Mr. Villegas’ life savings began to dwindle under the control of his daughter. He was 81-years-old with dementia and early Alzheimer’s. Frugal, he lived on a modest income. His savings was nearly $200,000, primarily from the sale of his home, but his daughter drained his account to almost nothing over the course of a few years.
Without money, Mr. Villegas could not afford the assisted living he needed. Luckily, Mr. Villegas’ son Robert became aware of the situation and intervened. Mr. Villegas’ daughter went to prison for the theft and Mr. Villegas moved in with his son, where he was properly cared for.
In 2011, I formed an Elder Abuse Unit to protect elders and vigorously prosecute those who take advantage of vulnerable adults. We recognized that as our population ages, there are more elders who need more protection. Since then, our office has been a leader in the prosecution and prevention of elder abuse, whether it’s financial exploitation, physical abuse, or neglect.
Just as we have been leaders in reducing gang violence, solving “cold cases,” and removing career criminals from our streets with data-driven prosecution, we have been leaders in protecting elders with a specialized team.
Initially, our Elder Abuse Unit was a one-woman team with Deputy Prosecutor Erika Nohavec. Yes, as Erika sometimes joked, there can be an “I” in team when it’s a one-woman team. Our team subsequently expanded to include two deputy prosecutors, two victim advocates, and a legal assistant. The Pierce County Council recognized the vital work we are doing and provided the additional staff.
In 2016, we won a grant from the Department of Justice of nearly $400,000 — we were one of only nine counties in the country to receive this award. The funds are being used to coordinate a comprehensive approach to protecting elders and other vulnerable adults.
One major component of this comprehensive approach was the formation of the Coordinated Community Response Team. This group includes prosecutors, law enforcement departments, the Attorney General’s Office, Adult Protective Services, the Korean Women’s Association, and other stakeholders.
Our vision is to create a safe community for vulnerable adults. Our mission is to effectively respond to the needs of older victims, hold abusers accountable, identify and bridge the gaps in services available to victims, and improve coordination between service providers through multidisciplinary collaboration. This collaboration also helps us hold offenders accountable. Working with multiple agencies, our office successfully prosecuted a caregiver in 2016 for a shocking case of neglect.
Mr. Carter was found nonresponsive in his bed and was rushed to Good Samaritan Hospital. Several large and deep pressure ulcers were discovered on his backside, the worst of which was 8×13 inches and went down to the bone.
His paid caregiver packed the wounds with paper towels and Neosporin. This led to a serious infection, which ultimately killed Mr. Carter. Doctors and nurses said it was worst example of neglect they had seen in their careers. This was the first murder conviction in Washington premised on a failure to seek necessary medical care for a vulnerable adult.
We prosecute and we prevent. Raising awareness and educating people on how to protect themselves, their friends, and their family members is part of how we reduce crimes against the vulnerable and keep them safe. If you know of a group that would benefit from hearing from us, please let us know.
Sometimes people say to me, You’ve got a tough job. Why do you do it?
In the past year, I spoke with more than 200 community groups about public safety, from service clubs to senior centers. I heard this question several times.
Yes, it’s a tough job. Yes, you see the dark side of people. Yes, you must deal gracefully with endless challenges.
And yet it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I say this as someone who has been blessed with an interesting life and many good jobs.
Today, we charged a defendant with the murder of a 12-year-old girl in the spring of 1986. A few weeks ago, we charged a different defendant with the murder of a 13-year-old girl that same year. The mother of the 13-year-old victim came to court to support the mother of the 12-year-old.
These two cases stunned our community and changed the way parents viewed our world.
After the arraignment, friends and family of the victims joined me and our Chief Criminal Deputy in my office along with the detectives. Turns out I knew one of the friends. Pierce County is a small town that way.
Sunlight angled into my office and the room was bright. Emotions were many. The grim reality of what happened 32 years ago was tempered by a sense of justice. In retrospect, it seems odd to smile and feel light in such a meeting, but we did. Such is the power of righting wrongs.
These two cases were among the main reasons we agreed to join a cold case team in 2011 with the Tacoma Police Department, the FBI, and other agencies. Working together, we wanted to hold offenders accountable, deliver justice and closure, and send a message.
As I said at the news conference where we shared information with the community we serve, DNA technology is advancing. Today we are at a point where if you’re a criminal, and you left your DNA at the scene, you might as well turn yourself in now. We will catch you.
We have been innovative and relentless in our crime-fighting efforts, whether it’s seeking justice on cold cases, protecting vulnerable victims, or reducing gang violence. To paraphrase former United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, we are forever endeavoring to tame the savageness of man.
I came home tonight and hugged my seven-year-old daughter and thought again about why I do this job.
