September 22, 2011 in City

Charge against detective dropped

Jury fails to reach unanimous verdict
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The case against former Spokane police Detective Jeff Harvey has essentially been dropped after a jury deadlocked Wednesday on an obstruction charge and the prosecutor said he won’t pursue a second trial.

Verdicts require unanimous decisions and the jury split 5-to-1 in favor of acquittal. Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Brian O’Brien said the case is over.

“I won’t be pursuing it,” O’Brien said. Harvey “had to go through the full trial. We had our day in court on this charge.”

Harvey, 46, was charged with obstruction after a Jan. 22 encounter with a state wildlife officer who was investigating a report of shots being fired after hunting hours along Deadman Creek north of Spokane. The investigation involved Harvey’s sons and their friend, two of whom later acknowledged firing the shots that led to the complaint.

State Fish and Wildlife Officer Dave Spurbeck testified that Harvey refused to allow him to interview the boys and at one point Spurbeck had to physically move Harvey away from his vehicle, which contained several guns.

Harvey disputed the severity of the confrontation and contended that Spurbeck lied about parts of it to justify the criminal charge against him.

The former detective argued that the complaint was just part of an ongoing dispute over access to private hunting grounds and was made by a friend of Spurbeck’s.

Although the judge didn’t bar the evidence, O’Brien said he chose not to tell the jury that Spokane police officials fired Harvey at least in part due to the allegations levied in the obstruction charge.

“The case was whether the obstruction occurred,” O’Brien said. “We only had one witness.”

Defense attorney Rob Cossey was elated with the decision and questioned Harvey’s superiors for deciding to fire Harvey before the criminal case had concluded.

“When five members of the community hear the entire case and very quickly decide … this sends kind of a message to the chief,” Cossey said. Chief Anne Kirkpatrick “needs to treat all officers fairly … especially a 25-year officer like Jeff Harvey.”

Jurors said only one of their number believed Harvey was guilty. That man refused to change his stance, which he adopted within minutes of the conclusion of the trial on Tuesday.

“Why was this ever brought to court?” juror Daniel Stines said. “It was a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.” Juror Daryl Brown said some details of the encounter between Harvey and Spurbeck weren’t made clear, including where Harvey was standing in relation to Spurbeck. He also perceived the case had something to do with the police department’s administration.

Stines said he believed “the directive was not given.” Spurbeck “never said, ‘Stay there. I’m going to talk to the boys.’ Once (Harvey) was told he was obstructing, he stopped.”

Harvey declined comment, citing his unclear job situation and legal fight with the city.

Kirkpatrick fired Harvey in July in part because of the allegations from Spurbeck and what she also described in a letter as a “troubled work history.”

The city’s letter documented other discipline and negative evaluations during Harvey’s years in the department. He was suspended for 20 days in 1987 after breaking a man’s arm; given an oral reprimand in 1989 for use of excessive force; and suspended for 40 hours in 1991 for calling in sick so he could go hunting.

Within days after he was fired, Harvey and his civil attorney, Bob Dunn, filed a $10 million claim against the city for its handling of his case.

Harvey testified during trial that he had earned the department’s medal of valor. O’Brien, the prosecutor, didn’t bring up the reprimands because he said he didn’t believe they had anything to do with the case.

“Those are things that happened a long time ago,” O’Brien said. “Officers don’t like testifying against other officers, generally. No one feels glee in testifying on either side.”


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