April 14, 2009 in City

Olsen flashed badge to try to see judge

By The Spokesman-Review
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The Spokane Police Department’s internal investigation into former Officer Jay Olsen shows that officials could have charged him with a crime a year before his trial, because he tried to discuss his case with the judge assigned to preside over his trial.

Olsen quit Monday rather than submit to an interview with Police Chief Ann Kirkpatrick, who had previously informed the suspended officer that she intended to fire him for multiple violations of department policy, including carrying a loaded handgun while consuming alcohol.

Olsen was drunk when he chased Shonto Pete on March 27, 2006, and shot him in the head as Pete fled down an embankment into Peaceful Valley. Pete was exonerated on the car theft charge, and a different jury acquitted Olsen in March during his trial for first-degree assault for shooting Pete.

However, Kirkpatrick concluded in a subsequent internal investigation, released Tuesday, that Olsen violated several conduct rules.

“Your judgment and decision-making was impaired as you chased this suspect to a point where you used deadly force,” Kirkpatrick wrote. “You have brought discredit upon the Spokane Police Department and the law enforcement profession.”

In the same letter, Kirkpatrick said Olsen three times approached the assistant to Superior Court Judge Ellen Kalama Clark before his trial. The assistant, Tracy Pilkinton, told investigators that Olsen flashed a badge on March 13, 2008, as he tried to gain access to Clark’s chambers. He tried again twice the next day.

He was on unpaid suspension from the police force and had been ordered to turn over all his badges.

Olsen also left a letter for the judge to read.

The judge — who did not end up hearing the case — reported the incidents to prosecutors and police officials. Kirkpatrick asked City Attorney Howard Delaney to see whether charges were warranted.

“You tried to gain entrance to the chambers of a judge who was scheduled to try your criminal case in order to discuss matters which the judge was prohibited from discussing with you,” Kirkpatrick wrote. “The evidence in the record including your own statements convince me that you wanted the clerk to believe you were a police officer whether you actually flashed a badge or not.”

Delaney said in documents that Olsen’s conduct “appears to be a relatively plain violation of” criminal impersonation in the second degree, which is a gross misdemeanor. Olsen created the impression that he was a police officer, flashed a badge and a reasonable person would have believed he was an officer, which fit three elements needed for the crime, Delaney wrote.

But in the same letter, Delaney explained that since the violation was not based on a municipal law, it needed to be handled by the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office. Reached at home Tuesday by City Spokeswoman Marlene Feist, Delaney said he was unsure what happened to the case.

Delaney, who has been out sick, is expected to research the matter today when he returns to work , Feist said.

Rob Cossey, who successfully defended Olsen, said he never discussed the situation with prosecutors and believes the matter concerning the judge visits should be dead.

“I don’t know why they thought they could charge something on that,” Cossey said. “It’s a minor incident that happened over a whole complicated mess of this whole thing. It’s a tiny thing that got blown out of proportion, in my opinion.”

In his resignation letter, Olsen referred to the incident.

“While I did not fully appreciate that my attempt to discuss the timing of my case schedule directly with Judge Clark was improper at the time I did it, and while I did not intend to portray myself as a police officer to Judge Clark’s clerk, I can see, in retrospect, that she could easily have interpreted my having displayed my drivers license … as having conveyed the impression that I was acting as a police officer,” he wrote.

“To the extent that this incident caused the department to have to discuss things with either the court or the prosecutor’s office, I am sorry.”

Reporter Meghann Cuniff contributed to this report. Contact Thomas Clouse at tomc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5495.

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