This November, Spokane County voters will elect a new prosecutor and, as of Friday night, the campaign has its first controversy, involving one of the candidates using the death of WWII veteran Shorty Belton as part of his platform.
Spokane attorney Breean Beggs is one of two men running for county prosecutor and, in a letter to his supporters, Beggs brings up the murder of Delbert "Shorty" Belton, saying our criminal justice system failed to protect Belton from a pair of teenagers who had already been in trouble with the law.
The two teenagers suspected of killing Belton -- Kenan Adams-Kinard and Demetrius Glenn -- had both been arrested and punished at the juvenile detention center prior to Belton's murder.
Beggs thinks, in hindsight, not enough was done to keep those young offenders on the straight and narrow. In his letter to supporters Beggs writes the attack on Belton "was predictable based on prior violence."
Three months before Belton's murder, one of his suspected killers, Kenan Adams-Kinard was caught by a surveillance camera stealing a woman's cell phone out of her hands on an STA bus. It was the 16-year-old's first criminal offense and fortunately not very violent. Adams-Kinard went straight into detention and did a 37-day sentence.
Beggs says that's when juvenile court had a chance to do more than simply punish the teen but also intervene in his life and make changes in his environment and behavior.
"So they are having behaviors that are dangerous and what generally happens is if these behaviors are unchecked is that they escalate," Beggs said Friday.
After his release from detention Adams-Kinard was supposed to be on six months supervision but in July he stopped keeping appointments with his probation officer. Beggs says if a warrant had been issued for Adams-Kinard's re-arrest, Belton may still be alive.
"There's no way to know for sure whether that would have saved his life but we've got to focus our attention and our resources on getting people, especially young people swift consequences quickly so we can change their behavior and get them on the good track," Beggs said.
Juvenile court officials said Friday that despite budget cuts to their programs they do engage young offenders in behavior changing programs including school and counseling. They said that Beggs is trying to capitalize on a tragedy because the cell phone theft was Adams-Kinard's first offense that he was punished for and that Beggs' letter incorrectly asserts the teen had been violent when in fact he was not.
What happened to Belton was terrible but because his alleged killers did not show outward signs of escalating violence they are poor examples of what's wrong with our juvenile criminal justice system.