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Island County prosecutor was right not to pursue charges | Publisher's Column
It’s unfortunate that it’s a call Island County Prosecuting Attorney Greg Banks had to make, but it was the correct one.
Banks said last Thursday he would not pursue charges against Oak Harbor council members Rick Almberg and Joel Servatius after reviewing a police investigation into their conduct.
During the Jan. 15 council meeting, Almberg made a motion, seconded by Servatius, to have armed citizens check their firearms with the police chief at council meetings. This followed testimony in favor of gun rights by citizen Lucas Yonkman, who also admitted to the council he was armed.
Almberg walked out of the meeting in protest after his motion failed. After Almberg left the meeting, Mayor Scott Dudley accused Almberg and Servatius of violating their official oaths to support the U.S. Constitution.
And a firestorm was ignited.
On Feb. 7, Oak Harbor resident William Frail filed a criminal complaint against the two councilmen. Frail alleged they “criminally violated their oaths of office by attempting and conspiring to deprive citizens of their constitutional rights,” specifically the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
At the request of Oak Harbor officials, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department investigated the complaint, then referred it to Banks’ office.
Banks was firm and definitive in his decision not to charge. There was no Constitutional rights violation.In fact, by walking out of the council meeting in protest, Almberg was exercising his First Amendment right to express his thoughts and ideas — regardless of the popularity of those ideas, Banks said.
Emotions over gun rights have reached fever pitch nationwide, and sometimes it’s a good idea to take a step back and look at the situation objectively — to take a deep breath and exhale.
Just as we should honor the Second Amendment and the rights it affords each and every one of us — whether we exercise that right is a personal choice — so should we all respect and preserve the First Amendment.
Nobody should have to sacrifice one right at the altar of the other.
Banks showed solid judgment in deciding not to charge the councilmen.
• Keven R. Graves is executive editor and publisher of the Whidbey News-Times. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org