Prosecuting attorney defends decision not to file charges in Harvey’s Lounge case

Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Cornell, left, listens as Diversity Commissioner Mindy Woods, right, asks a question.

Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Cornell came before the Edmonds Diversity Commission Wednesday night to defend the decision of his office not to charge a Lynnwood woman with malicious harassment in connection with racially motivated threats involving two African American teenagers outside Edmonds’ Harvey’s Lounge.

Police charging documents filed with the prosecutor’s office following the Feb. 4, 2018 incident included a statement by one of the victims, an 18-year-old man — who said he feared for his safety after a woman carrying a baseball bat threatened him and his 14-year-old sister, using a racial slur.

The two teens told police that they were taking pictures for a school project in the parking lot outside the Jack in the Box, located next door to Harvey’s in the 21100 block of Highway 99, when a man came out of the bar and told them to leave. The older teen discovered later that his wallet was missing and so he returned to look for it. He said he then saw a woman appear outside Harvey’s holding a baseball bat, and heard her say to him and his sister, “We want you n-word off the property.”

Cornell, who lives in Edmonds and was elected as Snohomish County Prosecutor a year ago, said that the Edmonds police investigation — which included both witness statements and extensive video footage from Harvey’s — did indicate the woman — a Harvey’s employee — was holding a bat and that she did direct racial slurs at the teens. However, the bat “was not brandished in a threatening way,” Cornell said. “And the video proves that.”

The woman appearing at the door of Harvey’s with the baseball bat Feb. 4, 2018, as captured on surveillance footage.

“In this case there were insufficient facts for my office to charge the suspect with the crime of malicious harassment,” Cornell said. However, declining to file charges “in no way endorses the vile and shameful words that were uttered by this person,” he added. “This language has no place in a civil society. But the law does not allow me, under the specific facts of this case, to charge this person for their vile and shameful words because the words and the actions did not constitute a true threat under the law. It is not against the law for a person to utter vile and shameful things absent a true threat.”

Cornell also said that Edmonds police “did a fine investigation. It would be unfair for the community to think that the police in this matter didn’t do everything that they possibly could have.” While there was probable cause for referral of charges to the prosecutors office — which police did — prosecutors “have to believe there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard in the law,” he said.

Edmonds Diversity Commissioner Donnie Griffin challenged the decision of the prosecutor’s office, stating he believes “there are a couple of things that don’t square up.” One was the lack of the response to citizens’ inquiries regarding the status of the investigation. “Seems to be poor communication,” Griffin said. “What’s most important when these things happen is that we hear from the prosecuting attorney’s office.”

The second issue, Griffin said, is whether the police “dropped the ball in their investigation.”

“Either the police department didn’t do a very good job with their investigation and (didn’t) bring a case to you that is winnable, or maybe it’s not a priority,” Griffin said.

Cornell replied that “there wasn’t anything else that police could have done.” Video obtained by police was “crystal clear as far as showing our inability to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Cornell said. “We can’t make up the facts. We had everything we needed to make a decision, and it was the right decision.”

The decision not to file charges in the Harvey’s case was made “a long time ago,” Cornell said, but he added that his office doesn’t send out press releases about those decisions. He agreed to come to Wednesday night’s meeting to speak about the issue when the commission inquired earlier this fall about the status of the Harvey’s incident.

Commissioner Mindy Woods asked Cornell why  — if the woman was holding a bat and using racial slurs in “a threatening manner” — the case didn’t qualify as a hate crime.

“It doesn’t rise to the level of a prosecutor being able to prove that crime beyond a reasonable doubt based on facts,” Cornell replied. “It just doesn’t.”

“I know you’re all disappointed in this decision and I’m sorry you’re disappointed,” Cornell continued. “But if some day the shoe was on the other foot and somebody wanted me to charge somebody where we didn’t have enough evidence, you would demand that that person not be charged. We don’t pick our causes. We make our decisions based on the facts and the law. And we should not want to live in a society that is any different.”

The mother of the two teens involved in the Harvey’s incident — Darnesha Weary of Edmonds — was present to hear Cornell’s presentation. Commissioner Sarah Mixson nodded to Weary when she asked Cornell if the prosecutor’s office has a policy of informing those involved in such incidents regarding their charging decisions. Cornell replied it was his understanding that an assigned victim advocate from his office “reached out to the family” regarding the decision, but Weary responded that she never heard from anyone.

“That was not information that was provided to me,” replied Cornell, who added that if Weary or other family members weren’t informed, “that’s a miss on my office’s part clearly.”

Commissioner Maria Montalvo said the Harvey’s situation is a good reminder of the work that the Edmonds Diversity Commission can do in the future, such as having an “official channel” open to the prosecutor’s office to monitor charging decisions and to ensure that a victim’s advocate is assigned in similar cases so that followup occurs.

— Story and photo by Teresa Wippel

  1. Why are teenagers taking a picture of a bar in Edmonds or anywhere. It is illegal to consume alcohol at their age. The words the woman used but most of us grow up hearing slurs. This is America and not everyone thinks as we do. They should have telephoned the bar after they were asked to leave. Wallets are not that hard to purchase. Someone would eventually find it. Edmonds is a great town because the crime rate is low!

