By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
Michael Haas, a Port Townsend defense attorney who previously worked as a prosecutor in Jefferson and Mason counties for a combined 11 years, announced his intention to run for the prosecuting attorney’s office, opposing Scott Rosekrans, 62.
Rosekrans earlier had announced his intention to seek a second term.
The in-person candidate filing period will be May 12-16. The primary is on Aug. 6, with the two top vote-getters advancing to the Nov. 5 general election.
“I am running to restore leadership and financial accountability to the office of prosecutor,” said Haas, 53.
“I intend to thoroughly vet cases before any charging decision is made,” he added.
“Every felony case will be properly evaluated so we can assure that the office is not being forced to negotiate a surrender at the expense of justice and the taxpayers’ money.”
Haas criticized Rosekrans for a lack of sentencing guidelines in the prosecuting attorney’s office and said that cases had been dismissed because they were charged incorrectly.
He also accused Rosekrans of being financially irresponsible.
Haas also pointed to the state Court of Appeals’ ruling that criticized Rosekrans for “inappropriate” statements during the first Michael J. Pierce double-murder trial.
The statements, made when Rosekrans was chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, set the stage for two retrials that turned into mistrials, Haas said.
“A number of people both within and outside of the legal community approached me and asked me to run,” Haas said.
“They were frustrated with the current system and thought I could do a good job,” he added.
“It’s important for the prosecutor to understand the scope of the case and think things through before charging so you don’t have to dismiss it in the middle because you don’t have a strong case.”
Rosekrans, 62, who was elected in 2010, said his office will institute sentencing recommendations next month. The process took longer than he expected.
“Sometimes getting things done in government is like pushing a square rock up a hill,” he said.
Rosekrans said his office has been financially responsible and has managed to do more with less.
“I’ve served as a prosecutor in two different counties, here and in Texas,” he said.
“This job takes grit and determination and a belief in what you are doing.
“If you don’t file cases because they will cost too much, then you are not the right man for the job.”
As for Pierce — accused of the murders of Quilcene farm couple Pat and Janice Yarr in 2009 — Rosekrans said that no judicial errors were made in the first trial.
“It’s not my fault that the Court of Appeals got it wrong and the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal,” he said.
“To my dying day, I will maintain that the Sheriff’s Department didn’t do anything wrong, [the late] Judge [Craddock] Verser didn’t do anything wrong, and I didn’t do anything wrong.”
The county prosecutor currently earns $128,506 per year.
“I won’t be doing this for the money,” Haas said.
Haas has been married to his wife, Heather, for 20 years and has adopted four children from Ethiopia, aged 4 to 11.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.