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Trial for alleged squatter of Kirkland mansion delayed due to illegal recording, other setbacks
An illegal recording allegedly made without the consent of a Bellevue woman accused of illegally occupying a multi-million-dollar Kirkland home has delayed her trial again.
The trial date for Jill Elaine Lane, 32, was originally set for December and is now scheduled for June 20.
The 7,680 square-foot home on Eighth Avenue West had been vacant and unfinished for months before people began living in the home during the summer of 2010, with the occupants saying they were taking possession under a legal concept known as a “living trust.”
Former Bothell real estate agent James C. McClung, who was involved with Lane’s case, owned a business that offered homeowners a way to get out from under upside-down mortgages. He allegedly worked with Lane on pursuing the Kirkland home.
McClung pleaded guilty on May 18 to attempted theft charges in a separate Shoreline squatting case.
Lane’s attorney, Andrew Magee, has filed several motions contesting the case and asking that it be dismissed. His latest motion to dismiss the case came May 17, after he found out about an alleged illegal recording last month.
Just before Lane’s trial-readiness hearing on April 16, the city prosecuting attorney’s office gave Magee a five-page transcript of the recording. The city said one of its witnesses, Mark von der Burg - the real estate agent of the $3.2 million Kirkland home in the case - said he used his iPhone to record a meeting between himself, Lane and a First Citizens Bank and Trust Co. representative nearly two years ago at his Bellevue office.
Von der Burg could not be reached for comment.
Magee wouldn’t comment on what was said during the meeting, but did say the recording was made illegally and without Lane’s consent.
Prosecution also told the judge it did not intend on using the recording. However, Magee said the recording brought a new “twist” to the case and Lambo moved the trial-readiness hearing to May 17 to give the city time to retrieve the recording.
“Where’s the recording - we don’t have it,” said Magee on May 17, noting that the transcript appeared incomplete and unofficial. “Lane’s rights have been violated, which is ground for dismissal.”
He also said the prosecuting attorney’s office “made no effort to inquire if this recording existed” during its nearly two-year-long investigation. Magee added that the recording was “real evidence because it goes towards von der Burg’s credibility.”
However, prosecution argued that it initially interviewed the real estate agent a year ago and the topic didn’t come up. Von der Burg also admitted to prosecutors that Lane didn’t know about the recording. The real estate agent later referred the matter to his attorney, who invoked von der Burg’s Fifth Amendment rights, said prosecution.
“The attorney advised von der Burg not to provide the recording. The city tried hard to get it,” said Judge Lambo, who declined to order the dismissal. “I am not convinced the city has violated the client’s rights.”
The judge also criticized the fact that Magee hadn’t interviewed any of prosecution’s witnesses, even though trial was set for May 23.
“What is of some concern to me is that the defense … has not interviewed one government witness. I find that surprising,” said Lambo. “This is a criminal case, where someone’s freedom is at risk. To not interview any witnesses is remarkable.”
Magee also argued that prosecution failed to provide him with any contact information for its witnesses. But the city said the information was available on the police reports.
Lambo granted Magee’s fifth request for a continuance in the case to give defense time to interview witnesses and prepare for trial. Lambo set another trial-readiness hearing for June 13, with a trial date of June 20.