless men to buy them food, give them jobs and offer them advice. He was often seen cruising Antique Row not – he said – because he was trolling for young men, but because he was looking for parking.

The state prosecutor, John Hillman, methodically demolished those claims with a seemingly endless string of witnesses who testified to the contrary. Given the weight of evidence, the jury ultimately found homeless addicts and petty criminals more credible than this Superior Court judge.

There’s only one word for a fifty-something attorney who buys the bodies and feeds the addictions of broken young men: predatory.

For heaven’s sake, Mr. Hecht, step down and get the help you need before they have to change the locks at the courthouse.

Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. oaklady533 says:

    I just read the news and my many prayers have been answered. He has been hurting people since 93′ that I have know of and maybe now the four guys that had the courage to come forth drugged or not, can get on with their lives. The City of Tacoma should offer to put them through a good rehab for saving Tacoma from another big embarassment of almost letting a known pervert on the bench. Look at the money the boys saved our City.

  2. Were you or your paper supporters of Armijo? Did you endorse him in the election? Is the TNT not a part of the good boy network of Pierce County? Maybe the paper should change it’s name to Tacoma Enquirer for that seems to be the type of journalism you are exhorting.

  3. Patrick O'Callahan says:

    Aelexei,

    HELL YES we endorsed Armijo. We were supposed to endorse Hecht? A criminal judge is better than a mediocre judge? Not endorsing Hecht makes us part of the good boy network? Reporting Hecht’s crimes makes us the Enquirer?

  4. cconsuelo says:

    Armijo served Pierce County well. He was not a mediocre judge. The problem with judicial evaluations and elections is someone will be rated last by a pissed of attorney pool like Hecht and his lowly friends, all unsuccessful and pissed off.

  5. The Trib is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. Nice pair of choices there. Sort of like the choices in the election. We could vote for the lowest rated judge or we could vote for his unknown but many-rumored challenger.

    As long as judges get to sit on the bench after the first election and NEVER have to be on a ballot again, we will have these situations and the Trib will have its editorial choices limited to which one is worse.

    If the Trib truly wants to be a mechanism for positive social change, it will do a series of stories on how this state became a judicial tyranny. Maybe that can begin the process to restoring the republican form of government we are guaranteed by the constitution.

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