Pierce County prosecutors say they can’t prove a theft charge against a former Tacoma police officer accused of overlapping work hours with other jobs and have dismissed the case.
In addition to his duties as an officer, Robert Luke, 56, worked security at the Tacoma Mall, the Port of Tacoma and Pierce Transit. Investigators said earlier this year that he’d claimed overlapping hours on time cards for the outside employers.
But on Oct. 18, Deputy Prosecutor Sabrina Ahrens dropped the second-degree theft charge.
“After I reviewed all the time records from the Tacoma Police Department and the Port of Tacoma, I just didn’t believe that there was sufficient evidence to support criminal intent that’s required for a second-degree theft charge,” she told The News Tribune.
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Defense attorney Bryan Hershman said a closer look at the investigation showed the detective assigned to the case appeared to have misread some of the time records. On a few of the days in question, Hershman said, he didn’t believe Luke had been working at all.
“It was dropped because the defense provided the state with a very detailed analysis of the state’s investigation, proving it to be utterly baseless,” the attorney said. “This is not hyperbole, it was utterly baseless.”
Hershman said that had he needed to prove innocence at trial, instead of the burden being on the prosecution to prove guilt, “I believe we would have won.”
According to the initial charging papers, dated Jan. 14: Luke accepted a full-time job at the port on the condition he retire as a police officer, but he kept working both jobs and recorded 38 overlapping hours between February 2013 and September 2015.
Port officials learned Luke was working two jobs, which prompted the investigation into his work hours.
Luke retired as an officer Oct. 1, 2015, and the port fired him Feb. 3.
Hershman noted that 20 years ago Luke helped make Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood safer.
In 2006, the FBI honored him for that work, which involved arresting suspected gang members and drug dealers.