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Wednesday morning's headlines

Making headlines around the Northwest this morning:

  • Charges Dropped Against Men Charged in Ballard Fight With Cop
  • Washington Senate Budget Cuts Teacher Pay by 3 Percent
  • Snohomish County Teacher Named to National Teacher Hall of Fame

King County Prosecutors Drop Charges in December Melee Involving Seattle Officer

Charges have been dropped against three men accused of fighting an off-duty Seattle police officer who allegedly was caught on video stomping on the head of one of the men outside a Ballard bar.

The dismissal comes after the officer involved in the incident – Garth Haynes – refused to testify in the case, an attorney for one of the men accused said. Haynes is currently under investigation by the department’s Office of Professional Accountability.

Prosecutors had claimed Jake Baijot-Clary, 21, Jason Lamb, 27, and Simon Lee Thayer, also 27, attacked the off-duty police officer as he tried to follow a woman who had tried to steal his jacket from BalMar, a Ballard Avenue bar. The men contended they simply saw a man accosting a woman and moved to intervene.

According to a Seattle police detective,  Haynes was with a friend at the bar when they noticed their jackets were no longer on their chairs. The men saw the  woman outside the bar holding both jackets and went to confront her.

Reports's Levi Pulkkinen:

Haynes identified himself as a police officer and presented his badge, the detective told the court. The officer and his friend then followed the woman as she began walking away. As the two men walked, the detective told the court, they realized they were being followed by three men who were yelling at them not to follow the woman. A fight then ensued before officers arrived and arrested the three men. Video of the incident appeared to show Haynes kick Baijot-Clary after he was restrained by officers. No mention of the kick was made in police statements to the court, nor did police note whether Haynes was intoxicated at the time of the fight.

The dropping of the charges comes as the U.S. Justice Department is investigating the Police Department's use-of-force policy and treatment of minorities after a series of high-profile incidents.

Late Monday, prosecutors asked that the case against the three men be dismissed without prejudice because a necessary witness – identified by a defense attorney as Haynes – had asserted his constitutional right against self incrimination and refused to testify.

Speaking Tuesday, Tim Leary, defense attorney for Baijot-Clary, said he will ask that the charges be dismissed with prejudice, meaning the charges could not be brought at a later date.


Proposed State Senate Budget Would Cut Teacher Pay

The Washington state Senate has presented its proposed two-year state budget, and it includes a new $250 million reduction in money for schools that budget writers say will come from a wage reduction.

Tuesday's Senate budget proposal slashes $4.8 billion in state spending as it tries to fill in a $5.3 billion deficit in the next two-year budget.

The wage reduction for teachers is a new proposal. A plan to penalize school districts with high truancy rates - something budget writers assumed will save $95 million - is also new.

The Senate budget is the last piece of the puzzle as lawmakers head for tough negotiations during the last two weeks of the legislative session.

Sen.  Ed Murray, D. Seattle tells the Olympian's Brad Shannon:

“This is a fairly historic moment. We have a bipartisan budget,” said Democratic Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle, who leads the budget-writing Senate Ways and Means Committee. “I think a lot of people thought it wouldn’t happen.”

Last week, the House rolled out a proposal that cuts $4.4 billion in spending.

Meantime, the  Senate has approved a bill to implement broad education reform, including putting teachers who score lowest on performance evaluations first in line for layoffs.


Granite Falls Educator Makes National Teacher Hall of Fame

An elementary teacher in Snohomish county returned from spring break to discover she’s been named to the National Teacher Hall of Fame.

Debra Howell will be just the third teacher from Washington to earn the distinction.  She teaches at Monte Cristo Elementary in Granite Falls, and she’s been with the district for nearly 27 years. 

She tells The Herald newspaper kids in her classroom have fun but work hard every single day. Her students say she makes math fun.

Howell was a finalist for the state teacher of  the year award in 2005. She team-teaches with her brother, taking turns with 4th, 5th and 6th graders.