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Update: Tacoma judge’s sex crime trial delayed; Witness Vanishes

TACOMA, Wash. — A Pierce County Superior Court judge’s trial on charges of felony harassment and patronizing a prostitute has been postponed so prosecutors can try to track down a key witness who has vanished.

Visiting King County Judge James Cayce has granted Assistant Attorney General John Hillman’s request to delay the trial, which had been due to start Tuesday with jury selection.

If witness Joseph Pfeiffer can be found by Wednesday morning, Cayce says the trial will proceed as scheduled. If not, it will begin Oct. 12.

County Superior Court Judge Michael Hecht has pleaded innocent to the charges, telling The Tacoma News Tribune he’s a victim of opportunists, political enemies and overzealous police.

Prosecutors allege Hecht paid Pfeiffer for sex on a number of occasions. Pfeiffer told police he took money from Hecht in exchange for sex; his statements are the basis for the solicitation charge. However the witness later provided a sworn affidavit to a defense lawyer recanting his statements.

Hecht also faces a hearing in November before the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

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