February 16, 1995 in City

County Asks Court To Reconsider Rape Charge Against Tribal Cop The Court Of Appeals Overturned His 1992 Rape Conviction

By The Spokesman-Review
 

(For the record Friday, February 17, 1995): A story Thursday should have said that the state Court of Appeals overturned two 1992 first-degree rape convictions against former Colville Confederated Tribes police officer Fred D. Bright because the evidence was sufficient only for a second- or third-degree rape conviction.

Okanogan County wants the state Court of Appeals to reinstate a rape conviction against a Colville Confederated Tribes police officer who admitted having sex with a woman he was taking to jail.

The Court of Appeals last month overturned the 1992 conviction of Officer Fred D. Bright on two counts of first-degree rape. Prosecutor Rick Weber is asking the court to reconsider its decision.

If the three-judge Appeals Court doesn’t change its decision, Weber said he probably will ask the state Supreme Court to review the case. If that failed, he could retry Bright.

The Appeals Court overturned Bright’s conviction on grounds that the trial judge improperly failed to instruct the jury on the possibility of a third-degree rape conviction. A conviction on the lower charge could have been justified for at least one of the counts, in which all the testimony indicates no physical force was used, the Appeals Court said.

The court noted that a third-degree rape conviction was offered as a possibility in a previous trial that ended in a hung jury.

Bright at first denied he did anything wrong, then resigned from the force after admitting he had sex with a prisoner twice in June 1991.

He was transporting the woman to the Okanogan County Jail because the tribal jail in Nespelem, Wash., had no women’s section. Testimony indicated Bright declined a female jailer’s offer to transport the woman.

Bright said he stopped to let the woman move from the back seat to the front and she seduced him as they continued on their way. He said she performed a sex act and persuaded him to stop the car. Bright said he had sex with the woman outside his car, using a condom from his briefcase, after first resisting her invitation.

The woman gave a much different account. She said Bright asked her to move to the front seat, where he made sexual advances and began fondling her. The woman said she was disgusted and wished she was somewhere else. Remembering similar abuse as a child, she said she didn’t resist.

Then, she said, Bright grabbed her neck and tried to force her to perform sex on him. She said pressure from Bright’s hand made it hard for her to breathe, but she reacted passively and Bright pulled onto a side road and parked.

The woman said she complied without resistance when Bright ordered her to get out and let him have sex with her.

Noting the lack of physical force outside the car, the Appeals Court said the jury was entitled to convict Bright of thirddegree rape. It was up to the jury to decide how much force was used and “whether Officer Bright’s abuse of authority constituted forcible compulsion,” the court said in an opinion written by Judge John Schultheis.

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