Many prospective jurors in the trial of former Spokane Police Guild president John Gately said they’d heard something about the case on the news, but few recalled the details of the accusations against the longtime police sergeant.
Gately’s trial on a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a law enforcement officer began Monday, as Superior Court Judge John O. Cooney and attorneys questioned a prospective pool of 80 jurors. Jury selection is expected to continue Tuesday, and the trial to last about a week.
Gately last fall was charged with two felony counts of rendering criminal assistance, in addition to the misdemeanor, after he called Sgt. Gordon Ennis last October and told him detectives from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office were planning to serve a warrant on him.
Cooney dropped the two felony charges at a hearing April 1 after a motion from Gately’s attorney, David Allen, who argued Gately’s conduct did not violate the law describing rendering criminal assistance.
Ennis was accused of raping a rookie officer at a party hosted by another police officer. When Spokane County Sheriff’s Office detective Brandon Armstrong went to serve a warrant to collect DNA from under Ennis’ fingernails, he found the nails were freshly trimmed and was not able to collect DNA, charging documents against Gately said.
Many jurors recalled hearing mention of the party on the news, but few recalled the allegations against Gately or his alleged crime. Jurors were also asked about their feelings on law enforcement officers and whether they, or a relative or close friend, had been a victim of sexual assault or misconduct, or accused of those crimes.
Armstrong, whom Gately is accused of obstructing, sat behind prosecutors during Monday’s proceedings and talked with them during breaks in the case. Several other law enforcement officers sat in the courtroom, along with members of Gately’s family.
A number of Spokane police are listed as witnesses in the trial, though prosecutor Stefanie Collins declined to say which of them the state will actually call. Among those listed are Ennis, as well as former Assistant Chief Selby Smith, investigations Capt. Eric Olsen, public information Ofc. Teresa Fuller and Office of Professional Accountability director Tim Schwering. A number of Sheriff’s Office deputies are also listed.
The defense witness list includes the victim of the alleged rape, as well as two other Sheriff’s Office detectives and expert witnesses expected to testify about search warrant procedures and investigation. Allen has not said which witnesses he intends to call.
Cooney ruled before trial that attorneys may introduce some information about the underlying rape in order to explain why detectives sought a search warrant to obtain DNA from under Ennis’ nails, but would not be permitted to go into depth about the facts of that case.
“We don’t need to try the rape charge here,” he said.
He also ruled witnesses for the state would not be allowed to offer their opinions that Gately’s actions were “wrong” or “improper,” but will be able to say they wouldn’t have made the same phone calls in his shoes because it violated protocol.
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