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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sylvester Cann's Court Records Show a History of Poor Judgment

Posted by on Thu, Nov 1, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Cann.jpg

I'm of the opinion that there is a statute of limitations on youthful indiscretion. I'm just not sure whether it has yet expired for 32-year-old Sylvester Cann.

It turns out that Cann, who is challenging Democratic State Representative Gerry Pollet in the 46th Legislative District, has had a couple of run-ins with the law, that, while relatively minor, don't particularly show sound judgment.

In 2001, at the age of 21, Cann was cited for street racing by the Renton Police, an incident that set him off on a two-year odyssey with the Renton Municipal Court that included multiple bench warrants for failure to appear, failure to comply, and failure to pay fines.

Cann fully admits to the incident, and says that he doesn't feel that he was singled out by the police or the courts. (Cann is black, but he doesn't think this was a case of racial profiling.) He claims that he initially had no idea he had to appear in court—he was never arrested, and thought he'd just received a ticket. The court summons, he says, was mailed to his parent's home in Kent, while he was living on campus at the University of Washington. But the court docket (PDF) just goes on and on with missed fine payments and failures to comply... it's a pretty impressive series of fuck-ups.

But for me the more serious incident occurred in January of 2004, when Cann was caught shoplifting at the University of Washington bookstore. Cann says that he was two weeks into his final semester, short two textbooks, and with no money to pay for them. He tried to exchange a couple used textbooks back to the store for credit, but they were rejected, so he attempted to surreptitiously swap the books he had for the books he needed. He was caught.

"I am not a habitual lawbreaker," Cann insisted, "but in this situation, it was just really bad judgment."

And to compound it, Cann failed to appear again—this time before the Municipal Court of Seattle (PDF)—and again a bench warrant was issued. For this incident Cann seemed truly surprised that there even was a court record. He says store security never brought in either the University or Seattle Police, and that he thought he had settled the whole thing out of court by paying for the books and a $200 fine. Yet court records show Cann was "present" on April 6, 2004.

Perhaps the court records are wrong. Perhaps Cann just forgot. Either way, this incident showed incredibly poor judgment, especially since it violated the terms of his disposition with the Renton Municipal Court that required "no criminal violations" for two years.

Whatever. It was eight years ago, and Cann was only 24 at the time. Most of us do stupid things when we're young. Most of us just don't get caught. Twice.

"I don’t think the threshold to be in the legislature in Washington is to have a perfectly clean record," pleads Cann. "There are lapses in judgment, but I am still willing to go out there and fight for the state."

To be clear, while the SECB enthusiastically endorsed Pollet, I'm not thrilled to be writing this post. In fact, I probably put it off way too long. Other media outlets refused to publish these documents*, but we figured we had no choice because voters have a right to know about a candidate's criminal record and judge it for themselves.

* UPDATE: I've been informed that PubliCola did mention Cann's legal problems in a post. I stand corrected.

 

Comments (39) RSS

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1
Does this mean, in your view Goldy, that anyone caught up in the criminal justice system on relatively minor things cannot run for office ten years later? Does that prohibition extend to communities where uninvited police involvement in their private lives tends to be the rule? Don't worry. No one is calling you a racist.
Posted by hmmmmm on November 1, 2012 at 4:08 PM · Report this
2

A sleazy smear by a sleazy writer on behalf of a sleazy legislator (Gerry Pollet).
Posted by joel connelly on November 1, 2012 at 4:14 PM · Report this
Goldy 3
@1 Actually, I was pretty clear that I think youthful indiscretion can be excused. It's my fucking lede, after all.

And we were very sensitive about the possibility that this could've been a "driving while black" incident. We talked about this with Cann and he took full responsibility for his actions, and insisted that the police acted properly and fairly.
Posted by Goldy on November 1, 2012 at 4:19 PM · Report this
4
low blow
Posted by low on November 1, 2012 at 4:26 PM · Report this
TVDinner 5
I agree that voters have a right to know about these things, and I think Cann is handling it well by taking full responsibility for his actions. I hope he's exercising better judgment now and regularly reading his mail. I mean, if something shows up in my mailbox with a return address that says "Court," I'm gonna read it. Duh.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on November 1, 2012 at 4:27 PM · Report this
Dominic Holden 6
@2) That's a lazy, ad hominem comment.