    1. TRANSLATION: “Edmonds is a great town because the diversity is low! And I like it that way!”
      You created your narrative out of thin air, ignoring the reported facts and substance of the incident.
      The report indicated the brother/sister were taking pictures as part of a school project in the Jack in the Box parking lot NEXT DOOR to the bar. Why are you accusing them of consuming alcohol? Where does the report state that? You are actually claiming that the female bar employee was justified to approach them carrying a baseball bat, calling them ni**ers, and warning them to leave!
      Your comment is outrageous and shameful, the source of your insinuations and judgement are transparent.

      1. Don’t know either of you, but it’s weird for someone named Levine to assume that someone named DeSoto doesn’t appreciate diversity. Take the discussion up a level.

        1. Let’s be clear Mr. Richardson:
          1 – Regarding your first reply, you did not read the narrative of the incident correctly. It was AFTER the teen returned for his wallet that the woman from the bar came after them with a bat and a racial slur telling them to leave. You misread it, questioning why someone would return having already been threatened.. Wrong.
          2 – Misreading a straightforward narrative, and then in your 2nd reply drawing some sort of assumption or judgement from my surname disqualifies you from claiming any sort of advanced thinking skills to suggest taking “the discussion up a level. That’s rich.
          And let’s be clear about 1 last thing: What Phyllis D Desoto, and perhaps you, are claiming is that the aggrieved party is not the teens, but rather the tavern and the employee with the baseball bat advancing toward the teens with a racial slur. Hopefully you can comprehend that distinction correctly.

    2. What??? Do you think the woman was playing baseball inside the bar? Why are teenagers not allowed to take pictures? Wallets are probably not that difficult to buy but, what about school ID cards, drivers licenses, etc. And, because we grew up hearing racial slurs, does not make them less ignorant.. We are trying to move away from such slurs. Hang on, in a few years white people will be in the minority. Your entire response makes me sad and appalled. .

    3. Please think seriously about why your instinct is to blame the African American teenagers and excuse the white adults. You may want to Google “implicit bias.”
      I don’t know enough about the law to opine about the decision not to file charges, but there is no ethical / moral justification for the bar employee’s behavior.
      +1 A. Levine and Jill Glenn.

      1. Any defense lawyer would point out that the young man lied when reporting the crime. He said that a male bouncer chased him with a bat. It brings into doubt that the woman actually menaced him. Maybe racial slurs happened. I can’t rule that out, but how can others so easily rule that in? I don’t think “implicit bias” of a MEN commenters is enough to put a woman in jail.

        Please google “fake hate crimes”. It actually happened here in Edmonds [several times], and once our police department actually had to exonerate themselves from a similar Facebook mob.

        The EPD released this statement:
        “it is frustrating and disheartening when some members of our community allow themselves to rush to judgment, impugning the integrity and reputation of our professional and dedicated public safety members who serve this community 24/7, a reputation built on integrity and trust.”

        A video clearly showed that the suspect wasn’t a man and didn’t chase the teens trespassing at Harvey’s. What more do you want?

      2. Agreed, and as I stated at the outset I hope the teen’s family pursues this further with additional litigation and/or kicking the matter upstairs to an overriding state authority. I think the Snoho Prosecuting Attorney’s decision was faulty reasoning and bad judgement, and I’m fairly sure there’s a higher state agency that can look into this.

        1. Do you really believe that the decision not to prosecute was made unilaterally by the county prosecuting attorney? I’m confident that several assistant prosecutors participated in a deep analysis of all of the related facts before the decision was announced.

    4. Phyllis, unless your black, you have no idea what you’re saying! Edmonds has a big problem with bigoted folks, its everywhere! So please get educated first then comment about underage drinking, which wasn’t evan apart of this story!

  2. Regarding the Harvey’s Lounge incident: So the prosecutor decides that the woman emerging from the bar carrying a baseball bat at her side and approaching African-American brother/sister teens telling them “We want you (n-word’s) off the property” is not prosecutable as malicious harrassment based on the fact that the bat “was not brandished in a threatening way.”
    That is an outrageous excuse right out of deep south Jim Crow days. If not a covertly racist rationale, then it’s terribly poorly thought out. By logical extension, his excuse would also apply if she came out of the bar carrying a gun, cattle prod, or other potential weapon at her side but not brandishing it. Why else would she have been carrying the bat if not as a malicious threat?
    Prosecutor Adam Cornell should not be left off the hook. This matter should be pursued by the family through other litigation and/or forwarded to an overriding state agency.

  3. If I remember correctly, there was no audio in the video. It is dubious that someone afraid for their life would return to look for a wallet. Mr. Griffin is a nice man, but his committee and the members of the City Council all attempted to preempt the police investigation. If the city could learn anything, learn that we are not perfect people. Few of us are good at conflict resolution. That’s bad enough. Helter Skelter should have died with Manson.

  4. Wouldn’t be the 1st time someone was falsely accused of using the n-word, yet the public predominantly jumps to the side of the accuser w/ out knowing anything about the incident except what the news says. And let’s face it, the news is about ratings, not to mention, most police and legal folks are all about making a bust so they can look good.

