This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
A slap on the wrist. With a feather.
That’s what two Pierce County sheriff’s deputies got Friday from the very criminal justice system they betrayed by testifying falsely under oath last year at a pretrial hearing last year.
Convicted of first-degree perjury in September, 48-year-old Rex McNicol and 36-year-old Jeff Montgomery will have to serve three weekends in jail – they can skip Christmas weekend – plus 79 days in home detention and 40 hours of community service.
Granted, McNicol and Montgomery were first-time offenders, and Superior Court Judge John Hickman’s lenient penalty was within the state’s sentencing guidelines.
But their prosecutor, assistant state attorney general Melanie Tratnik, pointed out that they were not common criminals, and their falsehoods were not common crimes. The sworn lies of police officers send ripples of damage through the legal system.
Most criminal cases stand or fall on the credibility of the police. Officers make judgments on probable cause, request search warrants, arrest suspects, gather evidence, write official reports and testify in court. The entire process assumes that the police are honest.
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