Double-murder retrial attorneys paid less than Clallam County official claimed

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Attorneys for convicted double-murderer Darold R. Stenson are upset that Clallam County Administrator Jim Jones said Tuesday at a business association meeting open to the public that they billed the county $300 an hour to defend the former Sequim resident.

Jones later admitted he was wrong.

The figure was quoted in article on the meeting Thursday in the Peninsula Daily News, “Cost of 2nd Trial: $900,000.”

Sherilyn Peterson of Seattle, one of Stenson’s three lawyers, said Jones’ statement was “wildly inaccurate” in an email Thursday to the PDN:

“Averaged out among the defense lawyers over the duration of the case, who had varying fee arrangements (mine being pro bono for a significant part of the case), the hourly fee per lawyer was less than $100.”

Peterson also emailed Jones:

“The statement attributed to you that Mr. Stenson’s lawyers billed $300/hour per person is flatly wrong,” she wrote.

‘Confidential’

“Further, defense hourly fee information is, as you know or should know, confidential information contained in sealed court orders. You have a duty to keep such information confidential, not disclose it.

“Your statement in a public meeting, apparently attended by at least 30 people, and then reported in the newspaper, was slanderous and cast defense counsel in a bad light.”

Stenson also was represented by Roger Hunko of Port Orchard and Blake Kremer of Tacoma.

Hunko receives $175 an hour and Kremer $125 an hour, Superior Court Administrator Lindy Clevenger said Thursday.

Peterson received $125 an hour until March, when she began working pro bono on the case, Clevenger said.

Clevenger said the hourly rate for the lawyers is public record, but the legal team’s detailed invoices are sealed under court order.

Stenson, found guilty Nov. 12 of two counts of first-degree premeditated, aggravated murder in the March 25, 1993, shootings, is expected to be sentenced Dec. 10 to a mandatory term of life in prison.

Jones made the inaccurate statement in response to a question from a PABA meeting participant.

“My answer was obviously an error,” Jones said Thursday.

“That has been the talk around the courthouse for a year and a half, that the attorneys were getting $300 an hour, and I believed that was the truth,” he added.

Sealed records

Jones said he believed Judge S. Brooke Taylor had sealed the lawyers’ hourly rate records, preventing Jones from obtaining them.

As of today, the cost to Clallam County to retry Stenson for the double-murder of his wife and business partner are $808,331, Jones said Thursday.

As of Thursday, the total for attorney costs was $563,670, Clevenger said.

“I would hope I would have all the billings in by the first week in December,” she said.

Hunko still must submit his bill for this month, while Kremer must submit his bill for August through this month, Clevenger said.

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 21. 2013 5:27PM
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