Helena Star, by Stewart Riley, WSBA


Posted On Feb 4 2021 by

Riley, Stewart. Helena Star: An Epic Adventure Through the Murky Underworld of International Drug Smuggling. Robert D. Reed Publishers. Kindle Edition. Amazon, Kindle, and Paperback

Stewart Riley has given us a fine book, a remarkable book. It is about a young man from Spokane, the largest city on the vast northern tier expanse between Seattle and Minneapolis/St. Paul. In 1966, Stew Riley became a student at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle. The time was long before Seattle on the West Coast became the East Coast darling at the other end of the Yellowstone Trail.

Claiming to be a lackluster student, he graduated with a J.D. degree. He writes he was Second in the Class of 1969 — second from the bottom. He crammed for the bar exam. It was in July. It was hard for Stew and the others to concentrate, nearly impossible for many. Apollo 11 with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins was on its way to the Moon.  On July 29,  Armstrong and Aldrin landed the ship’s Lunar Module, and with Aldrin holding the fort, Armstrong took the first walk on the Moon.  Rather than make the bar exam a problem for Stew Riley, it must have been an inspiration for this soon to be Washington bar association lawyer.

Surprised he passed the bar in October of 1969.  He landed prosecuting attorney job in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office with a great deal of chutzpah.  Within a few years, he entered private practice along with a host of other young attorneys, many leaving their upscale firms to head out on their own. He took office in a renovated turn of the century building Pioneer Square adjacent to the docks on the waterfront. Lawyers did not advertise then, and the most productive machine in a law office was an IBM Selectric Correcting Typewriter.  Soon Stew Riley became the lawyer for Roman Rubies, Captain of the Helena Star, a light freighter. The Helena Star had 50 tons of marijuana when loaded in Colombia and 37 when seized after 13 offloaded on the high seas.

Fifty years later, Stewart Riley tells the story of his representation of Captain Rubies and the largest marijuana bust in the history of Seattle and the Helena Star.  Take your time when  you read this tale.  Refer back to the cast of characters, get a map of Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Pacific side Vancouver Island, Tofino, Anacortes, Port Angeles, and Puget Sound, Portage Bay, Ray’s Boathouse — recreate Helena Star in this vast ocean expanse. And, there is this, “what was the destination of the Helena Star?”

Stew Riley’s story has something more in it. Interspersed are lawyers representing clients in a  complex criminal proceeding with significant international and maritime implicates. Most of the lawyers involved display exemplary character and responsibility to the role the lawyer must play. Also, there are United States district court judges who are learned, fair-minded, and objective and who meet their obligations with grace and understanding.

This is a good book.

Steve Eugster WSBA # 2003

Last Updated on: February 4th, 2021 at 1:08 pm, by Stephen Eugster


Written by Stephen Eugster