YAKIMA, Wash.--Yakima County Judge David Elofson summoned Yakima Police Chief Dominic Rizzi to court Monday after the chief wrote a letter to court officials expressing his concerns about the recent furlough of inmate Shaun Vanarendonk.
"Your letter raised a number of issues, and it concerned me because they appeared on the surface to try to influence me in how I would deal with sentencing and that's inappropriate," said Judge Elofson.
Vanarendonk was granted release from jail for one day in late July but failed to return, leading police on a high speed chase before he was put back behind bars. In his letter, Chief Rizzi outlined concerns about the suspects extensive criminal background and his blatant disregard for the law. The chief said he asked the court to carefully consider these issues when granting future furloughs.
"By furloughing someone who poses a great threat to the community, I just felt that it was inappropriate at the time so I wrote the letter asking in the future that the judges please take care when they make their decisions for furloughs," said Chief Rizzi.
But the court didn't see it that way. They felt the intent was to influence how the judge sentenced Vanarendonk affecting the defendant's right to a fair trial.
"Today was essentially to create a record, allow the defendant to see that a letter was sent and to create a record so there would be no appeal around that particular letter," said Harold Delia, the Administrative Court Consultant for Yakima County.
Judge Elofson said he will not be swayed and rejected the letters content. He also urged the police chief to contact the prosecutors office if he wants to address the issue of future furloughs.
NBC Right Now asked Chief Rizzi if he plans to have a discussion with the prosecutors office about future furloughs. He said that he's absolutely willing to have that conversation but also believes the prosecutors office now shares many of these same concerns and doesn't see any issues in the future.