Denise Yun, the candidate for Federal Way City Council accused of shoplifting hammers from Federal Way’s Trinity Ace Hardware, has been charged with third-degree theft.
Yun was charged Aug. 17 by the Kent city prosecutor, who is handling the case instead of Federal Way’s city prosecutor in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest because Yun is running for city office.
Yun’s pretrial hearing is scheduled for Sept. 28.
A charge is only an accusation of wrongdoing; defendants in the criminal justice system are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Store owner Nick Rose said that while shopping at the store on July 18, Yun hid three hammers in her purse before she approached the checkout stand, and when she refused to let him check her purse, he pulled one of those stolen hammers out – after which Yun immediately turned around and left. He shared video surveillance footage of the incident, which Yun did not deny shows her placing the hammers in her purse.
Yun, meanwhile, has told The Federal Way Mirror newspaper that she did not, and never intended to, steal the property. She said she took the hammers out of her purse before trying to finish her purchase at the store.
Yun’s explanation of events to The Mirror differs from a police report written after the alleged theft.
After picking out hammers and stakes, she told officers, she pushed her cart to the front of the store, where Rose grabbed her arm “while reaching into her purse and pulling out a hammer.” It hurt and caused a cut on her arm, Yun told officers, pointing to what appeared to officers to be an old, healed scar on her arm.
Rose told The Mirror that he never touched Yun.
An officer asked if she had more hammers in her purse before she left, according to the police report, to which Yun said she wasn’t sure, and couldn’t remember; she said the incident at the store triggered her PTSD.
She also described returning to the store days later with $200 in cash, intended “as a donation to make peace and amends for Tuesday’s incident,” according to the police report.
In her statements to The Mirror in late July, Yun explicitly denied that Rose pulled a hammer from her purse. She also told The Mirror that while she had put the three hammers into her purse, she only did so to keep them from falling off her cart, and said that she put them back on her cart before leaving the store.
The Mirror reached out to Yun over email for comment, but did not hear back by press time.
The following political figures, who are or have been listed as endorsers on Yun’s website, gave these responses when asked by The Mirror about endorsements in the wake of the charges filed against Yun:
• State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti, who said The Mirror’s inquiry into his endorsement was the first he’d heard that Yun was under criminal prosecution. “When I learned of this information, I notified Denise that I rescinded my endorsement of her campaign,” he said.
• State Rep. Kristine Reeves: “While I am an advocate of ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ I believe our public leaders — myself included — must be held to a higher standard and have since withdrawn my endorsement of Ms. Yun.”
• State Sen. Manka Dhingra: A spokesperson confirmed that Dhingra dropped her endorsement of Yun “a while back.”
• State Rep. Tina Orwall: “Upon learning that charges were pressed, my endorsement was withdrawn.”
• Burien Mayor Sofia Aragon: Aragon said she is awaiting the outcome of the charges against Yun.
The Mirror tried to reach out to U.S. Rep. Marilyn Strickland, Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, State Sen. Bob Hasegawa and State Sen. Claudia Kauffman, each of whom had been listed as an endorser on Yun’s website, but had not received an answer.