Since Thurston County law enforcement arrested Olympia City Council member Joe Hyer on charges of selling marijuana from his home, he’s been the talk of the town. Will he resign from public office? Will he go to jail? Will the prosecutors cut him a deal? How will the case affect City Hall?
Part of the buzz has people speculating on the identity of the confidential informant who tipped the police. Some prominent names have circulated.
In fact, a rather macabre interest in who “dropped the dime” abounds. A Seattle-based organization promoting the legalization of marijuana even sent our newspaper an ad soliciting people to come forward and reveal the informant’s name. We refused to run the ad because it interfered at the time with an ongoing police investigation.
The confidential informant’s identity isn’t just gritty pulp fiction fun. This individual may unwittingly play a material role in Hyer’s defense of entrapment. So, if the case goes to trial — of course, there’s always the possibility it will end in a plea bargain instead — the informant’s identity will probably become known.
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The identity of the confidential informant, and what his or her motivation might have been, are only two of the fascinating aspects of this case. Another is the difficult position in which Thurston County judges and prosecutors find themselves. If Hyer is given a deal that pleads his alleged crime down from a felony, which allows him to continue in public office, people will think a City Council member got special treatment. If he is prosecuted to the full extent of the law, people will say they made an example of him just because he is a public official.
Being elected officials themselves, judges and prosecutors may find themselves driving down a road with no exit. Of course, if Hyer would resign and face his troubles as any private citizen, those issues probably go away. He’s already stepped down as mayor pro tem.
But we should not confuse these issues. Regardless of whom the confidential informant turns out to be, and whatever his or her motivation might have been, and no matter what path the prosecutors decide to take, this case is ultimately about whether Joe Hyer broke a law he swore to uphold. It is not about anything else.
Many things had to go right for The Olympian to get the wonderful story about the River Ridge girls basketball team winning the state 2A tournament into last Sunday’s newspaper. Time was running down close to our deadline, which we extended by an hour in hopes of a favorable result. After the game finished, sports writer Meg Wochnick had only eight minutes to finish her story. If the game had gone into overtime, we wouldn’t have made the deadline. ... Local firefighter Sean Murphy completed his fourth stair climb of the Columbia Tower in Seattle, raising almost $3,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. But he lost a bet that he would beat other local firefighters, which means you can look for him to be wearing a dress and paraded around some of Olympia’s more popular watering holes. ... Speaking of Murphy, he recently left his position as an aide to Rep. Brian Baird, and now is Sen. Patty Murray’s representative in the South Sound. ... When the tickets for Greg Mortenson’s visit to Olympia on May 13 went on sale recently, The Community Foundation of Puget Sound sold 900 tickets overnight. ... Why this is a great town #167: The 20- and 30-something members of The Olympia Project are helping seniors at the Evergreen Nursing and Rehabilitation facility today write letters to their families and friends. Many of the Evergreen residents have problems with the mobility of their hands.
George Le Masurier, publisher of The Olympian, can be reached at 360-357-0206 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .