TACOMA, Wash. — The judge presiding over the criminal case against Pierce County Superior Court Judge Michael Hecht postponed the trial for more than a month Tuesday to give prosecutors time to track down a key witness who might have gone underground to avoid testifying.
Assistant attorney general John Hillman said he'd be forced to dismiss one of the two charges against Hecht — a misdemeanor count of soliciting a prostitute — if authorities can't find witness Joseph Pfeiffer by the new trial date of Oct. 12.
King County Superior Court Judge James Cayce granted Hillman’s request to continue the trial but held out hope that authorities could find Pfeiffer overnight and the trial could begin this week as originally planned.
Hecht’s attorney, Wayne Fricke of Tacoma, opposed the delay, arguing that authorities have had months to serve Pfeiffer with a subpoena requiring his testimony.
Hillman alleges in court documents that Hecht paid Pfeiffer for sex on a number of occasions during the summer of 2008 and earlier this year.
Pfeiffer, who reportedly is homeless and a user of illegal drugs, told Tacoma police and The News Tribune that he took money from Hecht in exchange for sex. Hecht denies buying sex from Pfeiffer, whose statements to police are the basis for the solicitation charge against the judge.
Pfeiffer later provided a sworn affidavit to Hecht’s attorney recanting those statements, saying he felt pressured to provide damaging information about Hecht. Pfeiffer said in the affidavit that he and Hecht had sex and that Hecht gave him money on occasion. But he insisted the money was not for the sex.
The revelation that Pfeiffer is missing came on the day jury selection was set to begin for Hecht’s trial.
The judge also is charged with felony harassment for allegedly threatening another young man – Joseph Hesketh IV – who claims he also sold sex to Hecht.
Hecht has pleaded not guilty and contends the charges are part of a political vendetta against him by the man he beat in the August 2008 election – incumbent Sergio Armijo – and Armijo’s political supporters, including recently retired prosecutor Gerald Horne. Horne served on Armijo’s re-election committee, according to campaign-finance record.
Read the full story at thenewstribune.com.