Hyer set to plead guilty in drug case

Plea Deal: Former councilman could face 6 months in jail

April 13, 2010 

Joe Hyer

Former Olympia City councilman Joe Hyer. (Olympian File Photo)

OLYMPIA - Attorneys have filed paperwork indicating that former Olympia City Councilman Joe Hyer will plead guilty April 26 to one count of felony unlawful delivery of a controlled substance - with no enhancement for the alleged crime occurring in a school zone, as had been originally charged.

Under Hyer’s negotiated plea deal, he faces a potential sentence of six months in jail, according to the standard sentencing range. He was previously facing a potential maximum sentence of 78 months if he was found guilty of his original charges, plus the school zone enhancements.

Unlawful delivery of marijuana is a class C felony.

The one-page order filed Monday in Thurston County Superior Court states that the “parties stipulate that this case has been settled by a negotiated plea of guilty” and was signed by Hyer’s attorney Ken Valz and Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott Jackson.

Hyer, 37, was arrested at his Legion Way home in February by detectives with the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force after a confidential informant wearing a wire purchased marijuana from Hyer twice during controlled buys in February, court papers state. Both of the alleged marijuana purchases occurred at Hyer’s home, according to court papers.

Hyer, who announced his resignation from the City Council on Friday, was subsequently charged with two counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance – marijuana – and one count of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. All three of the original charges carried potential enhancements for allegedly occurring in a school zone. The school zone enhancements could have increased Hyer’s potential jail time, if he were found guilty of the crimes.

Prosecutors have the option of charging most drug crimes with the school zone enhancements if they occur within 1,000 yards of a school or a school bus stop.

Valz has filed court papers suggesting that “a trusted political mentor” of Hyer had entrapped him into selling marijuana twice while the mentor was working as an undercover informant.

“This ‘friend’ was able to persuade Hyer to transfer marijuana to this ‘friend’ by convincing Hyer that this ‘friend’ needed the marijuana because of the ‘friend’s’ depression and ‘sexual needs,’” read court papers filed by Valz. “Based upon defense allegation, it appears that this ‘friend’ was able to persuade, lure and induce councilman Hyer to transfer no more than a total of less than 14 grams of marijuana during the entire police operation.”

Court papers filed by Valz suggest that Hyer knows the identity of the informant he sold marijuana to, and that the person is the only one Hyer ever sold marijuana to.

According to the probable cause statement filed by prosecutors after Hyer’s arrest, Hyer told detectives he sold marijuana, but only to close friends.

Law enforcement officials were alerted to the possibility that Hyer might be involved with marijuana after an anonymous informant came forward to Thurston County Sheriff Dan Kimball, Kimball has said.

Outside Thurston County Superior Court on Monday, Valz declined to discuss the identity of the informant, or discuss the case. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jackson could not be reached for comment.

Hyer co-owns two downtown Olympia businesses, The Alpine Experience and Olympic Outfitters, both outdoor sporting goods stores. He had served as an Olympia city councilman since 2004. Before his criminal case, Hyer had been the top choice of the Thurston County Democrats’ executive committee for county treasurer.

According to Hyer’s old Web site for election to the Olympia City Council, he is a 1991 graduate of Tumwater High School and a 1994 graduate of Pacific University in Oregon. He worked for nine summers as a summer camp counselor for the Boy Scouts, according to his Web site.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465

jpawloski@theolympian.com

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