Request denied for removal of Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell based on discrimination

SPOKANE, Wash — A local lawyer wants Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell and his office removed from a case on the basis of discrimination.

Lawyer Stephen Graham is representing Thomas Butler, who is serving life without parole for three separate felonies, including one that was reduced to second-degree robbery. Butler was originally sentenced in 2009 based on Washington’s “three-strikes law,” meaning he had been convicted of three violent felonies.

“I hoped that one day I would get the opportunity to prove that I am not the man I was when I was convicted of this crime, so it was everything because I know I’m not that person,” Butler said.

In 2021, the Washington Legislature passed a bill to that made a second-degree robbery charge not count as a “strike.”

Graham has filed a motion in Butler’s case, saying Haskell has “used stacked enhancements disproportionately against people of color.” In the case of State of Washington vs Thomas Butler, since the defendant is Black, disqualification would protect the defendant from discriminatory treatment.

The motion also states Haskell’s own “filing practices themselves were discriminatory and echoed his wife’s statements.”

Haskell’s wife Lesley has made publicly racist comments on the website Gab, and has called herself “a proud white nationalist.”

Prosecutor Haskell has apologized for her claims, and has publicly called her comments “racist and reprehensible”.

During the motion hearing prosecutor Preston McCollam argued against the claims of racism.

“The prosecutor’s office doesn’t pick crime victims, no more than we pick criminal defendants,” McCollam said.

The judge ultimately denied the motion, leaving Haskell and his office to prosecute the resentencing.

Butler was resentenced to 30 years, but the defense says it will appeal the ruling on the motion to Washington State Supreme Court.

READ: ‘What took you so long?’: Advocates respond to Spokane Co prosecutor’s public apology surrounding wife’s racist comments online