Here at the Rogue desk, we understand the practice of law is a stressful profession. But for threatening a fellow lawyer and his client, Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Jim David lands square in the dock as this week’s Rogue.
On March 3, a Clark County sheriff’s deputy arrested 29-year-old Matthew Coonce in Vancouver for possession of meth and stealing a car. He pleaded not guilty.
On May 25, Coonce’s attorney, John Terry, pushed for Coonce’s case to go to trial the following week. That took the prosecutor, David, by surprise.
The next day, David left Terry a profanity-laced, two-minute voice-mail message in which he complained that going to trial would force David to “cancel my weekend.”
“You’ve been telling me you wanted a continuance on the goddamn case, and now you are telling me you want to go to trial next week. That’s bullshit,” the prosecutor said in the message. “I’m fucking laying you out.... It’s coming out of your client’s hide if I have to go to trial next week, and there ain’t going to be no stinking offers, there ain’t going to be nothing coming other than go to prison for a very long time.”
Terry filed a motion May 27 asking the court to dismiss the case. Terry alleged in the motion that David had committed the crime of telephonic harassment and had “demonstrate[d] the prosecution’s willingness to use any measure, including criminal activity against the defendant’s attorney, to gain a conviction.”
David apologized to Terry in person, and Clark County Superior Court Judge Barbara Johnson denied the motion to dismiss the case. Coonce went to trial May 31. A jury found him guilty. Because of David’s voice mail, the prosecutor’s office has agreed that another prosecutor will represent the state at the sentencing hearing, scheduled for July 22.
David, a 27-year prosecutor, says that when he left the message, he was working extra hours to open an elder-abuse center in Clark County. He called his outburst an “aberration.”
“You try working 60 hours a week,” David says. “I hope you understand the frustration, but that was not the right thing to say.... It was not a high point of anyone’s career.”
“I’ve never been spoken to with such disrespect and profanity,” Terry says. “But I’ve accepted his apology, and I’ve moved on.”
And the prosecutor’s lesson in all of this? “Don’t vent to a phone,” David says.