News

Atty. asks Kelly to step down from case

Atty. asks Kelly to step down from case

by AMANDA WINTERS

Sequim Gazette

A Port Angeles attorney filed a motion in Clallam County Superior Court last week to dismiss charges against a woman accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the Sheriff's Office, based on the prosecutor's failure to turn over evidence as required.

He also filed a motion to disqualify Clallam County Prosecutor Deb Kelly from being involved in the case after it was discovered that her husband, Don Kelly, was a possible witness in the case.

Staci L. Allison, of Montesano, was charged with first-degree theft and money laundering after 129 empty evidence bags that once contained a total of $51,251 were found in November 2006. Allison's jury trial was set to begin Sept. 13 but was continued because of an additional box of evidence that hadn't been turned over to the defense.

Late evidence

In court documents, Ralph W. Anderson, the defense attorney for Allison, said he received an e-mail from Deputy Prosecutor Erika Soublet sent at 5:30 p.m. the Friday before Allison's scheduled trial, notifying him there was another box of evidence with a summary of the audit conducted on the evidence room and 1,000 or more pages of discovery.

Deb Kelly defended the late turnover of the box of evidence and said her office always has and always will turn over evidence as soon as they have it in their hands.

In an Oct. 13 debate when the issue arose, Deb Kelly said the box was sitting in Olympia with the state police and her office didn't know about it.

Anderson's motion also calls into question Deb Kelly's husband's role in the investigation.

"It was also first revealed on Sept. 10 that Don Kelly had participated in the audit and had found monies that were not properly accounted for in the audit," he said in the motion filed Oct. 13.

Don Kelly is the husband of Clallam County Prosecutor Deb Kelly.

Anderson said Don Kelly's report contains information vital to the defense but was not given to the defense until the morning the trial was set to begin.

Don Kelly also never was listed as a witness for the case.

According to the court minutes from the Sept. 13 hearing, Anderson addressed the court about the report written by Don Kelly. First the prosecutor's office, represented by Soublet, said they were unaware of such a report. Court recessed for 20 minutes and when it reconvened Soublet said Don Kelly's report would be printed off and provided to Anderson for the defense.

Additionally, there were 800 pages of discovery the state and its investigating agencies had in their possession from November 2006 that they didn't turn over to the defense until two weeks before the trial, on Aug. 12, Anderson said.

"The State failed to provide 2,000-plus pages of relevant discovery, withheld Brady (evidence that could help the defense) material, and have no excuse or explanation for the late discovery set forth above," he said in the motion.

Disqualifying Kelly

In a separate motion to disqualify, filed Oct. 11, Anderson said the full extent of Don Kelly's involvement in the audit of the evidence room was not known to the defense until the Friday before the trial.

Anderson said Don Kelly's report lends itself to the defense and he is a "late disclosed witness."

Originally Soublet was going to try the case but she has since left the Prosecutor's Office, Anderson said. That is when Deb Kelly stepped in and said she would try the case herself, he said.

Anderson's motion cites rules and informal opinions stating familial relationships between lawyers and material witnesses gives rise to a conflict of interest.

"These decisions support the proposition that it is inappropriate and possibly unethical for Mrs. Kelly to act as the prosecuting attorney in this case," he said.

Deb Kelly said her husband did not conduct an audit but just cleaned up for the audit conducted by the state police.

She said she wasn't aware of any report that he wrote, other than possibly a note written to a supervisor, which since has been turned over to the defense.

The money he found is inconsequential, she said.

"There was money found by my husband," she said. "It does not relate to the evidence that the state is basing its charge on."

As for Don Kelly as a witness and Deb Kelly as a prosecutor, she said she will cross that bridge when she comes to it.

"There were other witnesses present so my husband is certainly not a necessary witness," she said.

Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequimgazette.com

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