James Konat, a senior deputy King County prosecutor who went on leave last summer after being rebuked by the state Supreme Court for using racially charged language during a murder trial, has resigned.
A longtime senior deputy King County prosecutor who went on leave last summer after being rebuked by the state Supreme Court for using racially charged language during a 2007 murder trial has resigned.
James Konat’s resignation was effective Feb. 3, a date confirmed by the prosecutor’s office Thursday. Konat had been away from the prosecutor’s office on accrued vacation and leave, “that the office was mandated to provide,” since last summer, said Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff for Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. Konat, who joined the prosecutor’s office in 1989, was earning $147,500 per year.
“He was not fired. He chose to leave,” Goodhew said Thursday.
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In June, the Supreme Court found that Konat had engaged in “prosecutorial misconduct” in questioning witnesses during the 2007 trial of Kevin L. Monday Jr., who was convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree assault, and sentenced to 64 years in prison.
During the trial, Konat questioned witnesses, many of them black, about a purported street “code” that he claimed prevented some from talking to the police, according to the Supreme Court’s majority opinion. In questioning some witnesses, Konat referred to police as the “PO-leese,” the justices found.
During his closing argument to jurors, Konat also said that while witnesses denied the presence of such a code, “the code is black folk don’t testify against black folk. You don’t snitch to the police,” according to the Supreme Court decision.
The Supreme Court overturned Monday’s conviction and awarded the man a new trial. Monday is black; Konat is white.
After the Supreme Court ruling, Satterberg called Konat’s statements unacceptable and Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler filed a bar complaint.
Goodhew said the office will continue to provide legal representation to Konat in response to the bar complaint.
Konat could not be reached Thursday for comment.
In his 22 years in the prosecutor’s office, Konat handled some of the region’s most high-profile murder cases. He successfully prosecuted South Park killer Isaiah Kalebu, who was convicted of raping two women and killing one last year; Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns, who in 1994 killed Rafay’s parents and autistic sister; and Gary Ackley, who in 1997 killed a childhood friend and his girlfriend’s mother.
Monday has been returned to King County Jail to be retried, Goodhew said.
Seattle police said that Monday fired at least 10 shots at Francisco Roche Green near Yesler Way and Occidental Avenue South in the early hours of April 22, 2006. Monday was also accused of firing gunshots at a vehicle and wounding the driver and a passenger. The incident was caught on video by a street musician who was in the area when shots were fired.
Monday, in his appeal, claimed Konat “made a blatant and inappropriate appeal to racial prejudice and undermined the credibility of African-American witnesses based on their race,” according to the Supreme Court.
While the state Court of Appeals upheld Monday’s conviction, the Supreme Court cited Konat’s comments as grounds for the conviction to be overturned, saying they cast doubt on the credibility of the witnesses based on their race. One justice called the deputy prosecutor’s comments “repugnant.”
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org.