I do it to keep our community safe for everyone, especially our children.
Big turnout, small town, good people.
Today Chelsea, Sloane and I walked in the Buckley parade. We saw horses, convertibles, log trucks, pep squads, clowns, bands, and many friends.
We talked about public safety, as I do almost everywhere I go, including our successful efforts to reduce crime by focusing on repeat offenders, our Elder Abuse Unit, and our lawsuit against Big Pharma to hold them accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic.
Buckley Police Chief Arsanto was on duty working the parade route while City Council Member Milt Tremblay was passing out water bottles from his porch. People came from all over Pierce County, including Carbonado Mayor Wally Snover and Tacoma Metro Parks Commissioner Andrea Smith.
Thank you to everyone who waved or said hello. We appreciated the greetings.
Mount Rainier looms large over the town, but the mountain appeared only briefly between clouds.
I learned about the log show, the town history, and that Chris Farley’s character in the movie Black Sheep was from Buckley.
Earlier this month we walked in the Gig Harbor Parade, which was much different and yet very similar. I love Pierce County and how the character of our various communities emerges in these events.
Lindquist is endorsed by every member of the Lakewood City Council and Deputy Mayor Jason Whalen who said, “Mark has bipartisan support because of his proven record of keeping us safe.”
Lindquist has fought to stop the dumping of violent offenders, especially sex offenders, into Lakewood and Pierce County. He has worked with the city council, the Pierce County Council, and state legislators so that we do not receive more than our “fair share” of offenders released from the Department of Corrections, Western State Hospital, or the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island. His leadership has been critical in successfully blocking the release of dangerous offenders into the community.
Additionally, he started an Elder Abuse Unit to better protect vulnerable adults, reduced gang violence dramatically with his Gang Unit, and sued Big Pharma to hold them accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic.
This is why Lindquist is endorsed by Democrats and Republicans, unions and businesses, and other Pierce County public servants such as Puyallup Senator Hans Zeiger and Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. Former Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar and Lindquist were good partners and Lindquist is also endorsed by Farrar’s widow, Cindy Salazar.
“Mark keeps our community safe. He is tested, trusted, and tough,” said Detective Ed Troyer, another endorser. “We need to keep our prosecutor.”
Lindquist is the consensus choice for public safety in our community.
All seven firefighter unions in Pierce County have also endorsed Lindquist, along with the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association, the Tacoma Education Association, the Pierce County Central Labor Council, and more than 500 other organizations, public servants, and community leaders.
by Tacoma Weekly staff
Prosecutor Mark Lindquist has reached out to school districts in Pierce County with an offer to educate students in every junior high, middle school, and high school about school violence and school threats.
At Ford Middle School, the prosecutor, his Chief of Staff, Dawn Farina, and Deputy Prosecutor Sarah Eaquinto delivered the first of what are expected to be numerous in-school presentations.
“It’s our duty in the Prosecutor’s Office to help keep the community safe. This includes keeping your school safe and keeping each one of you safe,” Lindquist told the students.
Farina assured the students that, “School violence and threats against schools will always be taken seriously. Whether someone is joking or not, making a threat against a school is a crime. For your safety, we have to take any threat seriously.”
The presentations are short but packed with information, and Lindquist’s team plans to always make time for a few questions.
Students were receptive to the presentation and the hope is, if equipped with good information, students can play a role in keeping their school and their classmates safe.
It is a project many school administrators are eager to have for their students.
by Tacoma Weekly staff
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist filed a federal lawsuit against the three largest manufacturers and marketers of prescription opioids in the United States: Purdue, Endo, and Janssen.
“Where there is harm to the community, there should be accountability for the corporations,” said Lindquist. “I’m a career prosecutor and this is the first time I’ve asked the County Council to file a lawsuit. I’m confident we have a strong case.”
Prescription opioids are a class of powerful pain relievers, including OxyContin. The chemical make-up of these prescription drugs is nearly identical to heroin.
Revenues for the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture these drugs have skyrocketed. Purdue has generated estimated sales of more than $35 billion from opioids since 1996.
The lawsuit contends the opioid crisis was created by the aggressive marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies that provided false and misleading information to doctors and patients. The companies claimed opioids were not addictive and were a safe way to treat long-term and chronic pain.
Opioid overdoses are the leading cause of death in the United States, surpassing fatal car accidents. In Pierce County, opioid use has reached crisis levels. From 2012 to 2016, the number of opioid-related deaths in Pierce County rose to 423. More than half of the local homeless population is reported to be addicted to opioids. Crime is also driven by opioid addiction.
County Council Chair Doug Richardson said, “The opioids crisis has impacted nearly every department in our county. Whether it’s the Sheriff’s Office, emergency management, public health, or the court system, Pierce County has shouldered a heavy burden in dealing with this crisis.”
