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Seattle considers ‘poverty defense’ for misdemeanor crimes

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The Seattle City Council is considering a law that would excuse misdemeanor crimes if the offense can be linked to poverty, mental health, and addiction, KUOW-TV reported.

The proposal would allow judges and juries the option to dismiss misdemeanor crimes that were committed because of poverty or while a person was experiencing symptoms of a mental illness or substance abuse disorder.

The proposed legislation would exclude misdemeanors related to domestic violence and impaired driving.

If passed, it would make Seattle the first city in the nation to excuse misdemeanor offenses linked to poverty, addiction and mental illness.

“In a situation where you took that sandwich because you were hungry and you were trying to meet your basic need of satisfying your hunger, we as a community will know that we should not punish that. That conduct is excused,” Anita Khandelwal, King County director of public defense, told KUOW-TV.

Former Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess opposes the proposal and called it a “defense lawyer’s dream,” KOUW reported.

“It sends this powerful signal that as a city government, we don’t really care about this type of criminal behavior in our city,” Burgess said.

The Seattle Police Department said they will continue to hold those accountable who commit crimes and that the proposed legislation “seems intent on eliminating any accountability or deterrent to engaging in these behaviors and would endanger the safety and rights of all people of Seattle.”

In a statement to Seattle Times, the police department said “officers will continue to focus on holding individuals accountable who commit one of the thousands of assaults or thefts that occur in our community each year.”

This proposed legislation comes as crime rates in Seattle rise. Protests have been ongoing in the city, including the Capitol Hill Occupied Zone protests, which was an occupation protest and self-declared autonomous zone in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle that lasted 150 days.

Cities and states across the nation are reevaluating police policies as protests and demonstrators demand for change.

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Kamala Harris Loses Two More Staffers

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Two more staffers are reportedly leaving their jobs in Vice President Kamala Harris’ office, according to the Washington Post. The news comes just after Harris’ chief spokeswoman, Symone Sanders, announced her departure.

“Symone Sanders, the senior adviser and chief spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris, is expected to leave the White House at the end of the year, according to five administration officials familiar with the matter,” Politico reported.

In addition to Sanders, “Peter Velz, director of press operations, and Vince Evans, deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs in the vice president’s office, have also told others in the vice president’s office that they are leaving, according to two administration officials,” the Washington Post reported.

Earlier this week, Sanders officially announced her departure in a note to the Vice President’s team.

“I’m so grateful to the VP for her vote of confidence from the very beginning and the opportunity to see what can be unburdened by what has been. I’m grateful for [Harris chief of staff] Tina [Flournoy] and her leadership and her confidence as well,” Sanders wrote. “Every day, I arrived to the White House complex knowing our work made a tangible difference for Americans. I am immensely grateful and will miss working for her and with all of you.”

The news comes just weeks after Harris’ communications director Ashley Etienne filed her resignation.

“Ashley is a valued member of the vice president’s team, who has worked tirelessly to advance the goals of this administration,” a White House official stated. “She is leaving the office in December to pursue other opportunities.”

“Harris’ office has been beset by disorder, bad press, and, at times, internal frictions,” Politico reported, adding, “ … in recent weeks, chatter has grown increasingly loud that Harris wasn’t positioned well to be Biden’s heir apparent in 2028 or, if he opts not to run again, in 2024.”

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