Union-Bulletin Court Report

The state Attorney General filed charges of sexual misconduct Thursday against Hells Canyon Circuit Superior Court Judge Scott Gallina, who presides over cases in Columbia, Asotin and Garfield counties.

Nine women who worked in the Asotin County Courthouse have reported varying degrees of sexual misconduct by Gallina in the Asotin County and Columbia County courthouses between the time he was appointed to the bench in 2014 and now, according to court documents.

The 55-year-old judge, who was arrested by Washington State Patrol on Wednesday, appeared at the Asotin County Courthouse Annex on Thursday where Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price set a $50,000 bond and signed charges of second-degree rape, fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation, and indecent liberties.

Spokane Attorney Carl J. Oreskovich represented Gallina; the prosecutor was Assistant State Attorney General John Hillman.

Gallina was brought back from the Walla Walla County Jail for the hearing, according to a Asotin County Jail spokesman, and released on his own recognizance after posting 10 percent of the cash-surety bond. His arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 6 in Asotin County.

Release conditions include remaining in Washington and Idaho, having no contact with victims, turning in his access cards and keys to Asotin County Courthouse, and appearing for court proceedings.

Gallina has not been required to turn in his keys to the Columbia and Garfield County courthouses because he hasn’t been charged with any crimes in those counties, according to Columbia County Prosecutor Dale Slack.

Under the law, Gallina can return to his elective duties until the Supreme Court and the Judicial Conduct Commission stop him, Slack stated in a Waitsburg Times article.

To help protect workers at the Columbia County Courthouse, the County Board of Commissioners called an emergency meeting Thursday and signed a resolution stating all county employees will have an elected official or department head present during any in-person contact with Gallina until further notice.

Slack said Columbia County District Court Judge Scott Marinella asked the state Administrative Office of the Courts and Commission on how to conduct court during the situation, and Slack has asked the state Attorney General to take charge of any investigation and prosecution in Columbia County. He said he and Marinella were unsure who will preside in Columbia County Superior Court next week, but were “monitoring the situation.”

Washington State Patrol detectives interviewed Gallina’s alleged victims earlier this month, according to a probable cause affidavit. Allegations included sexually inappropriate comments, touching and sexual assaults spanning the last five years. Gallina was appointed to the Superior Court bench in Asotin, Garfield and Columbia counties by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in 2014 when Judge William D. Acey retired. He was elected for another four-year term in 2016.

One of the women reported several incidents, saying Gallina put her in a choke hold while he touched her inappropriately only stopping when someone knocked on his chamber door. The woman said she spoke to Gallina about the incidents, and he said “he could not help it because he liked beautiful women,” according to the affidavit.

The woman told detectives she didn’t know what to do because she liked her job, but she knew Gallina had authority in the courthouse. She was afraid of losing her job and thought she’d be questioned because he was a judge. She also said she feared for her safety and her family’s safety.

Another woman told detectives Gallina kissed her “forcefully” without consent, documents stated.

Emily Thornton can be reached at emilythornton@wwub.com or 509-526-8325.

Emily Thornton covers courts and emergency services, as well as other various stories. She has been in the newspaper industry off and on since roughly 1999 and lived primarily on the West Coast, but also Florida and Europe.