King County’s new prosecuting attorney announces task force units

Leesa Manion said the units are focused on public safety and “King County’s greatest areas of concern”

King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion announced on Jan. 24 some of the first policy and practice changes of her administration, including the establishment of several specialized units and task forces focused on addressing what the newly sworn-in prosecuting attorney is calling some of “King County’s greatest areas of concern.”

A new Gun Violence Prevention Unit is being created for the purpose of identifying and prosecuting the individuals “perpetuating the most harm in our communities,” and also to connect individuals who are close to gun violence to meaningful community-based resources before they become victims or perpetrators of violence. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) says this will include expanding coordination with the office’s Extreme Risk Protection Order team.

“In my vision, our new Gun Violence Prevention Unit is at the heart of a strong partnership where prosecutors, police, community leaders, and nonprofits use data to inform our collective approach to tackling gun violence,” Manion said in a statement.

A new division of criminal practice is being created. According to the KCPAO, that division does not yet have an official title, but is focused on gender-based violence and prevention.

“Cases involving rape, sexual assault and domestic violence often share some common evidentiary issues, and a focused approach will improve the prosecution of these serious crimes,” Manion said in a written statement. “While all victims and survivors of crime are relevant and deserve to be heard, the purpose of this new division is to elevate and improve our office’s response to gender-based violence. This division will bring a trauma-informed, victim-centered response to these cases.”

The division includes the Domestic Violence Unit, the Sexually Violent Predator Unit, Special Assault Units that handle sex crimes, prosecutors handling commercial sexual exploitation (trafficking), and Hate Crimes, among other practices.

A new Economic Crimes and Wage Theft Division is also in creation. According to the KCPAO, this new division will include organized retail theft, economic crimes, identity theft, multiple types of fraud, elder abuse and wage theft.

“In 2022, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed more than double the number of organized retail theft charges than it did in 2021,” said Manion in a statement.

A new Felony Traffic Unit will be led by Amy Freedheim, who has been with the KCPAO since 1991.

“The purpose of this change is to underscore the importance and seriousness of vehicular homicide and assault cases and their [devastating] impacts on victims and survivors,” Manion said. “Amy is a recognized expert throughout our state and across our nation. Her decades of expertise and skill in prosecuting serious felony traffic cases, particularly vehicular homicides and vehicular assaults, is unsurpassed.”

Manion also named Carla Lee as chief of staff for her office. Lee was previously served as deputy chief of staff since 2013. According to KCPAO, Lee began her career with the office in the Criminal Division before joining the office as principal and founder of a civil practice law firm focused on the litigation of commercial bankruptcy, consumer protection and employment law cases.

“Carla is a calm and observant leader, and she brings an important perspective to our office’s leadership ranks,” Manion said of her newly appointed Chief of Staff. “I value the fact that Carla thinks differently than I do. She regularly challenges me to adopt new perspectives and to consider the equity impacts of every challenge and opportunity.”