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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Suspect records don’t prove Hahn flew solo

Frank Sennett Correspondent

Let me get this straight.

Records detailing investigations of probable child-molesting monster David Hahn – a sheriff’s deputy who blew his diseased brains out in 1981 after the department finally confronted him – miraculously turned up this spring.

The files were released last week, 16 months after Sheriff Mark Sterk claimed they’d been “shredded” and more than a month after they reportedly were found in a supply closet.

Mayor Jim West served with good buddy Hahn as both a deputy and Boy Scout leader.

One of Hahn’s likely victims swears both men sodomized him in Hahn’s apartment. (That’s Robert J. Galliher, the poor sap West attorney Carl Oreskovich has attempted to discredit. Maybe Oreskovich should spend his fee on a conscience.)

Sterk is a friend of West’s who served with his fellow Republican in the Legislature.

The mayor’s attorneys now trumpet the fact West wasn’t mentioned in the Hahn files.

The ones Sterk said had been destroyed.

The ones documenting shamefully inadequate investigations.

The ones suddenly available when they might provide cover for West.

The ones that remained out of sight when they would have been useful only to the men suing Spokane County over abuse they say they suffered at Hahn’s scummy hands.

The ones that apparently were stored behind the Ark of the Covenant that Indiana Jones brought back from his first adventure.

So we’re supposed to consider the lack of West mentions in those records – which appeared in such a magical fashion that the FBI and voters planning to cast ballots in the next election for sheriff ought to express more than curiosity about the timing – as somehow indicative of the mayor’s choirboy innocence?

West denies the abuse allegations, and he has not been convicted or even charged. But the fact he’s not named in the Hahn documents proves absolutely nothing.

If you don’t suspect we’re possibly being manipulated by the powers that be, you have not been paying attention. And if it turns out those files were purposely hidden, Galliher’s attorney can seek civil sanctions against whoever did the hiding.

The department’s vision statement reads, “The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is prepared to face the law enforcement needs of the future.” But the question remains: Is the department prepared to honestly face its checkered past?

This situation stinks, at least politically. County residents deserve a thorough, independent investigation to see if it stinks in other ways as well. And to discover if there are any other Hahn files still tucked away in storage. (On Tuesday, Sterk complained about The Spokesman-Review’s coverage of the file fiasco. He called the notion he might be trying to hide something “just not true,” and said any scrutiny should fall on former Sheriff Larry Erickson. If so, Sterk should welcome an independent investigation to clear up any suspicions.)

Either way, Sterk ought to be handed his wide-brimmed hat. Or maybe the voters will shred it for him.

Why? If the timing of the file release were any more convenient for West, 7-Eleven would have to sue the sheriff for infringement.

And what other facts did the department get wrong? Could Galliher’s claim he was beaten by jail guards be true, despite official denials? Here’s what he told The Spokesman-Review: “As they were kicking me they said just that I wasn’t going to disgrace their police department or sheriff’s department.” If the FBI indeed has closed its investigation into that incendiary allegation, it’s clearly time to reopen the case.

There may be an innocent explanation for the lost-and- found file scenario. They could be forgotten copies, made before the originals were destroyed. But this was still a huge mistake, and Sterk must be held to account. Like West, he no longer has the credibility to be a leader in this community.

Nottingham had a more inspiring sheriff.

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