The rise of prescription opioids in Pierce County was followed closely by a dramatic rise in heroin use. For many, heroin replaced prescription opioids when they could no longer obtain these prescriptions.
by our Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, first published in The Tacoma Weekly
Walt Bettinger, the chief operating officer of Charles Schwab & Company, sometimes takes job candidates to breakfast. Before the meal arrives, Bettinger asks the restaurant manager to botch the applicant’s order.
For example, instead of the pancakes and orange juice she ordered, the applicant could be served bacon and a banana shake.
This, of course, is a test.
How does the applicant react? Is there anger? Is there a scene? Does it throw the candidate off-kilter?
Or does the applicant respond with coolness and grace?
As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, action is character. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in nine years as your elected prosecutor, is to hire character with competence.
I personally interview all of the finalists. The future of our office depends on hiring talented, diverse, service-minded people with integrity.
The safety of our community also depends on this.
We best serve the community, we best protect the community, we best keep the community safe when we hire the best people.
Based on experience, we have condensed what we are looking for into three criteria we call the trifecta: good worker, good colleague, good emissary.
A good worker is someone who has the skills to do the job well. If a candidate is a finalist meeting with me, they almost certainly qualify.
A good colleague is someone who can do the job well and also help those around them excel. Good colleagues are team players. They treat everyone respectfully. They understand the job isn’t about them, it’s about serving the public.
A good emissary is someone who can do the job well, help their colleagues do their job well, and represent the office well to the public we serve.
In this noisy era of fact-free politics, it is especially important that public servants let the community know what their government is doing for them. The antidote to misinformation is information.
By our Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, first published in The Tacoma Weekly
“Years ago, my mother used to say to me, ‘In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”
I’m quoting Elwood P. Dowd, the hero of “Harvey.” This classic holiday movie starring Jimmy Stewart is about a dipsomaniac and an invisible, six-foot, three-and-a-half-inch tall rabbit. Elwood P. Dowd says things like, “I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I won out over it.”
This is not the sort of stuff you would expect a serious candidate to quote on his Facebook page, but I know a candidate who did.
The candidate, Mark Roe, was a friend of mine in college. We bummed around Europe together in the early ’80s. He was appointed as Snohomish County Prosecutor in December of ’09 and ran for election in ’10. I was appointed as Pierce County Prosecutor in September ’09 and was also on the ballot in ‘10.
We didn’t plan this.
That campaign season, we talked a lot. I probably should have advised Roe against quoting an eccentric tippler, but I didn’t. I thought it was so original for a political campaign, and so authentic, that it worked.
Roe’s faithfulness to pleasantness wavered only once that I know of during his campaign. He called to say, “My opponents keep lying about me.”
Welcome to the club, I almost said.
Instead, I advised him to stick with his Elwood P. Dowd philosophy of pleasant. Roe did. He found campaign Zen and won easily.
In Roe’s younger years, he was concerned with demonstrating how smart he was. Unlike most people who do this, Roe truly is smart. He is so smart that he figured out that pleasant is more important.
I had this epiphany later in life than Roe. Timing is everything, as they say, and I was open to the concept in the summer of 2010. The death of my brother in June and the birth of my daughter in August was a yin-yang wake-up call.
Life is short and uncertain.
After serving three terms, one partial and two full, Roe and I are both up for our fourth term in 2018. Roe, however, is not running. The reality of public service may not be as pleasant as it once was, but I cannot say to what degree this affected Roe’s decision to retire. I can say I still love serving. Even the things about the job I don’t like, I still love.
When I need the philosophy of pleasantness affirmed, I turn to Marcus Aurelius, my favorite stoic. “Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness — all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good and evil.” He goes on to charitably note that none of these things can injure him because we are all brothers and he cannot be angry with his brethren.
In other words, be relentlessly pleasant.
I have long been into New Year’s resolutions. Historically, my resolutions were a typical laundry list: read more books, quit watching bad movies, appreciate beauty, use sunscreen, and so on.
In my thirties my resolutions were about the length of “The Great Gatsby,” which is short for a novel but long for a to-do list. So I began honing them. Rather than resolutions, the list became one of guiding principles, how to best fight the good fight.
I eventually thinned it to three: live with integrity, practice gratitude, be a person on whom nothing is lost.
Thanks to Elwood P. Dowd and Mark Roe, I’ve added be pleasant. Pleasantness is how Elwood P. Dowd “won out” over reality.
It’s smart to be pleasant.
You may quote me.
Mark Lindquist is our Pierce County Prosecutor. A career prosecutor with more than 22 years of service, he was appointed in 2009, elected in 2010, and re-elected in 2014.