Willie Frank, vice chairman of the Nisqually Tribal Council, will enter drug treatment instead of prison as part of his sentence in two theft cases.
Prosecutors had recommended 14 months in prison for Frank, who was initially charged in August 2014 with 15 counts of theft after taking more than $50,000 from tribal bank accounts. He also had been charged in July 2014 with attempted robbery of two Olympia banks.
At Friday’s court hearing, Judge Anne Hirsch approved a Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative, known as DOSA. Instead of prison time, Frank must enter a state drug treatment facility for three months, followed by six months of electronic home monitoring and 15 months of probation.
In issuing the sentence, Hirsch said Frank has made strides in his recovery and has paid back the tribe in full. She also noted the tribe’s support for an alternative sentence and how the tribe would not accept Frank’s resignation from its governing council.
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Hirsch said she also was persuaded by testimony earlier this week from Dr. Joseph Bloom, a psychiatrist from Oregon who attributed Frank’s behavior to unresolved grief over his parents’ death, untreated depression and untreated opioid addiction.
“A DOSA is not a gift. It’s an opportunity,” Hirsch said about the alternative sentence. “Mr. Frank has taken responsibility for his behaviors.”
Frank, whose full name is William Thomas C. Frank III, is the son of the late Nisqually tribal leader and civil rights icon Billy Frank Jr. who died May 5, 2014. Willie Frank has no prior criminal convictions.
Before Friday’s hearing, Frank gathered with friends and family outside the court to hold hands and pray. After the sentence was delivered, those same friends and family lined up to hug and congratulate Frank, including Nisqually Tribal Councilman Farron McCloud Sr.
“The majority of our tribe stands behind Willie,” McCloud said. “As chairman, I would do this for any one of my people.”
In a September plea deal, Frank pleaded guilty to lesser charges in both cases. In the bank case, he pleaded guilty of two counts of first-degree attempted theft. In the tribal theft case, Frank pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree theft and two counts of second-degree theft.
In a June essay titled “My Story with Addiction” that was shared with The Olympian, Frank described how depression and drug addiction fueled his criminal actions the year before.