Crime

Ex-Pierce County Judge Michael Hecht not getting the $1.6 million he asked for after convictions overturned

Former Pierce County Superior Court Judge Michael Hecht recently was awarded $2,050 in reimbursement for court costs.
Former Pierce County Superior Court Judge Michael Hecht recently was awarded $2,050 in reimbursement for court costs. Staff file, 2009

Former Judge Michael Hecht asked for more than $1.6 million in restitution after his convictions for patronizing a prostitute and harassment were overturned.

Recently, he learned he’ll get $2,050.

Hecht argued he should be reimbursed by Pierce County Superior Court for his community service, court fees, lost wages and other expenses related to his conviction.

King County Judge James Cayce decided July 14 that Hecht was entitled only to the $2,050 for court fees and fines he paid.

Prosecutors had accused Hecht of paying at least one man for sex and threatening another he believed might have been talking about the then-judge’s behavior.

A jury convicted Hecht in 2009. In 2014, the Washington State Court of Appeals overturned the convictions, ruling Hecht didn’t get a fair trial because of PowerPoint slides used in the prosecution’s closing argument.

Hecht, who resigned a few days before he was sentenced to 240 hours of community service and later was disbarred, maintained his innocence throughout.

In court filings, his attorney, Donald Powell, argued rule 12.8 of the Washington State Court Rules of Appellate Procedure entitled Hecht to restitution, because he completed the elements of his sentence.

The rule states that in some cases people can ask the court to restore property to them or issue restitution, when their cases are overturned on appeal.

It’s more commonly used in civil cases, but the recent decision was part of Hecht’s criminal case.

Assistant Attorney General John Hillman agreed the rule entitled Hecht to the court fines and fees, but not to lost wages or the other claimed expenses.

“It does not allow Hecht to litigate civil claims for damages as part of a dismissed criminal case,” Hillman wrote about the rule.

Howard Goodfriend, a Seattle attorney who handles civil appeals and had no specific knowledge of the case, summarized 12.8 as: “If you paid for it and you didn’t have to in the end, there’s a presumption that you get it back.”

He said he wasn’t familiar with how it would play out in a criminal case.

“You see it involved in the civil side, because that’s much more common for a party to have an actual judgment entered against them that they then pay,” he said.

Among the costs Hecht asked to be reimbursed for were:

▪ $4,400 for community service hours and court costs, including “John School,” a class he was required to take as part of his sentence, to learn about the various consequences and negative effects of buying sex

▪ Almost $60,000 in attorney fees.

▪ $750,000 for his deteriorating health after the conviction

▪ $240,000 is lost wages he would have made as an attorney

▪ More than $446,000 he would have made as a judge.

▪ $50,000 for the two years he spent on probation.

▪ $50,000 he estimated it would take to get his law license back.

Hillman wrote in his court filings that the error in the closing argument did not amount to malicious prosecution, or anything else for which Hecht could sue, but that: “If Hecht believes there was something tortious about his prosecution, he can file a civil lawsuit that alleges an actual cause of action entitling him to damages if proved.”

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

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