A defense attorney representing accused Mukilteo gunman Allen Ivanov says he is “dumbfounded” that an attorney who briefly represented the 19-year-old has made public a letter purportedly written to Ivanov’s loved ones.
UPDATE, 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 5, 2016:
This story has been updated to include comment from Steven Kim, Allen Ivanov’s former attorney, who did not return calls Thursday but said Friday morning that he did not violate his legal or ethical duties by publicizing the accused gunman’s letter.
A letter purportedly authored by accused Mukilteo gunman Allen Ivanov has led to an unusual conflict between an attorney briefly hired to represent the 19-year-old and the attorneys who have since taken over his defense.
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Steven Kim, a criminal defense attorney, was hired by Ivanov’s parents shortly after his arrest on Saturday but was terminated on Sunday when Ivanov’s parents retained Seattle attorneys Tim Leary and Zach Wagnild, Wagnild said.
Kim told at least two TV reporters he was given the letter by Ivanov’s mother — and then felt duty bound to turn it over to police because he was concerned by the letter’s “suicidal tone” and worried Ivanov would harm himself, according to a news report on Q13.
But Wagnild said Kim, who apparently wasn’t happy about being terminated, showed up at the Snohomish County Jail for Ivanov’s first court appearance on Monday.
“It was almost like he refused to believe he had been terminated,” said Wagnild. “He refused to give me the letter and said he was going to publicize it. I pleaded with him not to, but he said his mind was made up.”
Kim could not be reached Thursday for comment. Reached via phone Friday morning, he confirmed receiving the letter from Ivanov’s mother. It was not until the morning of Ivanov’s first court appearance that the accused gunman’s parents called to inform that he was being replaced, Kim said.
Ivanov was charged this week with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count each of attempted first-degree murder and first-degree assault. He is accused of gunning down his ex-girlfriend Anna Bui, and two other former high-school classmates, Jake Long and Jordan Ebner, at a house party in Mukilteo early Saturday. The three 19-year-olds died at the scene and Will Kramer, 18, was wounded.
Mukilteo police allege that two or three days earlier, Ivanov had sent a friend text messages “regarding committing a mass shooting. Detectives say Ivanov’s recent social-media posts suggest he “was considering the murders … he later committed.”
Wagnild said Kim has since sent him a photo of the letter, but said he “can’t confirm it was something written by my client,” nor does he know when it was supposedly written.
Redacted copies of the typed letter appear on the KIRO-7 and Q13 websites but it is unknown who blacked out sections of the letter. Kim denied blacking out sections of the letter, and also confirmed that he turned the letter over to Mukilteo police on Sunday morning after receiving consent from Ivanov’s parents.
A Mukilteo police spokesman could not be reached Thursday for comment on the letter.
One TV station characterized the letter as a “goodbye” letter, written to Ivanov’s loved ones including his parents, grandparents, aunt, cousins and friends.
“Nobody on this list is to be accused, searched, or questioned. They had nothing to do with anything,” the letter begins.
Kim is a former King County deputy prosecutor who was profiled by The Seattle Times in 2012 when he traveled to South Korea to help that country’s justice department set up an American-style jury system.
Both Leary and Wagnild are also former King County deputy prosecutors.
In an interview with Q13 about Ivanov’s purported letter, Kim said: “I’m obligated to do this but I’m glad that it coincides with the fact I’m helping justice prevail for everybody.”
Wagnild said he is “dumbfounded” by Kim’s conduct and statements to the media and said making the letter public was clearly not in Ivanov’s best interest.
“It’s been a very, very, very strange situation” and has created a distraction for Ivanov’s defense team, Wagnild said. “Steve’s going to have to answer to some of this. The way he handled this was not professional.”
Asked to comment on Wagnild’s accusation, Kim demurred, saying that the letter once turned over to police would eventually become a public record and therefore obtainable by the media.
“I did what I thought was right under the rules of professional conduct,” he said.