Judge used expletives and said defendant was 'just a criminal,' meriting new sentence, court says

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A drug court defendant in Washington state is entitled to a new sentencing hearing because the judge showed “personal animosity,” a state appeals court has ruled.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Joe Wilson used expletives as he tried to coax the defendant to comply with drug treatment after an arrest for shoplifting at Walmart, according to the appeals court opinion cited by HeraldNet.

After Wilson removed the defendant from the program, the judge called him an addict, a liar and a thief. At sentencing, Wilson called the defendant “just a criminal.”

The public defender who appealed, Robert O’Neal, told the HeraldNet that Wilson should not be judged by the single case, and that the tone in drug court is different than in a regular courtroom. Nonviolent defendants in drug court can avoid a felony conviction and jail if they get treatment and stay sober.

The HeraldNet has more details of Wilson’s statements to the defendant. They include:

• After the defendant tested positive for drugs and missed his treatment, he appeared for a February 2017 hearing. The defendant acknowledged he had been drinking lately and said he needed anger management. Wilson used the F-word at least twice. “I think you’re a [expletive] addict, and maybe you need treatment,” Wilson said. “I don’t think it’s got nothing to do with anger management. You think I’ll give you anger management and that’s going to get you clean and sober? … What the hell are you talking about?”

Judge Joe Wilson

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Joe Wilson. Photo from the Snohomish County Government website.

• After the defendant missed a court date, Wilson issued a warrant for his arrest. The defendant acknowledged that he was on oxycodone at a March hearing. Noting the shoplifting charge, Wilson said, “So not only is he an addict, he’s also a liar and a thief.”

• At sentencing, Wilson noted the defendant’s rap sheet. “You, sir, are just a criminal,” Wilson said. “That’s all you are, you’re just a criminal. Do you have issues? Yep, you do. Are you going to deal with them? No, you’re not. … You, the odds say, are going to die in prison.”

Wilson is no longer a drug court judge. He was admonished in a different case last year for calling a defendant “an animal.”

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