Two men pleaded not guilty to theft charges after allegedly stealing bicycles, and a warrant was issued for a third man after he didn’t appear in Olympia Municipal Court Wednesday morning.
Lacey resident Eric P. Palladino, 23, and Olympia residents Michael J. Bebich, 26, and Jonathan N. S. Whitney, 23 were all arrested Sept. 6 in a Olympia Police Department sting operation staged in response to a string of bicycle thefts. The men were arrested after allegedly stealing city-owned bicycles left unattended and monitored by police.
Both Whitney and Bebich entered not guilty pleas, and Bebich told Judge John Ahlf that he planned to sue the city for defamation of character. He initially declined a court-appointed lawyer, saying he would pay for his own lawyer using the money won in the defamation of character suit.
Ahlf advised against the plan.
“A judge isn’t going to take on a criminal case like that,” Ahlf said.
Bebich decided to ask for an attorney.
Palladino didn’t appear for his scheduled court appearance, despite having signed a summons notice. Ahlf issued a warrant for his arrest.
The city has seen a record number of bicycle thefts this summer, with 30 reports of thefts in August. Prior to June, police received fewer than 12 reports of stolen bikes each month, typical of previous summers. Police reported finding bicycle “chop shops” in homeless encampments this summer.