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Three men whose convictions for drug-related crimes were thrown out after they spent four years in prison are not entitled to compensation by the state, a Spokane County judge has ruled. Robert Larson, Tyler Gassman and Paul Statler sued the state in January 2014 and sought about $680,000 under a law written to compensate prisoners who were wrongfully jailed. The three men were convicted of charges including assault, robbery and drive-by-shooting stemming from drug-related activity in April 2008 and have maintained their innocence.
Three men who spent more than four years behind bars based chiefly on a recanted confession will try to persuade a Spokane jury to compensate them for more than $680,000. Robert Larson, Tyler Gassman and Paul Statler sued the state last year, citing a law passed just two years ago that enables wrongfully convicted defendants to seek damages for time spent behind bars. The men were found guilty of charges including robbery, assault and drive-by shooting stemming from a violent drug-related incident in April 2008. But that conviction was based on information from jailhouse informant Anthony Kongchunji who later admitted to falsely implicating the three men to avoid more jail time.
An internal affairs investigation into the work of a Spokane County sheriff’s detective – who helped convict three men who were imprisoned for years before their convictions were thrown out – has found he failed to file reports properly, but clears him of the most serious misconduct accusations. Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said the investigation was a thorough attempt to examine the claims made about Sgt. Doug Marske, who now heads up the department’s Major Crimes Unit. But it did not satisfy critics, who questioned the independence of the investigation, conducted by a longtime colleague of Marske, and who criticized the report for failing to interview a key witness who was allegedly coerced by Marske into not testifying on behalf of one of the defendants.
When three Spokane men were released from prison and exonerated of felony charges associated with a drug robbery, their defense attorneys took a lot of the heat from the judge. But it was Sheriff’s Department investigators, and Sgt. Doug Marske in particular, who came in for pointed criticism from others. According to the exonerated men, their attorneys and the team that eventually won the men’s freedom, Marske pressed the case solely on the word of an unreliable informant who got a sweetheart deal; he and prosecutors failed to consider exonerative possibilities and changed details in their allegations when the facts became unfriendly, according to this critique of the case.
A man cleared by a jury last week of helping a friend after a Spokane Valley shooting faces new charges that he threatened to rape the lead detective’s wife. Terrence D. Riley was found not guilty Friday of first-degree rendering criminal assistance to Jarrod E. Veilleux. Veilleux, 30, was accused of shooting a man outside the Oasis Tavern on Feb. 24, 2012, and Riley was charged with helping him flee. Veilleux was exonerated of charges of attempted murder and first-degree assault, but convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
A reserve Stevens County sheriff’s deputy with eight months’ experience fired the shot that killed a despondent 66-year-old man last week. Spokane County investigators, who are in charge of the inquiry, said Thursday that Reserve Deputy Nick Wolfe and five-year veteran Deputy Travis Frizzell responded to a 911 call in the same car at about 10:50 p.m. last Friday. Officials previously described it as a “suicidal” call from John E. Peterson, a Vietnam veteran who had recently moved to Stevens County from Minnesota.
The man shot to death Friday by Stevens County deputies was a 66-year-old Vietnam veteran who had struggled with depression. Law enforcement officials have yet to officially identify John E. Peterson, who recently moved to Stevens County from Minnesota, but his family said Wednesday they remain concerned because they have not received much information about what happened.
An investigation into the fatal shooting of a gunman by a Spokane police officer last month has been sent to the Spokane County prosecutor’s office for review. Investigators found that “the only criminal actions committed that day were those of the decedent, 46-year-old Todd White,” Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Doug Marske said Thursday in a news release.