    1. A woman spit on some people’s car at McDonalds because they were speaking Spanish (not to say there werent other factors). There are some disturbed people everywhere. But to your point Alan, this isnt “Maga Country”, as that French actor Juicy Smulliette would say. Left leaning people want a race war. People arent falling for it.

  5. A. Levine, You might think about taking Mr. Richardson’s advice and “take the discussion up a level”. Your comments are offensive in the way you present your point of view. A little respect towards others would go a long way.

    1. His suggestion that I “take the discussion up a level” had no merit, for the reasons I indicated, as he proved incapable of doing so himself.
      And your comment is misguided: if you want a genuinely offensive comment, look to Phyllis D Desoto’s. I can be offended that you chose to simply ignore it and let it pass, but instead I’m simply disregarding yours. And if this comment offends you, I can’t help that.

      1. A. Levine, it is you who is misguided. You are truly an obnoxious character. Where did you come from? Matt has been posting very interesting comments for a long time. You, on the other hand seemed to just arrive out of the blue. You have no manners and degrade the conversation at every comment you make. If you are thinking more as a liberal fine, state your case and move on. But your hysterics are really nasty. People of other persuasions have a right to their opinions without your attacks. Your name calling is really unacceptable and should be discouraged.

        1. Ms. Hernandez, please accept my apology for being an obnoxious character barging in out of the blue, as you say, apparently without the requisite invite or going through an admission process which you seem to oversee. You obviously possess the manners and voice of stable reason which I seem to lack.
          Thank you for asking where I come from: please advise from which neighborhoods opinions are restricted or frowned upon.
          The reason for my unauthorized intrusion was simply that the article’s headline from the local paper was recommended on my Google news site, and I followed the link out of curiosity. It didn’t appear that the attorney made the right decision, as others similarly expressed at the meeting.
          I don’t believe I’ve called anyone any names, but simply pointed out when someone misread the story’s narrative, or expressed an opinion that turned the tables on the teens and lady with the baseball bat hurling a racial slur, revealing a deplorably suspect agenda as Ms. DeSoto did at the outset.
          Sorry for my nasty hysterics, as you say, and hopefully my reply here was, well, as calm, stable, and reasonable as yours. But you set a high bar.

  6. Much like the great Edmond’s gun law controversy, I’m not sure this public discourse about the Harvey’s incident is of much point except to give Ideological proponents a place to spout their preconceived notions of right and wrong and how the rest of us should view things just as they do. I got a kick out of that “left leaning people want to start a race war comment.” Boy, everybody knows that’s a true statement based on known facts. (Yes I plan to see a bunch of rebuttal Fox news type “facts” to support this notion as soon as my virtual ink drys here). All I know is it’s a good idea to lock up guns to prevent misuse and it’s a good idea not to carry a baseball bat and call people racial epithets. If that makes me a left leaning crazy; then boy I’m all in with being one. Now, feel free to inform me all about how Fox views this and how wrong I am about it all. Can’t wait.

    1. Clinton, you just have alternate facts. If a small woman feels like she needs a bat at her side when trespassing a 6-foot male for a second time, then it’s her right. The 6-foot young man originally reported that a man-bouncer chased him with a bat.

      >>>”Police also have ‘verified that a baseball bat was present.’ McClure said. ‘But, based on our review, it was never brought out and used in a threatening way. No one chased anyone with the bat or anything like that. But what we can’t tell from the video is what was said. That’s where the interviews come in.'”<<<

      I'm the first to say that this case is silly, and that it seems neither party is good at conflict resolution. Best to give people the benefit of the doubt though. Legally, we have to give people the benefit of the doubt. But, the left is a religion that sees the worst in people. The fact is, it's a beautiful world, but you've put yourself into a position where you're less happy because this isn't a race-crime. 99% of people aren't racists, but I think some people want a race war so that they can cast themselves as hero Social Justice Warrior.

  7. Thanks Theresa. A local story that bothers me is this one about an African Immigrant that was attacked on 4th of July – of all days.

    The man was targeted, robbed and hit in the head with a rock. Note that there are no comments about this story from the left. I even tried to bait people into discussion. There was no gofundme, there was no Facebook mob. The reason, I think, is that attention given to the Somalian man who was attacked would have stigmatized a panhandler. There must be some sort of accounting in Victim Olympics.

  8. It would be a waste of time and money for the Prosecutor’s office to file charges on a case that basically just involves hurt feelings and theatrical threats of violence. Racism is the result of ignorant and selfish people believing and perpetuating lies about other people who just don’t look and talk exactly like them; in other words fear, ignorance and greed. Personally I think the only race is the human race and most of the so called differences between us as a species are the result of pseudo science and economic selfishness. To get the cheapest labor possible many of our founding fathers bought human beings with dark pigmentation on the pretext that these people were mentally inferior and meant by God Almighty to be slaves. It didn’t hurt that the dark skin made them easy to spot in case they decided to run away. Usually what we choose to believe has a lot to do with what we want, not necessarily what is right or good for other people.

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