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Jury selection in Pierce Sheriff Ed Troyer’s trial delayed after his positive flu test

Nov. 22, 2022 Updated Tue., Nov. 22, 2022 at 9:15 p.m.

By Jared Brown Tacoma News Tribune

Jury selection in Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer’s criminal trial over allegations he falsely reported a Black newspaper carrier threatened his life during a January 2021 encounter has been pushed back almost a week because Troyer is ill and tested positive for influenza A.

Visiting Kitsap County District Court Judge Jeffrey Jahns called a recess in the case until Monday, Nov. 28, when attorneys had planned to give their opening statements following the Thanksgiving holiday. Jahns said he hopes a jury will be selected by the end of the day Monday. The court initially planned for juror questioning to take two days.

Assistant attorney general Melanie Tratnik argued against the delay, citing the trial’s “tight schedule” and an out-of-state witness arriving in Tacoma on Monday. Tratnik said the witness is the former Tacoma police officer who was the first to respond to the scene.

Jahns disagreed, ruling Troyer’s presence during juror questioning is critical to his defense and that close contact with his attorneys could put them at risk of illness.

The state Attorney General’s Office charged Troyer with false reporting and making a false or misleading statement to a public servant, both misdemeanors, in October 2021 following an investigation into his confrontation with Sedrick Altheimer, a then-24-year-old newspaper carrier.

Troyer grew suspicious of Altheimer going in and out of driveways in his neighborhood and began following him in a personal car, prompting Altheimer to confront Troyer. The sheriff eventually called a law enforcement-only phone line and repeatedly told a dispatcher that Altheimer threatened to kill him.

The first of 14 officers at the scene called off more than two dozen others who were dispatched to Troyer’s neighborhood. At the scene, Troyer told police that Altheimer didn’t threaten him, according to a police report.

Troyer has denied any wrongdoing and has resisted calls to resign in the year since he was charged.

If convicted on both misdemeanor charges, he faces up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. As an elected official, only a felony conviction or a finding that misdemeanor crimes involved malfeasance in office would remove him as sheriff.

The sheriff’s attorneys raised concerns about his health after he reported feeling ill and having trouble breathing on Monday. Two COVID-19 rapid tests administered at the county jail came back with differing results. He later received fluids at the hospital while undergoing a PCR test for COVID-19, as well as testing for the flu and RSV.

Defense attorney Anne Bremner said Troyer felt worse on Tuesday, but a doctor indicated he should recover by the beginning of next week.

The court has not instituted special public health measures during the trial, though officials have prepared for a packed courtroom.

Masks and social distancing are optional in the County-City building, where the trial is being conducted.

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