Prosecutors argued Wednesday that two phone calls made by the former Spokane Police Guild president delayed the investigation into a rape accusation against another officer and prevented them from collecting important evidence.
John Gately’s trial on charges he obstructed an investigation into an alleged rape by Sgt. Gordon Ennis began Monday.
The state’s case, which was nearly concluded Wednesday, hinges on testimony from Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Detective Brandon Armstrong, who was investigating the rape accusations against Ennis. He testified Wednesday that he and other detectives were delayed several days in their investigation after they arrived to serve a search warrant on Ennis and found his fingernails were freshly trimmed, which prevented them from collecting clippings.
“Our investigation kind of took a turn to figure out how Mr. Ennis learned about the search warrant,” Armstrong said.
In her opening statement, deputy prosecutor Amanda Fry stuck to a brief, factual description of the allegations against Gately, saying he learned about the Sheriff’s Office investigation and plans to seek DNA evidence.
“The defendant then made a private phone call to Gordon Ennis notifying him of the search warrant,” she said.
Gately’s attorney, David Allen, did not dispute that Gately called Ennis twice and told him about the warrant. But he painted a picture of Gately as a well-respected veteran officer who was trying to fulfill his dual roles as Guild president and a member of the department’s personnel assistance team on the night he learned of the rape allegations.
“Sgt. Gately was the go-to guy as far as the administration of the Spokane Police Department when there were issues with police officers,” Allen said.
Former Assistant Chief Selby Smith, who has since retired, testified Wednesday he called Gately on the night of Oct. 25, 2015 informing him of the investigation against Ennis. Smith asked Gately to make sure the victim, a fellow officer who still was in her probationary period, had support while undergoing a sexual assault investigation at the hospital. Gately said he would take care of it and called the victim’s supervisor, Sgt. Michael McNab, who did not pick up.
Phone records presented by Armstrong show Gately then used his personal cellphone to call Ennis and spoke with him briefly.
Allen said that conversation was in Gately’s capacity as Guild president. Gately told Ennis not to talk to anybody about the investigation “except in an official capacity” so that Ennis wouldn’t try to contact potential witnesses, Allen said.
Prosecutors also called Internal Affairs Sgt. Dave Staben, who testified that he was responsible for placing Ennis on administrative leave and learned about the search warrant that was being prepared. He told Gately about it because he wanted a Guild representative to come with him when Ennis was placed on leave and the warrant was served. He said when he found out Gately told Ennis about the warrant, he was concerned “the investigation might be compromised.”
Allen said he plans to call Spokane police public information officer, Teresa Fuller and Barbara Corey, a former prosecutor from Pierce County who’s expected to testify about search warrant procedures and investigations. He has not decided yet whether to put Gately on the stand, he said.
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