Goldy and I met with Cann, showed him the court records, and gave him a full opportunity to make his defense.

If someone is running for office, his or her record becomes a matter of public interest. Never mind youthful indiscretions--those happen. But Cann has two of them combined with records of failing to appear, which don't reflect the sort of respect for the state and its process that many voters expect from their lawmakers. It may not be the biggest story--nor did we present it as the sole basis for voting for or against Cann--but if voters deserve to know how Rob McKenna used his budget for travel, they certainly deserve to know that Cann broke the law and shirked the courts.
Posted by Dominic Holden on November 1, 2012 at 4:29 PM · Report this
7
@3, you did right, Goldy. As a youth I got caught my first time shoplifting, then failed to pay the fine and got a bench warrant. Which I did not clear FOR FIFTEEN YEARS. Terrible judgment, the height of indecisiveness and chickenshittedness. If during that time I'd had the nerve to ask voters to delegate civic power to me, someone damn well should have pointed out -- exactly like this -- that my behavior showed I wasn't ready to clear up my own messes, so how could I be trusted to clear up the voters' messes if elected?
Posted by gloomy gus on November 1, 2012 at 4:33 PM · Report this
Big Sven 8
Dom@6: Every time a SLOG poster responds to an Unregistered Comment, Jesus kills a kitten. When a Stranger staffer responds to an Unregistered Comment, Jesus kills a White Rhino and uses the pulverized horn as climbing chalk. Don't give in to temptation.
Posted by Big Sven http://onedatapoint.blogspot.com/ on November 1, 2012 at 4:33 PM · Report this
9
So you don't think that maybe the other papers didn't run this story because this isn't really a story?
Posted by Dorsol Plants on November 1, 2012 at 4:34 PM · Report this
10
Yeah, these are the kinds of trouble with the law that won't change my mind a bit but yes, the public has the right to know.

It's not like he took the opportunity to file false documents to the court to seal records just before entering the race and campaigns on having a "few old traffic tickets." No one in Washington would claim that and have the largest daily in the state pretty much ignore it.
Posted by BornAgainInBellevue on November 1, 2012 at 4:35 PM · Report this
Big Sven 11
@10: I saw what you did there. Awesome.
Posted by Big Sven http://onedatapoint.blogspot.com/ on November 1, 2012 at 4:38 PM · Report this
Goldy 12
@9 If I were to ever run for office, and I had a criminal record, you can be damn sure the Seattle Times would run it.

But the larger point is, who the fuck are they to decide what potentially damaging public record the public should or should not know? I'm reminded of 2008, when everybody had the documentation on Public Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland's sexual harassment case, and refused to run with it... until I ran with it on HA, and the next day it is front page, above the fold. That proved a very close election. No doubt the scandal played a part in Sutherland's defeat.
Posted by Goldy on November 1, 2012 at 4:42 PM · Report this
13
I'm glad to see that before making a journalistic decision you first weigh whether the Seattle Times would do it, and if they would you decide to move in their direction.

This is not a sexual harassment case, nor is there anything you've covered here that would be damning in any way similar to something like a sexual harassment case. As has been pointed out in a number of comments above, this type of stuff happens and isn't a reflection on the character of the individual merely a reflection of the circumstances.

What failing do you see this demonstrating in the Legislature? Clearly its not dishonesty, because he has told you the truth and it can't be a lack of responsibility since he took that and covered his fines.

