August 15, 2005 in City

Trooper resigns amid scandal

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A state trooper, previously disciplined for storing pornography on his police computer, has resigned after allegations he abused his position to gain sexual favors from young women.

Trooper Rob Young, 40, of Republic, Wash., turned in his badge July 14 before the Washington State Patrol could complete an internal affairs investigation that could have led to dismissal of the 13-year veteran officer.

Young’s alleged misconduct was the latest of several embarrassing incidents in the State Patrol’s Colville detachment under the supervision of Sgt. David McMillan. McMillan was relieved of command eight months ago and is the subject of an investigation that WSP spokesmen declined to discuss.

State investigators had tried for more than a year and a half, in three investigations, to bring criminal charges against Young on a variety of allegations, including official misconduct, first-degree custodial sexual misconduct, second-degree extortion, stalking, harassment and tampering with evidence.

In one case, an 18-year-old woman said she had sex with Young to avoid a ticket for driving past Republic High School at 85 to 90 mph while under the influence of alcohol. Investigators said the woman eventually quit cooperating with them.

To avoid compromising the criminal cases, the internal affairs investigation was delayed until the last of three prosecutors declined on June 30 to file charges. Criminal suspects have a constitutional right to remain silent – and Young did except for general denials – but troopers are required to answer questions in an internal affairs investigation.

Young told The Spokesman-Review he was set up by friends of drug dealers he arrested. He declined to provide names and details.

The fact that three prosecutors declined to charge him shows his accusers lack credibility, Young said. Indeed, that was a factor in one case, Ferry County Prosecutor James von Sauer confirmed. Generally, though, von Sauer and the prosecutors of Stevens and Okanogan counties said there wasn’t enough evidence to support a conviction on any of the proposed charges

Young said he did nothing wrong and resigned voluntarily because of stress.

Although he continued to receive his $4,557 monthly salary while on administrative leave – a total of nearly $95,000 – Young said the experience was like being under house arrest. He was required to be available by telephone, and there is no cellular service where he lives.

State Patrol spokesman Capt. Jeff DeVere said the patrol “did everything possible to determine the merit of these allegations and took swift and sure action to ensure accountability to the public.” Officials put Young on administrative leave, allowing him no contact with the public, when the first allegation was received, DeVere said.

That allegation came in October 2003, when a Republic resident who was 20 at the time complained that Young had been stalking her. Young told The Spokesman-Review he talked to the woman only once because she expressed interest in becoming a police officer.

Young was relieved of duties on Oct. 20, and Detective Sgt. Ken Wade launched a criminal investigation on Oct. 30.

According to WSP reports, the complainant and a friend of hers who was 17 at the time told investigators that Young approached them in his patrol car in the summer of 2003 while they were walking in Republic. The young women reportedly said Young drove them out of town, west toward Tonasket, and demonstrated how he could “flip the car around” at high speeds.

When they stopped at a camp site, the women added, Young let them play with his handcuffs and talked about ways to have sex on the hood of his patrol car.

“And there was one more thing,” the 17-year-old told Wade. “He showed us his underpants.”

The women said they were driving around town a week or two later when Young pulled up in his patrol car and asked if they wanted to go on another ride. This time, they said, Young drove them up Sherman Pass to a remote campground about 16 miles east of town, again showing how he could slam on the brakes and spin his car around.

At the campground, the women said, Young allowed them to handcuff him and use his night-vision goggles. One of them said Young offered to let her hold his rifle, but the weapon made her nervous and she asked him to put it away.

The women said Young demonstrated fighting techniques that required him to stand between their legs or to have them wrap their legs around his waist. Then he was dispatched to a vehicle accident on the other side of the pass, where it descends to the Columbia River.

Young offered to let his guests stay with him and be dropped off just before he got to the accident scene, the women said. But they feared they would be stranded and insisted he take them back to their vehicle in Republic. They said he gave a dispatcher a false location to account for the extra time he would need to drive 33 miles out of his way, 55 miles instead of 22.

The 17-year-old said Young grabbed and swatted their buttocks as they got back into his car, and both women said he tried to hug and kiss them when he dropped them off in Republic.

The 20-year-old said she and her friend had at first refused Young’s offer of the Sherman Pass ride-along because it seemed “kind of weird,” but he persisted.

She told authorities she wanted no more contact with Young after that, but he repeatedly drove past or parked outside her home and places she visited.

“I didn’t feel like I could go outside at night and take a walk because I knew he worked nights,” she told investigators.

The 17-year-old said Young approached her twice in his patrol car after the Sherman Pass ride-along, but she also didn’t want to see him again.

“I wasn’t exactly sure how he was, if he’s a rapist or something,” the girl told investigators.

A third woman – a friend of the 20-year-old – told WSP investigators she had two sexual encounters with Young in an affair that lasted a month or two in 2002 when she was 19. For a week after she broke it off, the woman said, Young would park outside her house. Once, she said, he turned on his siren to try to get her to come out.

She said her affair with Young began when he took her on a ride-along and they had sex at a campground west of Republic. On another occasion, she said, Young took her to the state Department of Transportation shop just south of town. Both sexual encounters were consensual, she told detectives.

A fourth person came forward after reading a Spokesman-Review story in May 2004 that reported that Young had been investigated for allegedly stalking and harassing the young woman who complained.

The story noted that Prosecutor Von Sauer, in consultation with the state Attorney General’s Office, found the evidence insufficient for prosecution.

Young also was being investigated at the time for what a forensic video expert concluded was alteration of videotapes of his traffic stops, made by a recorder in his patrol car. Young blamed equipment failure. No criminal charges were filed.

Young was, however, disciplined in January of last year for using his department-issued laptop computer to surf pornographic Web sites and to store “sexually explicit” photographs.

The woman who came forward told detectives she had an extensive sexual relationship with Young. She said Young had sex with her and didn’t give her a ticket in 1998 when she drove past Republic High School at 85 to 90 mph while intoxicated. She was 18 at the time.

In the months after that, the woman claimed, she rode in Young’s patrol car at least 40 times and had sex with him 20 to 25 times.

The woman said Young planted marijuana on a man she hated during an Aug. 14, 2000, traffic stop in Stevens County. But, on March 7 of this year, Stevens County Prosecutor Jerry Wetle declined to file charges because the alleged victim was dead, the statute of limitations had run out and the marijuana was thrown away when a judge dismissed the drug-possession charge.

Young’s report of the traffic stop indicates he asked and received permission to search the suspect’s vehicle because he is allergic to marijuana and had a reaction when he approached the vehicle.

The suspect never denied that the marijuana was his, and the stop was witnessed by another trooper, Young told The Spokesman-Review. WSP records confirm that another trooper was present for backup, but the records don’t say what the trooper saw.

WSP officials declined to release any information about what the backup trooper saw, citing an ongoing investigation – presumably the investigation into Sgt. David McMillan’s leadership of the Colville detachment.

In addition to the allegations of misconduct by Young on McMillan’s watch, McMillan failed to prevent a debacle in which one of his troopers sold unregistered securities that cost investors – including McMillan and other Colville-based troopers – an estimated $500,000.

“We are currently addressing the ongoing issues of concern in the Colville detachment and they are being handled with much success, illustrated by the activity in that detachment,” said Nelsa Brodie, a WSP public affairs officer in Olympia.

Trooper Dave Divis has been in charge of the Colville detachment during the eight months McMillan has been under investigation.

Compared with the same period last year, vehicle collisions are down 6 percent so far this year in the district, contacts with motorists are up 13 percent, DUI stops are up 21 percent and aggressive driving stops are up 33 percent, Brodie said.


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