Former Tacoma principal appeals dismissal of wrongful prosecution lawsuit

A former Tacoma middle school principal who sued Pierce County for malicious prosecution after being charged with rape has taken his case to the Washington State Court of Appeals after losses in federal and state court.

In a lawsuit filed in 2011, Harold Wright Jr., who is African American, contends the criminal case against him was racially motivated and that prosecutors committed misconduct by withholding evidence and tampering with a witness.

A federal judge and later a King County judge called Wright’s allegations baseless, court records show.

The latest ruling came in April, when King County Superior Court Judge Theresa Doyle granted Pierce County’s motion for summary judgment, essentially dismissing the case without a trial.

Doyle agreed with U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle, who threw the case out of federal court last summer, that Wright had not proven his claims.

Settle wrote in his decision last year that “… Wright fails to provide any evidence that the prosecution was undertaken for any improper or wrongful means.

“More importantly,” Settle continued, “the jury verdict that Wright was guilty of third-degree rape conclusively establishes that there was probable cause to prosecute him.”

Wright appealed Doyle’s ruling, and the case is wending its way through the appellate process.

The former principal at Baker Middle School has been at odds with the county since 2007, when he was charged with second-degree rape.

Prosecutors alleged Wright and some friends sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman after running into her at a Puyallup-area bar. He fought the charge, going to trial later that year and denying he did anything wrong.

A Pierce County jury convicted him of the lesser charge of third-degree rape. Wright appealed.

Two years later, the state Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, overturned the convictions of Wright and a co-defendant, ruling that then-Superior Court Judge Lisa Worswick should not have allowed the jury to consider the lesser count.

Prosecutors then refiled the second-degree rape charge but later dropped it when the second deputy prosecutor assigned to the case decided the evidence was too shaky to go forward.

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