Half of Washington State felons commit new crimes after being sprung, says the Seattle Weekly. “You’re dealing with the same 5 percent of the population over and over,” says Sgt. Rich O’Neill, head of the Seattle Police Officers Guild. “It’s an outrage.” Since August, three Seattle and King County officers have died at the hands of convicted felons who were out on parole–two of them behind the wheels of speeding cars, the third using a gun. The case of a professional Seattle criminal, Wilford Armstead, 49, who might be a poster boy for the flaws in the state’s court, prison, and parole systems. A lanky, graying, and violent break-in artist, Armstead has racked up more than two dozen felonies in his three adult decades. Yet the system allowed him to still be out creating new crimes scenes this year.
His freedom was ended this month when he was sentenced to 50 years in prison for trying to kill a cop–again. Armstead, an admitted drug and heroin addict, didn’t kill the officer he was aiming at. But he tried, just as he tried repeatedly to kill other officers from 1978 through 2006 as he stretched his record to 26 felonies. King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng’s office figures Armstead has been out of custody for only nine of the 31 years since he turned 18. “Stated another way,” prosecutors say, “he has spent over two thirds of his adult life in prison, because of his repeated decisions to violate the law.” There were repeated decisions to give Armstead a break. He frequently committed one crime while awaiting trial on another. The Weekly explores how Armstrong was able to work as a career criminal and avoid the state’s three-strikes sentencing law.