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Evidence mishandling at center of dismissal argument
A Clallam County judge heard arguments for and against dismissing charges against a former Sheriff’s Office employee Jan. 13, based on evidence mishaps by the Prosecutor’s Office.
Staci Allison is accused of stealing $8,644 from the sheriff’s evidence room but her attorney Ralph Anderson filed a motion to dismiss the charges in October 2010. The motion seeks to dismiss the charges because of late disclosures of evidence by former Clallam County Deputy Prosecutor Erika Soublet.
Theft and money laundering charges were filed against Allison in June 2007, seven months after 129 empty evidence bags that once contained a total of $51,251 were found stuffed in a tube in the Sheriff’s Office evidence room.
The case was set to go to trial Sept. 13, 2010.
‘Mystery box’ surfaces
A “mystery box” of evidence, including an investigation by the Washington State Patrol, was made known to Anderson after the close of business on the Friday before the case was supposed to go to trial, he said. The investigation contained information that was favorable to the defendant and should have been provided early on, he said.
The state patrol investigation pointed out inconsistent methods of packing and storing evidence in the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, reported the computer software used in the evidence room had problems and audits were poorly conducted, he said.
Anderson said it was “reckless and negligent” not to provide the 1,500 pages of evidence sooner and he thinks it is “disingenuous” of Soublet to say she didn’t know the material existed.
Soublet, now the chief deputy district attorney in Coos County, Ore., responded to an e-mail from the Gazette stating she does not comment on pending cases.
Clallam County Prosecutor Deb Kelly defended Soublet in her argument, conceding there were discovery violations but insisted the blame shouldn’t be pinned on the former deputy prosecutor.
“I’m very tired of the defense attacking Soublet,” she said, adding Soublet did “everything in her power” to provide material on time. Soublet turned over evidence as soon as it was given to her by law enforcement, she said.
As for the State Patrol investigation pointing out mismanagement, that should be no surprise, she said.
“The property room was mismanaged, that is no secret,” she said. “You can’t have an embezzlement without mismanagement.”
Kelly said Soublet was working on the case diligently despite a heavy case load and teaching at an advocacy center.
Kelly asked Judge Ken Williams to identify who is at fault, should he choose to dismiss the charges based on the evidence mishandling, “because it wasn’t the Prosecutor’s Office.”
Judge allows more time
Williams gave both sides until Jan. 20 to file additional briefs in the matter. He also pushed back the trial date to Feb. 14 and scheduled a Jan. 27 hearing to hear argument on a motion to disqualify Kelly from the case.
Anderson filed the motion to disqualify in October 2010 after learning Kelly’s husband, a former sheriff’s sergeant, was hired to clean up the evidence room after the investigation and found $5,000 that was presumed stolen by Allison.
Kelly said the $5,000 found is not part of the amount her office intends to prove Allison stole and she will move for dismissal of her husband as a witness if it comes to that.
Reach Amanda Winters at firstname.lastname@example.org.