Couture, Griffey: Thurston County judge’s release of suspected car thief without bail further erodes public safety

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CONTACT: Hanna Scott, Public Information Officer for Reps. Travis Couture and Dan Griffey | 360-968-3938

Couture, Griffey: Thurston County judge’s release of suspected car thief without bail further erodes public safety

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Allyson Zipp recently released a suspected car thief who led Thurston County Sheriff deputies on a dangerous pursuit. Rep. Travis Couture, R-Allyn, and Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn, call this decision part of a statewide pattern that continues to put the community at risk.

“These decisions are a growing problem that sends a clear message to criminals that their actions have no consequences and Washington will not hold them accountable,” said Couture. “If we don’t change that message soon, our families will become more at risk than they already are.”

“If you break the law in Washington state, you must be held accountable – it’s that simple,” said Griffey. “Without that, the bad actors have no reason to stop committing crimes. Beyond that, it attracts new criminals to our state.”

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It is not uncommon for a suspect to be released without bail in Washington since state law requires a presumption of release for defendants unless the court finds the person poses a risk of committing a future violent crime, not returning to court, or getting in the way of administering justice.

Thurston County prosecutors tell KING 5 the court failed to make that determination in the case of the 18-year suspected car thief who fled from deputies on August 16th when they tried to stop him for what they initially suspected was a DUI.

The Puyallup man was driving a stolen vehicle with five teenage passengers as he led deputies on a dangerous high-speed pursuit caught on dash-cam video.

WATCH: The Thurston County Sheriff’s Department dash-cam video here.

The driver was booked on three felony charges that include eluding police, possession of a stolen vehicle, unlawful possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and a misdemeanor hit and run charge. At his initial appearance in Thurston County, Judge Zipp noted that “there exists a substantial danger that the defendant will commit a violent crime.” Despite that notation and the prosecutor’s $10,000 bail request, the judge opted to release the suspect without requesting bail on his promise to return to court after twenty-one hours in custody.

Couture and Griffey are frustrated with the lack of accountability, which will likely promote even more crime in their district and across Washington.

It’s equally frustrating for law enforcement who say it puts the public at risk and hurts department morale.

“The routine release of felony suspects who pose a flight risk or to commit a future violent offense on a promise to return to court is unsustainable,” said Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders. “Our community should continue to anticipate the increase in auto-thefts (+34%) and homicides (+16.6%) with a subsequent decrease in officers per capita that we’ve seen over the past three years under this practice.”

Couture and Griffey say it’s simply more of the same and that it should be clear by now the status quo is not working.

“All we have to do is look around our community to see what these soft-on-crime policies have created in our neighborhoods. It is unacceptable to me and should be unacceptable to us all,” said Couture. “I will continue to work with my seatmates and House colleagues to pass legislation that makes our communities safer.”

“The judge in this case noted the suspect posed a substantial risk of committing a violent crime. That should have been enough to require some bail,” said Griffey. “How this judge and so many others in our state continually release suspects who pose a threat to the public without bail is a mystery to me. We must do better if we ever want to turn things around in Washington and make our communities safe.”

Couture and Griffey praised law enforcement’s handling of the case.

“From the textbook pursuit and pit maneuver by Sergeant Chatterton to Sheriff Sanders’ safe apprehension of the suspects hiding in the Honey Bucket, law enforcement carried out this operation in a professional manner from start to finish, said Couture. “I thank them for their professional actions as they sought justice and maintained public safety.”

“This is a perfect example of the great work our law enforcement does daily to keep our community safe.,” I thank Sergeant Chatterton, Sheriff Sanders, and all involved for their professional actions during this incident.”


Washington State House Republican Communications