Friday, January 8, 2010

Seattle, WA: Prosecutors opposed home detention for teen, now charged with killing girlfriend

King County Juvenile Court judges had twice turned down Matthew Dubois' request to be released from juvenile detention and sent home with an ankle bracelet.

By Sara Jean Green
Seattle Times staff reporter

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King County Juvenile Court judges had twice turned down Matthew Dubois' request to be released from juvenile detention and sent home with an ankle bracelet.

But the third time Dubois asked to be placed on electronic home monitoring, a judge agreed — despite prosecutors' repeated objections and a finding that Dubois was a threat to community safety.

That was Nov. 13.

The 16-year-old Burien teen was later granted permission to go to his grandmother's house for six hours on Christmas Day, according to court records.

On New Year's Eve, Dubois is accused of fatally shooting his 15-year-old girlfriend, Mikarah "Tinky" Sanders, in the face with a .357-caliber handgun. According to charging papers, Dubois and Sanders were in Dubois' bedroom, arguing over a comment another boy had posted on Sanders' MySpace page, when the girl was shot.

Dubois, who was charged as an adult Tuesday with second-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, is still recovering at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle from a gunshot wound that prosecutors say was self-inflicted in an attempt to blame the shootings on a nonexistent gang member.

Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, said his office consistently argued that Dubois — who has several felony convictions, including one for unlawful possession of a firearm — should have remained in detention after his arrest this summer on attempted robbery, third-degree assault and witness-intimidation charges.

Court records show Dubois was accused of assaulting a boy in May and in July, of attempting to rob the same boy while calling him a "snitch" and pressuring him not to testify in connection with the assault case.

At Dubois' arraignment on Aug. 6, he was placed on electronic home monitoring, even though prosecutors objected to the move, Goodhew said. Roughly six weeks later, Dubois was back in court for violating conditions of his home monitoring and was sent to juvenile detention.

On Oct. 13 and 28, Dubois' defense attorney, Kari Boyum, of the Northwest Defenders Association, asked the court to allow Dubois to again be placed on electronic home monitoring. According to the prosecutors' office, which objected in both instances, those requests were denied.

When the victim refused to cooperate, prosecutors dropped the attempted-robbery charge and downgraded the witness-intimidation charge to witness tampering, Goodhew said. Despite Dubois' guilty plea to witness tampering, prosecutors were still going after him on the assault charge, which stemmed from a $2 marijuana debt, according to Goodhew and court records.

Although prosecutors objected, King County Juvenile Court Judge LeRoy McCullough signed a detention order authorizing Dubois' electronic home monitoring Nov. 13. On the order, a box is checked indicating "the juvenile is a threat to community safety."

"He had a series of felony convictions we prosecuted him for, and we felt he was a danger to the community," Goodhew said.

Boyum, who is representing Dubois on the assault charge, did not return a phone call Thursday.

McCullough also did not return a phone call. It's possible he agreed to electronic home detention after prosecutors dropped the attempted-robbery charge.

Chief Juvenile Court Judge Philip Hubbard, who presided over a December hearing in which he granted a continuance for Dubois' plea hearing, but who otherwise wasn't involved in the case, surmised that "a change in circumstance" led to the decision to allow Dubois released on electronic home monitoring.

When juveniles are booked into custody, juvenile-detention staff use a point system — called the Detention Risk Assessment — to determine whether a child is released from custody, given an "alternative to secure detention" — an option that includes group homes and electronic home monitoring — or held in juvenile detention, Hubbard said.

Although he wasn't familiar with the details of Dubois' case, Hubbard said prosecutors "don't routinely, in a knee-jerk way, ask for secure confinement."

Jared Karstetter, a legal consultant to the King County guild representing approximately 150 juvenile-detention officers, said guild members he's spoken to feel sick over the decision to release Dubois from custody.

"My people are taking this very seriously because they feel a degree of responsibility for not having a crystal ball," Karstetter said, explaining that Dubois met eligibility criteria for home detention.

Juvenile-detention staff determine which inmates meet criteria for electronic home monitoring, although it's ultimately up to a judge to decide.

"On its face, my people saw no reason for him not to go, so they didn't have any objections," Karstetter said. "The real question is what changed for a judge to deny him twice and a third time grant it."

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or

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