A Spokane police sergeant who was found to be lying in an investigation related to her husband’s apparent use of illegal steroids will get to keep a job on the force despite a recommendation she be terminated, according to a police internal affairs investigation released this week.
During the investigation examining Sgt. Lydia Taylor, new details emerged about the use of illegal steroids by her husband, Detective Trammell “Mell” Taylor. He was forced to retire last year after serving 27 years in the department, but he won’t face criminal charges despite telling investigators he wrote checks to a fake business to pay a drug dealer for illegal steroids over the course of four years, according to the report.
Chief Frank Straub demoted Lydia Taylor in February by two ranks to detective after internal affairs determined that she lied, interfered in a federal investigation and improperly discussed her internal affairs case with another person.
Straub said Friday the demotion was what was agreed to by him, Taylor and the Spokane Police Guild, and he declined to give further specifics.
“It was a significant demotion,” he said. “In my opinion it was appropriate to reduce her rank to detective.”
Spokane Police Guild President John Gately declined to comment about the case. An attempt to reach Lydia Taylor was unsuccessful.
Taylor agreed to the demotion but wrote in a letter to Straub she was the victim of gender and racial discrimination because of her mixed-race marriage. “The investigation conducted against me was by an all-male contingent with what I believe was a pre-ordained outcome and punishment,” she wrote.
She also wrote that she believed she was being demoted into a “purposely demeaning and patronizing role.”
Straub replied with a brief statement that he had reviewed the full file and had no reason to believe the investigation and finders were “motivated by discriminatory or retaliatory motives.”
But the demotion could be problematic because of the sustained finding that she lied.
Attorney Jeffry Finer of the Center for Justice said he was surprised Lydia Taylor was not fired.
“Once there’s a finding that a law enforcement officer has lied, it’s really hard for them to be effective,” he said. “Anything they work on is going to be compromised.”
It will be particularly difficult when Taylor begins investigations again, he said. Following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, called Brady, prosecutors are required to disclose that a law enforcement officer involved in a case has been found to have lied in the past.
If Taylor never writes an affidavit and never testifies in court, her history may not matter, Finer said.
“If something she does is critical to the case, that presents a problem,” he said. “A skilled defense attorney will be able to make considerable use of that.”
Straub said the department is researching the Brady issue.
“We’ll get an opinion from the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office,” he said.
Police officials first became aware of Mell Taylor’s possible involvement in illegal steroids in January 2014 when they were notified by the FBI that he was sending texts to people under investigation for selling steroids, according to the internal affairs investigation. One text from his dealer to his dealer’s supplier, which listed Mell Taylor’s full name and home address, said that “Mel” wanted “3 Enathiate, 2 Deca and I GH kit.”
A packet of information about the federal investigation was forwarded to Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jack Driscoll in March 2014, but Driscoll said he didn’t believe there was enough probable cause to support filing criminal charges.
“The issue was that they didn’t have any drugs that were seized,” he said.
There is no indication in investigative documents that the Taylors’ home was ever searched for illegal steroids, and Driscoll said the information he was given was months old, creating a “staleness” issue.
“They wouldn’t have been able to get a search warrant,” he said.
The internal affairs investigation was put on hold until September to allow the FBI investigation to continue. Mell Taylor was not charged as part of that investigation.
Straub declined to discuss the investigation.
Mell Taylor was first interviewed by internal affairs Sept. 30 and admitted to using steroids for four years while he competed as a bodybuilder. He said he drank it in liquid form and kept the drugs in a locked box in a closet that only he had the key to. He stated several times that his wife, also a bodybuilder, had no knowledge of his steroid use.
However, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent later told investigators that the substances Taylor admitted taking are injected by users, and the “GH” referred to in one text referred to human growth hormone, which must be refrigerated once it is mixed with water.
Lydia Taylor was interviewed by investigators three times and each time denied any knowledge of her husband’s steroid use. When she was notified that investigative files are considered public records and could be released, she objected and talked about why her husband had retired.
“The only reason why he retired is so that it wouldn’t get out to the media and wouldn’t be released and he would go quietly and stuff,” she said. “If this were to get out then obviously then that wouldn’t be the case.”
When Lydia Taylor was asked whether she had ever told anyone that she was concerned that her husband’s longtime steroid use was damaging his health, she denied it. She said she told her friend Marriya Wright, who also is a bodybuilder, that she was concerned about her husband’s constant weight loss and gain during the competition season.
At the time Wright, then a deputy prosecutor, was being investigated for giving convicted felon Matthew Baumrucker a ride as he tried to avoid being arrested on a warrant. Wright later pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance and was sentenced to a year of probation and 60 hours of community service.
The day after Lydia Taylor’s first internal affairs interview she visited Wright’s husband, Department of Corrections community corrections officer Scott Wright. After the visit, Wright called the FBI to express concerns about his safety and said Taylor seemed to be fishing for information on what he or his wife may have said to federal investigators.
When Taylor was put on paid administrative leave during the investigation she signed a statement agreeing not to talk to anyone about it other than her supervisor and investigators. She later admitted talking about it with Scott Wright, but said she never intended to and had only gone to visit him to see how he was doing.
In Taylor’s subsequent internal affairs interviews, she said Marriya Wright was being untruthful and was throwing her “under the bus” because she was under investigation for her relationship with Baumrucker.
“The question that I was asked in IA, I mean I know that it obviously came from her because I’m not stupid,” Lydia Taylor told internal affairs when questioned about her visit with Scott Wright.
Scott Wright refused several requests from investigators to give a statement about Taylor’s visit unless it benefited his wife’s criminal investigation. After one request, he told investigators, “What I could tell you guys would get her fired.” But he declined to give a statement because he said he didn’t want to be labeled a “snitch” in the media.
A memo prepared by an administrative review panel of two police captains and three lieutenants stated that Taylor’s visit to Scott Wright, a potential federal witness, could have jeopardized an active federal investigation. They also wrote that her continued assertions that she knew nothing about her husband’s steroid use “have come into doubt.”
Mell Taylor had retired by the time the internal affairs investigation was complete, but the panel recommended that his peace officer certification be revoked. Records indicate that the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission launched an investigation in March. Requests for information on the status of the investigation were not responded to on Friday.
The panel recommended that Lydia Taylor be fired for lying and that she be demoted three ranks to senior police officer for talking about the investigation and interfering in a federal investigation. Instead, she was demoted to detective and ordered to work at the front counter in the Public Safety Building for six months before returning to investigations.
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