Mar. 3—ASOTIN — A new judge has been appointed to hear the Scott Gallina case, and the defense has requested a four-month continuance of a trial that's been bumped four times.
Gallina, a former Superior Court judge in Asotin, Columbia and Garfield counties, is facing multiple felony charges of sexual misconduct. He has pleaded innocent to second-degree rape, indecent liberties and four counts of third-degree assault for alleged crimes against two women who were employed in Asotin County when he was on the bench.
After an investigation and interviews with multiple employees, the Washington State Patrol arrested Gallina at the Asotin County Courthouse on April 10, 2019. The Clarkston resident is no longer on the county payroll and remains out of custody on bond.
According to court documents, Gallina requested a new judge after Walla Walla County Judge M. Scott Wolfram was appointed last month to take over for Spokane County Judge Michael Price. The case has since been assigned to Walla Walla County Judge Brandon Johnson, who recently took office.
Previous trial dates for Gallina were continued at the request of the defense, twice by agreement of both parties and once by the Spokane judge, shortly after the pandemic hit the region.
The trial, which is set to begin April 5 in Asotin County, could be delayed once again, if the defense's motion is granted. Gallina, who is represented by Spokane attorneys Carl Oreskovich and Andrew Wagley, have requested an additional four months based on the COVID-19 pandemic.
In court documents, the defense said the anticipated length of the trial, size of the jury pool and public interest in the case presents unique logistical issues for the court at this time.
"It is anticipated the state will respond that this court can conduct this trial based upon other criminal trials in Washington going forward with COVID precautions," the defense said. "However, this is not a run-of-the-mill criminal case."
Based on the size of Asotin County, anticipated witnesses and publicity of the case, Gallina's attorneys anticipate a jury pool of approximately 400 residents will be necessary to find an impartial panel of 12, plus alternates.
The state, represented by Seattle attorneys Melanie Tratnik and Sean Waite of the attorney general's office, filed a 90-page response to the motion for a continuance, saying the underlying risk of COVID-19 varies greatly between jurisdictions, and the trial in Asotin County should proceed as planned. A hearing on the issue is anticipated this week, court officials said.
Gallina's trial, which could take up to a month, is expected to take place at the Asotin County Fire District auditorium to allow for social distancing.
Sandaine may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.