A Mountlake Terrace man has been acquitted in Snohomish County Superior Court of assault and disorderly conduct charges stemming from a January 2014 incident in the Mountlake City Council Chambers.
Jurors on April 7 found Julius Waldkirch, 53, not guilty of third-degree assault, a felony charge, and disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.
Prior to the incident that led to his arrest, Waldkirch had been a regular attendee at Mountlake Terrace City Council meetings, and used the public comment period to air his concerns about racial discrimination in the Mountlake Terrace Police Department. He also criticized specific officers.
Waldkirch’s attorney Walter Peale said that his client, who is white, was particularly concerned about the issue because his wife is Filipina. The couple also has a 3-year-old son. Waldkirch was protesting general police practices and city council management of personnel issues, including settlement of claims by wrongly discharged police and city staff, Peale said.
According to Peale, the charges against Waldkirch stemmed from an incident that occurred during a recess in the Jan. 21, 2014 Mountlake Terrace City Council meeting. Waldkirch verbally confronted then-Mountlake Terrace Police Commander Don Duncan over police practices and a recent email request he made to Duncan.
“Mr. Duncan initiated the actions that lead to the arrest of Mr. Waldkirch, filed the complaint against Mr. Waldkirch, and testified at his trial,” Peale said. “The verdicts of not guilty to the charges of assault third degree and disorderly conduct, where Duncan claimed he was a victim, and decided what conduct was disorderly, is a rejection of his testimony by the jury.”
According to court documents, after police issued verbal warnings to Waldkirch about his behavior, officers attempted to escort him from the council chambers. A struggle ensued and it was alleged that Waldkirch kicked Duncan in the leg, leading to Waldkirch’s arrest and transport to Snohomish County Jail. He was booked and held for about 14 hours before being released on bail.
(In an unrelated matter, a few months after Waldkirch’s arrest, Duncan was fired by the City of Mountlake Terrace after the police commander was arrested on suspicion of off-duty driving while intoxicated in Lake Stevens. The city found that he was unfit to perform on-call duties and his account of the events was considered to be not credible and in violation of department policy. Duncan is now a driving instructor with a private commercial business.)
“Julius has always been quite sincere in his belief that as a citizen, he has certain rights including the right to exercise challenges to government. It was his intention to do that, nothing more,” Peale said.
Waldkirch’s attorney said he argued during the trial that the City of Mountlake Terrace harbored resentment against Waldkirch for his testimony during council meetings. “I think that resentment is why the charges were sent to the county prosecutor,” Peale said. “We take the verdict to be an agreement with our position.”
In response, Mountlake Terrace City Attorney Greg Schrag countered that Waldkirch’s prosecution “was not at all a function of a grudge or ill-will. It was, rather, based upon the discretion of the county prosecutor to pursue charges, the Superior Court determination of probable cause, and the city’s good faith participation in the criminal justice process.”
Added Schrag, “Mountlake Terrace will continue to enforce its laws ethically, evenhandedly, and as always to the best of its ability.”
Police also had reported that at the time of his arrest, Waldkirch was in possession of a loaded handgun, but no charges were filed as a result, Peale said. “There is no prohibition on a person who is otherwise lawfully in possession of a firearm, to have a firearm at a city council meeting,” he added. “There was no claim of improper use of a firearm. The firearm was not part of the conduct that resulted in arrest. The firearm was lawfully possessed.”
Now that he has been acquitted, Waldkirch is considering a civil suit against the City of Mountlake Terrace, Peale said.