Finally, lets face it, part of the reason this is a story is because of the candidates age. If Cann was a 65 year old man running and this was brought up, he'd laugh and tell a joke about his younger days and move on.
Posted by Dorsol Plants on November 1, 2012 at 4:52 PM · Report this
14
I think he should absolutely have to explain it. In my misspent youth, I was charged with driving on a suspended license and made the exact same mistake (the summons made it to my folk's place not my dorm room). I was 21 and so scared by the very idea of a warrant that I got my butt into court and resolved the entire thing within 24 hours. AND NEVER GOT ARRESTED AGAIN. And I had to explain it to my law school, WSBA, and each and every prosecutors office I ever applied to, interned at or worked in.
Posted by Dernin29 on November 1, 2012 at 4:59 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 15
@13 "As has been pointed out in a number of comments above, this type of stuff happens and isn't a reflection on the character of the individual merely a reflection of the circumstances."

I think you've misunderstood the comments above. I don't think anyone says it isn't a reflection on his character. It is a reflection on his character.

"What failing do you see this demonstrating in the Legislature?"

Um... stealing? A willingness to break the law for personal gain?

The proper argument is that this is arguably not a large crime, not that it's ok to have theives running our government.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on November 1, 2012 at 5:01 PM · Report this
16
1. indiscretion is one thing. stealing is another.
2. youthful even at 21 is one thing. Age 24 stealing is another.
3. Having the poor judgment to not appear in court at any age is not an indiscretion.
4. what "most of us have" is we smoked pot, or did some drunk driving, went over the speed limit, maybe didn't pay all federal taxes when painting houses one summer, cash, at age 22. This is not like STEALING public property at all. Most of us do not have that kind of youthful criminal conduct.
Posted by stealing not indiscretion on November 1, 2012 at 5:03 PM · Report this
17
Dorsal, if he was 65 it would be what, 41 years old, his stealing. At age 32 it's only 8 years old. It's highly relevant. he's also running big on the education issue, claiming to be for charters and public private partnerships, so stealing UW property, is even more relevant. And also you ignore the ignoring the bench warrant stuff which seems to be repeated illegal flouting of the law of a nature that makes it not credible his claim he just didn't understand. so, he's kind of a shirker of responsibility, too.
Posted by shirking, stealing, dodging. on November 1, 2012 at 5:07 PM · Report this
bedipped 18
Just curious why I had to go elsewhere to find out if he was D or R? I'd say the biggest strike against him is the Seattle Times endorsement. "After college I worked in the private sector as a commercial appraiser for an international real estate firm."...almost speaks of a pattern of criminal behaviour as well, but I'd error on the side of profiling (I bet he was watched extra by security in the bookstore as well), and youthful indiscretion.
Posted by bedipped on November 1, 2012 at 5:09 PM · Report this
19
That's too bad but you did the right thing, Goldy.

Shoplifting on top of missing court shows serious poor judgment. But people wake up from phases of stupidity all the time.

I’ve made poor judgments a time or two that I've learned from, but even when on the rocks I always figured some cashier or other ‘little guy’ would take the heat from shoplifters. Stealing is thoughtless and not going to court reflects a disregard for the process as Dominic said.

It’s worth noting Cann’s record, but to what degree it’s worth holding it against him is for someone else to decide.
Posted by sall on November 1, 2012 at 5:12 PM · Report this
20
@15 A willingness to break the law for personal gain or a student who was desperate to pass a class and needing a textbook? Those are two very different frameworks, one which demonstrates a breakdown in character and another that is a situation a lot of people find themselves in.

Cann has not hidden this from anyone, and has even been very thorough in answering questions about this. I again return to how a 65 year old candidate would just laugh this off. Are we really seeing actions that demonstrate a lifetime of poor judgement, or actions that since they are closer in time period seem to matter more?
Posted by Dorsol Plants on November 1, 2012 at 5:14 PM · Report this
21
I think what Goldy meant to write was that he thinks Cann showed poor judgment in seeing shades of gray in what Goldy sees as a binary education policy debate. Unless you toe the line, you're subject to smears like this.
Posted by 46th on November 1, 2012 at 5:19 PM · Report this
Mrs. Fields 22
I'm sorry, but "youthful indiscretions" don't happen when you're 24, because at 24 you're an honest-to-god adult.
Posted by Mrs. Fields on November 1, 2012 at 5:29 PM · Report this
ScienceNerd 23
Cann sounds a lot like my brother, who I'd also never vote for...
Posted by ScienceNerd http://stanichium.tumblr.com/ on November 1, 2012 at 5:33 PM · Report this
24
@20, focus up - it's not whether people running for office made mistakes as adults, it's how they set them right. This full grown man at age 24 gave the arresting store detectives an address where he wasn't getting mail. Today he's 32 and claims he never knew his case even went to court, where records show he appeared.

