Crime

Courtroom decorum 101: Don’t threaten the judge

Note to criminal defendants: It’s OK, understandable even, to be mad if things don’t go your way in court.

It is not OK, though, to tell a county jail employee that you’re so mad you want to kill the judge and deputy prosecutor on your case.

Tacoma resident Benjamin Valdez has learned that lesson the hard way.

Pierce County prosecutors on Monday charged Valdez, 33, with intimidation of a judge and felony harassment. Not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf during his arraignment.

Court Commissioner Meagan Foley ordered him jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Valdez already was in trouble – facing charges of child molestation – when his latest troubles began, court records show.

Out on $50,000 bail on the child molestation charge, Valdez allegedly was spotted at a child’s birthday party earlier this month. That was a no-no. Valdez was strictly prohibited from being around children while his molestation charge was pending, court records show.

Prosecutors dragged Valdez back to court Tuesday and asked Superior Court Judge Edmund Murphy to increase his bail to $250,000. Murphy decided instead to increase it to $100,000, and Valdez was taken into custody.

A county mental-health worker assigned to the jail talked to Valdez the next day, court records show. He allegedly told the woman he wanted to kill Murphy, the deputy prosecutor on his case and others, the records show.

“Finding people on the outside is easy,” Valdez allegedly told the woman. “Thank goodness for public information.”

The mental-health worker reported his comments to corrections officers, and they talked to Valdez.

“I only said that because I was angry, and I was venting,” the defendant allegedly said. “I just want to get out of jail and go see my children and go to work.”

Murphy and the deputy prosecutor assigned to Valdez’s child-molestation chase told investigators they took the alleged threats seriously.

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