By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
At the King County Courthouse this afternoon, Puerto Vallarta restaurant owner Eduardo Morales-Cardenas was sentenced to just under one year with electronic home monitoring, plus community service, for buying stolen liquor.
One of his four co-defendants, Eric Olson, was sentenced immediately afterward. We recorded video of both hearings;
and are uploading it now. (added 4:31 pm) here’s the first clip we have available, picking up after the prosecution recapped the case:
First, the proceedings involving Morales-Cardenas. As reported here two weeks ago, he pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree trafficking in stolen property and one count of attempted trafficking in stolen property. The case first came to light last September, when he was arrested and his Junction restaurant and home searched in connection with an investigation of what authorities said was a liquor-theft ring mostly targeting supermarkets. Court documents indicated that alleged stolen property was confiscated; charges were filed in November.
Presiding at the sentencing was King County Superior Court Judge Carol Schapira. Prosecutor Susan Storey called the sentencing recommendation “a very good result”; she explained that “a significant quantity of liquor … and cash” was seized in the search of Morales-Cardenas’s properties, and that $15,000 cash would be kept and turned over to theft victims as restitution.
Morales-Cardenas spoke to the judge and said he apologized, and that he has been working for the community in West Seattle for 22 years. He said he is alcohol and drug free and that he likes to keep a liquor collection in his house and he was sorry it’s been seized. He said that he was trying to help Michael Jensen, one of the other co-defendants, go straight. He said some of what was found in his garage was there because he was helping Jensen. He said he “made a couple mistakes … I’m sorry … I’m not a ringleader for (liquor thefts) …” He also told the judge he was upset with WSB for reporting on his arrest and prosecution, and alleged that we had not taken his calls, and that our reporting of the story had harmed his business.
(For the record, we have no record of him calling us; the only communication we received was from a person who called and e-mailed us a few weeks ago, saying he was a friend of Morales-Cardenas, who, he said, would be interested in talking with us if we wanted to talk to him. We replied to the friend that Morales-Cardenas was welcome to contact us via the same e-mail address the friend had used; we never received a reply nor any communication from him. We repeat what we told the friend – he is welcome to contact us, firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-293-6302, the same communication channels to which we reply around the clock, 7 days a week. Or if he wishes to send a statement for publication, he is welcome to do that too.)
Before he spoke, Morales-Cardenas’s lawyer said that his client “is sorry (and) has suffered financially. … he understands the harm that has resulted from this, to the victims and the people around him … (it’s) threatened his business and his employees … it’s an aberration in what has otherwise been a very positive life.” He said Morales-Cardenas, who has no prior criminal record, already has done 50 hours of community service, including work at the Senior Center of West Seattle and is looking forward to helping out there more.
Those speaking to the court also included King County Sheriff’s Office Deputy B.J. Myers, lead investigator who “sunk his teeth into the case, he did a phenomenal job,” despite not being a detective, Storey told the judge. Myers said he got involved in the case because of the “effect … (the liquor thefts were) having in the White Center neighborhood … the crimes fueled (other defendants’) drug habit,” leading to thefts and disorderly conduct by others. “So I recognized that these suspects were affecting the peace of White Center and that building this case was going to make a difference. … The defendant (Morales-Cardenas) was the one who was purchasing the stolen liquor from these thieves … in effect incentivizing the effect these thieves were having on the White Center neighborhood. … Even though this is a different kind of case for a community police officer to (become involved in), we’ve seen it have an effect on the neighborhood.” Also speaking, a risk manager from Safeway, one of the chains targeted by the thieves from whom prosecutors say Morales-Cardenas bought stolen liquor.
Following Morales-Cardenas’s sentencing, another defendant in the case, Eric Olson, was sentenced for pleading guilty to organized retail theft; he had been charged with stealing liquor from stores including Safeway, QFC, and Costco.
He told Judge Schapira he was “ashamed” of what he had done. She sentenced him to 41 months – just under 3 1/2 years – in prison, and restitution to be determined later.
As for the three other people charged in the case:
As we reported last month, Amber Vincent pleaded guilty in February to organized retail theft and trafficking in stolen property, and was sentenced to three months of work release; Shaye Glenn-Nitschke also pleaded guilty in February, to one charge, and was released from jail because he’d served more time than he had been sentenced to. A fourth defendant, Michael Jensen, has pleaded guilty to multiple charges and will be sentenced one week from today; he has a lengthy record and a 7 1/2-year sentence is recommended.