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Legal Ethics

Wash. Judge Charged in 2 Arenas Over Alleged Activities with Prostitutes

Posted Apr 16, 2009 1:15 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A Washington judge has taken a leave of absence after being charged both criminally and by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct concerning his alleged activities with male prostitutes and other claimed misconduct.

Boycotted by prosecutors from his first days on the bench this year, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Michael Hecht voluntarily took a temporary leave as a judge last month after he was charged with felony harassment. Yesterday the commission filed ethics charges alleging that Hecht traded cash and legal advice for sex, threatened two men and used inappropriate racial language and unfair campaign tactics, reports the News Tribune.

Attorney Wayne Fricke, who represents the 58-year-old judge, says he denies wrongdoing and will fight the ethics charges. “He is hoping and anticipating that he’ll be exonerated at the end of all this,” Fricke tells the newspaper.

In late February, when Hecht was charged in the harassment case, Fricke said the case would go to trial before a jury and "we're confident they're going to make the right decision and exonerate him," reported the Seattle Times. Its article relies on information from the News Tribune.

The judge's counsel has also said the charges against him are politically motivated.

The state attorney general's office says Hecht threatened to kill a prostitute on Aug. 30, 2008, not long after he was elected to the bench, the Times reports. He is also charged with a misdemeanor count of patronizing a prostitute.

In the ethics case, the commission contends that Hecht repeatedly paid men for sex at his law office between 1997 and 2008 and once, in 1996, exchanged legal services for sex, the News Tribune reports. He also, the commission alleges, used "threatening behavior" toward two men who may have been speaking of Hecht's claimed conduct with male prostitutes, repeatedly used a racial slur during a 2007 conversation and stole several campaign signs from the incumbent judge he defeated in the election.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Prosecutors Boycott New Wash. Judge"

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