Nobody died here - it was a small potatoes theft, but how a person deals with a little misstep suggests how that person will deal with a big mistake if given a chance to make one, with the public's trust and all, you know?

It's not a scandal, but it's fishy. And I have to say, a candidate not getting why it's fishy is kind of fishy, Mr. Plants.
Posted by gloomy gus on November 1, 2012 at 5:50 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 25
@20 Are you honestly saying that swiping textbooks isn't breaking the law for personal gain? Because it is. It's a very understandable crime - but it's still a crime. And if he's still the same man he was then, maybe he'll steal something else from us to benefit himself.

It doesn't define his character, but it does reflect his character.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on November 1, 2012 at 5:51 PM · Report this
26
@25's right, it does reflect his character when he was an adult. But I disagree that stealing textbooks is an understandable crime, if by that you mean he shouldn't be blamed for taking textbooks without paying for them because he figured he needed them. He wasn't a poor father of 6 stealing a loaf of bread; he should have been able to figure out some way to pay for those books -- beg (like most students have to do), don't steal.

If he were voted into the Legislature, he'd be chewed up and spat out by most of his colleagues who found out about this (and who are lawyers, i.e. officers of the court). That situation wouldn't make him a very effective legislator.
Posted by sarah70 on November 1, 2012 at 6:11 PM · Report this
ScienceNerd 27
I he had half a brain, he'd use the book at the library. I always put a reserve book at the library for my courses.
Posted by ScienceNerd http://stanichium.tumblr.com/ on November 1, 2012 at 7:29 PM · Report this
venomlash 28
@20: Whenever I've been too poor to buy a textbook, I just take the course without it. Works okay for me; the combination of online resources and posted lecture slides tends to work out well.
Posted by venomlash on November 1, 2012 at 7:39 PM · Report this
sprflycat 29
Honestly people.
Posted by sprflycat http://hustleandfaith.tumblr.com/ on November 1, 2012 at 8:25 PM · Report this
30
Unfortunately Cann hasn't shown good judgment or reliability as an adult, either. He was appointed to the Seattle City Light Review Panel in April of 2010 for a term that expired in April 2012. He resigned early - the minutes mark him absent in over half the meetings. The focus of the Review Panel was to help develop a six year strategic plan for City Light, advise the mayor and council, assess financial policies and review rate changes. http://www.seattle.gov/citylightreviewpa…
Posted by show up on November 1, 2012 at 11:53 PM · Report this
31
Thought experiment: If Cann were a Democrat, would Goldy write this post, especially so close the election?
Posted by David from Chicago on November 2, 2012 at 6:30 AM · Report this
32
Corollary thought experiment: if Cann were a Democrat, would Goldy have needed to write this post so close to the election, or would the press have done its job of informing voters a long time ago?

Is @2 really who he says he is?
Posted by anon1256 on November 2, 2012 at 7:35 AM · Report this
33
@31, 32: This is Seattle, people. Both candidates in this race are Democrats.
Posted by J.R. on November 2, 2012 at 10:24 AM · Report this
Goldy 34
@31 Cann is a Democrat. In Seattle leg districts, our top-two primary assures that two Democrats get through to the general in contested races.

I want to reiterate that I was not happy about having to write this post. I didn't seek out this story. But it would have both been unfair to voters and UNFAIR TO POLLET to cover up the fact that his opponent has a criminal record.

