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Attorney says officer cleared of evidence tampering; Sheriff disagrees

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 30, 2015

A police officer investigated for laundering clothes that should have been preserved as sexual assault evidence following a party at his home has been cleared of suspicion, his attorney said Friday.

However, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich cautioned against rushing to such conclusions as the investigation continues.

“I think that may have been premature,” Knezovich said. “We’ll be running this past the prosecutor before we say it’s been cleared.”

The evidence-tampering investigation is related to the case involving a police sergeant suspected of sexually assaulting a subordinate female officer who had passed out during the party.

Officer Doug Strosahl hosted the party at his home the evening of Oct. 24. A female officer who attended the party told investigators she passed out after consuming several drinks, and when she awoke in a guest bedroom, patrol Sgt. Gordon Ennis had his hand down her pants and was fondling her, court records say.

The woman told Strosahl what had happened before she left his home Sunday morning, according to court records. She had been wearing borrowed clothing during the alleged assault and left that clothing behind when she went home, court records say.

The investigation into evidence tampering was sparked because the clothes worn by the woman were washed before they were turned over to investigators. Both the evidence tampering and sexual assault investigations are being handled by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Chris Bugbee, Strosahl’s attorney, said his client went back to bed Sunday morning after the woman told him about the alleged assault. Bugbee said Strosahl’s fiancee cleaned the house and washed the clothes while Strosahl was sleeping.

Other people who attended the party stayed at the home overnight, Bugbee said. “They confirmed that when they got up the house was clean and he was still asleep.”

Asked about that description of events, Knezovich said he couldn’t go into detail about an ongoing investigation. “If Mr. Bugbee wants to try this in the media, that’s his business,” Knezovich said. “Absolutely in no way is his client out of the woods on this.”

Meanwhile, attorney Rob Cossey, who is representing Ennis, said he disagrees with statements in court documents that his client had been tipped off about the search warrant for his cellphone records and a DNA sample.

“He didn’t know anything about the warrant,” Cossey said.

The search warrant was served on Ennis in Cossey’s office. Cossey said he did not allow Ennis to give a statement to investigators. “I didn’t have any information and had just met him an hour before,” he said. “This all happened on the spur of the moment.”

Ennis is not scheduled to give a statement, but Cossey said there’s a “strong possibility” that he would give one in the near future.

Cossey said he’s concerned that incorrect information is being disseminated about his client. “When you’re accused of sexual assault, that taints you,” he said. “People immediately think you’re guilty.”

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