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Tacoma: City council candidate faces mental health evaluation, felony charge

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Sep. 15, 2011 at 2:23 pm with No Comments »
September 15, 2011 2:47 pm

Robert Jesse Hill, a candidate for Tacoma City Council Position 3, is being held today at the Pierce County Jail on the felony charge of intimidating a judge who last week increased Hill’s bail on a separate case.

Hill is being held without bail while awaiting transfer to Western State Hospital for a mental health evaluation, Deputy Pierce County Prosecutor Pat Cooper said today.

According to charging papers, Hill, 41, recently contacted Tacoma Municipal Court Commissioner Randy Hansen and “made comments to him that he had intimate knowledge about his family.”

Hill also allegedly left two threatening phone messages about Hansen on Sept. 11, apparently to a representative of the local blog Exit 133, court papers show.

In one of the messages, Hill allegedly said: “Tomorrow morning there’s a big event I’m going to be a part of in the county courthouse,” adding “that punk-ass bitch Judge Hansen” increased his bail “for bad reason and did it to the wrong person.”

As we reported last week, Hansen, while serving as a judge pro tem in city court, increased Hill’s bail on a pending assault and weapon case stemming from his pepper-spraying two people last month. (Hill claims he acted in self-defense.)

After initially setting Hill’s bail at $100,000, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Gary Steiner instead ordered the mental health evaluation for Hill during his arraignment on the intimidation charge on Wednesday.

“He was acting out in court, so the court ordered he be evaluated at Western State,” Cooper said.

Since last week’s arraignment before Hansen, Hill, who has drawn a litany of arrests, criminal charges, convictions and no contact orders over the past 15 years, has had several more encounters with police.

Police ejected Hill from the Tacoma Dome  during the Taylor Swift concert on Sept. 7, after he allegedly tried to gain access to the singer, said Rob Henson, the city’s acting public facilities director.  Hill had two cannisters of tear gas with him at the time, Henson said.

Hill also has been charged with misdemeanor harassment in connection with a Sept. 10 incident at Cheney Stadium; and police arrested him Monday for tearing down a warning sign at the County-City Building.

Hill, who goes by the self-styled nickname, “The Traveller,” has become known over the years for his oddball antics, costume changes, multiple personalities and brushes with the law, particularly during public meetings and events. Some officials and citizens have complained his behavior has escalated in recent years.

Among other incidents, Hill was ejected from a Congressional committee hearing, removed from an air flight and committed to a mental health hospital in New Jersey.  He has at least eight active protection orders against him, including those taken out by U.S. Congressman Norm Dicks and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson.

If convicted on the intimidation charge – a class B felony — Hill faces a maximum of up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. The charge’s minimum sentencing range for a defendant with no prior felony convictions is 12-14 months, Cooper said.

“I think he does have a prior felony,” Cooper added. “We’re still looking into that.”

Any felony conviction before November’s election could upstage Hill’s political candidacy. Washington’s constitution (Article VI Section 3) and state law (RCW 29.01.080) prevents convicted felons or those otherwise unable to legally vote from holding public office.

Hill, who in 2008 garnered nearly 52,000 votes in his bid for Pierce County Sheriff — nearly 20 percent of the vote — is now campaigning against incumbent Lauren Walker for the city council’s District 3 seat representing Central Tacoma.

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