I have a tough time understanding why it's okay for billionaire-backed/charter-school-shilling Stand for Children to spend tens of thousands of dollars lying to voters on Cann's behalf, while it's not okay to write something truthful about Cann in a form that gave Cann every opportunity to tell his side of the story.

And finally, as to Joel's accusation that this is a "smear," he should know better. He's seen my work. When I'm out to smear somebody I do it without mercy. (Truthfully, but without mercy.) This was no smear.
Posted by Goldy on November 2, 2012 at 10:24 AM · Report this
35
@34 Goldy, sorry I didn't catch that Cann is a Democrat, and this fact complicates the experiment. Given that Cann is supported by charter school interests does suggest that you wrote this post because you want the other Democrat to win, as your feelings on charter schools are well understood. So in essence the thought experiment is still valid. But I agree that you wrote the post in as non-smearlike a form that you could, and that you wouldn't have hesitated to hammer Cann if you didn't have mixed feelings. Perhaps it would have been better to point out in your post that Cann is a Democrat as well. Something like, "It turns out that Cann, a Democrat, who is challenging Democratic State...." But I quibble, and if voters in Seattle already know that both are Dems, it's a moot point. Keep up the good work.
Posted by David from Chicago on November 2, 2012 at 11:46 AM · Report this
36
I honestly believe that voters do have a right to examine the public records of ANYONE running for office. That being said, what does it matter at this point? I can tell you if someone looked at the some of the situations I got myself into when I was in college, maybe they might think twice about being my friend. However, we grow up. It is a fact of life. We make mistakes, do good things, do bad things, learn from all things and grow up. I don't care if he did something stupid while he was in college. It happens. He didn't kill anyone, nor did he hurt anyone other than himself. He paid his fines eventually and it was over. Lets not make a mountain out of a mole hill. Many people have said it and I will add it here - youth is wasted on the young.

As a side note, I would be interested in knowing if you went through Pollet's history too? Has Pollet ever gotten a ticket? Did he ever not pay a fine? Did he cheat on his wife? Did he beat his children? Did he curse? Did he eat non-organic chicken? Did he talk back to his mother? Did he talk back to his father? Do you get my point? I haven't seen any analysis of the other guy on your site. Maybe I need to look harder....or.....maybe it isn't here! LOL...
Posted by hatetoregister on November 3, 2012 at 6:35 PM · Report this
37
I honestly believe that voters do have a right to examine the public records of ANYONE running for office. That being said, what does it matter at this point? I can tell you if someone looked at the some of the situations I got myself into when I was in college, maybe they might think twice about being my friend. However, we grow up. It is a fact of life. We make mistakes, do good things, do bad things, learn from all things and grow up. I don't care if he did something stupid while he was in college. It happens. He didn't kill anyone, nor did he hurt anyone other than himself. He paid his fines eventually and it was over. Lets not make a mountain out of a mole hill. Many people have said it and I will add it here - youth is wasted on the young.

As a side note, I would be interested in knowing if you went through Pollet's history too? Has Pollet ever gotten a ticket? Did he ever not pay a fine? Did he cheat on his wife? Did he beat his children? Did he curse? Did he eat non-organic chicken? Did he talk back to his mother? Did he talk back to his father? Do you get my point? I haven't seen any analysis of the other guy on your site. Maybe I need to look harder....or.....maybe it isn't here! LOL...
Posted by hatetoregister on November 3, 2012 at 6:37 PM · Report this
38
Goldy this is obvious that the judgment can not be corrected without accurate court records. Court records review is extremely essential because all these types of records are vital records.

For more information regarding recordsbase review visit:
http://www.recordsbase.com/recordsbase-r…
Posted by Richard Warner on December 10, 2012 at 9:39 PM · Report this
39
Goldy this is obvious that the judgment can not be corrected without accurate court records. Court records review is extremely essential because all these types of records are vital records.

For more information regarding recordsbase review visit:
http://www.recordsbase.com/recordsbase-r…
Posted by Richard Warner on December 10, 2012 at 9:44 PM · Report this

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