Addressing questions raised during his appearance before the Edmonds Diversity Commission Dec. 4, Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Cornell has sent a follow-up letter to the commission stating phone records confirm his office did notify the father of two Edmonds’ African American teens that charges would not be filed in connection with racially motivated threats at Harvey’s Lounge in 2018.
The question about whether the family of the teens had been contacted about the charging decision had been raised by Commissioner Sarah Mixson near the end of Cornell’s Dec. 4 presentation, after he had outlined the reasons why his office decided not to charge a Lynnwood woman with malicious harassment following the Feb. 4, 2018 incident. When Cornell replied it was his understanding that an assigned victim advocate from his office had indeed contacted the family regarding the decision, the teens’ mother Darnesha Weary — who was in the audience — responded that she never heard from anyone in the prosecutor’s office.
At the time, Cornell expressed surprise about Weary’s assertion, but pledged that he would look into it. “I promised you and the rest of the commission I would get to the bottom of this issue because I care deeply about my office, and my reputation in the community as both prosecuting attorney and as a resident of Edmonds,” Cornell wrote in his Dec. 10 letter to Diversity Commission Chair Patricia Valle. “I also care deeply about doing right by the citizens of Snohomish County and the alleged victims of crime by, among other things, making sure they are aware of our charging decisions.”
Cornell said that his office’s internal phone records corroborate notes from the office’s victim advocate that the family was notified April 8, 2019 of the office’s decision not to file charges in the case. Office records show that the call began at 59 seconds after 4 p.m. and ended at 31 seconds after 4:10 p.m., Cornell wrote. After the call, Cornell added, the victim advocate wrote the following in her notes: “Spoke with the father of victims and explained the decline and reasons. He is going to talk with his wife and will get back to me if they would like to meet with the prosecutor to ask questions.”
Cornell also told Valle in his Dec. 10 letter that he communicated his findings to Darnesha Weary via email but had not yet received a response.
In an email to My Edmonds News the evening of Dec. 10, Weary said the prosecutor’s office “isn’t being honest and I’m extremely disappointed at how they managed this case.” Weary said she was present in the car when her husband received the April 8 phone call, as the two of them were traveling to an event and the call was on speaker phone. “The conversation centered around the well-being of my children and I was informed that no decision was made,” Weary said. “The advocate never disclosed that they were from the prosecutor’s office, they simply stated that they were an ‘advocate assigned to the case.'”
Weary then reiterated that she hadn’t learned of the decision until the Dec. 4 Diversity Commission meeting.
Weary said that she took notes during the April 8 phone conversation and “clearly” remembers it. “I documented everything because because we’re preparing to file a lawsuit for damages,” she said. “The prosecutor’s office is attempting to discredit my recollection of events as well.”
Police charging documents filed with the prosecutor’s office following the 2018 incident included a statement by Weary’s 18-year-old son, 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 in Edmonds, 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 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.”
“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.”
— By Teresa Wippel