May 6, 2009 in City
No impersonation charges expected against Olsen
Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said Wednesday that she decided against asking prosecutors to consider misdemeanor charges against former Officer Jay Olsen for trying to talk to a judge about his case.
A previous review by City Attorney Howard Delaney determined that it appeared probable cause existed to charge Olsen with second-degree criminal impersonation after he tried three times in March 2008 to discuss his shooting charges with the judge scheduled to hear his trial.
But since the underlying impersonation charge is a state law, Delaney sent the case back to the Spokane Police Department to forward on to the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office. Kirkpatrick said through a department spokeswoman that she reconsidered sending the misdemeanor case to county prosecutors but has decided against it.
“In part, Mr. Olsen was compelled to testify during our internal investigation making the case far more difficult for a prosecutor,” Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said in an e-mail to The Spokesman-Review. “We have no additional comment on this matter.”
But Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Brian O’Brien said any statements Olsen gave for the internal investigation wouldn’t have mattered if investigators had enough evidence.
According to police records, Olsen three times approached the assistant to Superior Court Judge Ellen Kalama Clark before his felony trial. The assistant, Tracy Pilkinton, told investigators that Olsen flashed a badge March 13, 2008, as he tried to gain access to Clark’s chambers. Olsen tried again twice the next day and he left a letter for the judge to read.
“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,” Kirkpatrick wrote in police records.
Olsen – who at the time had been ordered to turn in all his badges – referred to the incident when he resigned from the police force.
“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 in his resignation letter.
Kirkpatrick’s decision comes three weeks after she took umbrage with statements by Spokane City Councilman Bob Apple about the appearance of a double standard for charging decisions against officers.
However, O’Brien said charges were not a foregone conclusion even if the case had been forwarded to his office. He explained that criminal impersonation requires that the suspect had gained something through his impersonation.
“If it was to discuss the scheduling, that wouldn’t be a benefit,” O’Brien said.
What’s more, “it would look like vindictive prosecution,” he said.
“If you end up going back and prosecuting someone on a pre-existing misdemeanor because you lost the case on the most serious charges available, Mr. Public wouldn’t like it. If I prosecute Joe Citizen for a serious offense and said, ‘Geez, we lost that case so we will prosecute him for having too many cars in his yard a year ago,’ Mr. Public wouldn’t like it.”