Any reason to withhold judgment about state Rep. Matt Shea’s place in the Legislature is gone. Washington’s House of Representatives should vote to expel Shea as soon as it convenes in January.
The explosive findings of a House-commissioned investigation show that Shea is not fit to serve. In a 108-page report, the investigator, a former FBI agent, documents Shea’s flagrant disregard for American justice and civil society to a degree that cannot be tolerated. The report finds Shea carried out domestic terrorism and concludes that he “presents a present and growing threat of risk to others through political violence.”
Spokane Valley voters have elected Shea six times by wide margins and must be respected. Shea has presented himself to them and Legislative colleagues with a veneer of respectability as an articulate lawyer, veteran and former Republican caucus official who reflected the values of his conservative district. This polished facade belies his long history as a nationalist zealot for militias.
His elected-official credential bolsters his work supporting dangerous fringe groups. He has advocated violence and orchestrated insurrections against federal governance, according to the report. No matter how Shea comports himself within the Legislative Building, his behavior beyond it is too heinous to ignore.
Expulsion rightly is rare. The only expulsion in 130 years of Washington history involved a sex crime. Shea’s actions deserve this extreme response. His reprehensible activities span years and state lines, including participation in armed standoffs against federal authorities in Oregon, Nevada and Idaho.
His role in the eastern Oregon uprising in 2015 is particularly galling, according to the report. Eyewitness accounts and emails from Shea himself show he coordinated the six-week occupation of federal lands that included one death and dozens of arrests. The following year, Shea claimed in a House ethics investigation he only appeared at the standoff on a “fact-finding mission.”
This is not about free speech. Shea’s anti-government activities promote bloodshed. The report has been turned over to the FBI and should be taken up by the Washington State Bar Association as well. Shea’s crusading for violent defiance of federal law runs against both his oath as an attorney and state Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers.
The House of Representatives should unite across party lines against this behavior. House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, has already suspended Shea from the GOP caucus and called for him to resign. Yet, the seriousness of Shea’s wrongdoing requires stronger action. Shea, defiant as ever, does not deserve the privilege of choice.
Wilcox and incoming Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, should work together to remove him from office. Shea is unfit to serve in Washington’s statehouse.
Correction: This editorial was updated at 12:10 p.m.Dec. 23 to correct the title of House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox.
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