Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist faces a federal lawsuit that accuses him of directing a staff member to file false declarations in court, withhold evidence and abuse the legal process.
The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, names Lindquist and deputy prosecutor Jared Ausserer as individuals, along with Pierce County.
The plaintiff is Lynn Dalsing, a former Longbranch resident and the target of a bungled prosecution: a long-running sex-abuse case dismissed twice, first in 2011 and again in 2015, the second time after a finding of prosecutorial vindictiveness.
Dalsing sued the county for false arrest and malicious prosecution in 2012 after the first dismissal; that civil lawsuit is ongoing, and settlement negotiations reportedly are underway.
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The county has paid $161,216 to outside attorneys as part of its defense.
The News Tribune sought comment Tuesday from Lindquist. He did not respond directly. His legal assistant forwarded the request to Richard Jolley, an outside attorney handling the case. Jolley offered a statement on behalf of Lindquist, Ausserer and the county. He called the lawsuit baseless. Though Dalsing has been acquitted of criminal charges twice, Jolley characterized her as guilty:
“The evidence shows Lynn Dalsing facilitated the sexual abuse of her daughter, granddaughter and their friend by her convicted sex offender husband,” Jolley said. “The fact that she wants money from the taxpayers after assisting her husband in the abuse of children is an outrage.”
The federal lawsuit is a fresh action based on recent circumstances, alleging violation of Dalsing’s civil rights.
It refers to the second dismissal of charges against Dalsing and the vindictiveness finding. It seeks unspecified punitive damages.
It contends Ausserer, acting on Lindquist’s orders, filed child rape charges against Dalsing in 2014 in retaliation for her lawsuit and to prevent discovery of evidence favorable to her civil case.
Following the new charges, civil discovery stopped. Dalsing was ordered into electronic home monitoring, and her travel was restricted.
The federal suit alleges those restrictions violated her civil rights because the criminal charges hinged on false and incomplete statements to the court, and that Ausserer and Lindquist knew it.
The charges omitted exculpatory information favorable to Dalsing and known to prosecutors, the suit contends.
“Ausserer acted at the direction of Lindquist, his supervisor and the elected prosecutor for Pierce County,” the suit states. “Prosecutor Lindquist, as a policymaker for Pierce County, ratified Ausserer’s conduct.”
The suit compounds the county’s legal troubles in the Dalsing matter, which has sprouted tentacles that threaten Lindquist’s career.
The Dalsing case is a key element in two whistleblower complaints filed against him by members of his senior staff.
It’s also the linchpin of a state bar association complaint that accuses Lindquist and other high-ranking deputies of violating rules of professional conduct in their pursuit of a legal win.
All three complaints are under investigation. County Executive Pat McCarthy, reached Tuesday afternoon, declined to comment on the prosecutor’s response to Dalsing’s new lawsuit, but she reiterated past concerns she has raised about expenses associated with ongoing legal matters involving Lindquist’s office.
“I’ve got concerns about the cost to the county,” she said.
Allegations regarding the Dalsing matter also appear in a recall petition that seeks to remove Lindquist from office. A court hearing on the recall is set for Aug. 4.
In 2010, prosecutors charged Dalsing with molesting her then 7-year-old daughter, based on a photograph later proved to have nothing to do with Dalsing or the child. She spent seven months in jail.
At the same time, Dalsing’s husband, Michael, was convicted of multiple counts of child rape. The victims were the daughter and two of her young friends.
After losing a series of rulings in Lynn Dalsing’s subsequent false-arrest lawsuit, prosecutors filed new charges of child rape against her in 2014. They accused her of knowing about her husband’s actions and aiding them.
Those were the charges dismissed earlier this year due to prosecutorial vindictiveness. Superior Court Judge Edmund Murphy found that prosecutors wrongly claimed that new information justified new charges. Murphy found that prosecutors were aware of the supposed new information when the original charges were filed and did not act on it.
Dalsing’s attorney, Fred Diamondstone, said he filed the federal lawsuit to address actions taken by prosecutors over the last two years that weren’t part of the original lawsuit.
“Our criminal justice system cannot function properly when government officials deceive the courts,” he said.
The suit refers to actions described in court files, as well as a whistleblower complaint filed May 21 against Lindquist by chief criminal deputy prosecutor Steve Penner.
The complaint states that Lindquist decided to appeal the Dalsing dismissal and the vindictiveness ruling against the advice of Penner and deputy prosecutor Kit Proctor, who leads Lindquist’s appeals division.
The purpose was to “appeal and seek settlement of the (Dalsing) civil suit,” the whistleblower complaint states.
Dalsing’s federal lawsuit quotes that point, alleging the appeal was filed for improper purposes.
The allegations of false statements to the court refer to declarations filed by Ausserer, cited by Judge Murphy when he dismissed the charges against Dalsing with prejudice and added the vindictiveness ruling.
Specifically, the charging statement filed by Ausserer in 2014 omitted the fact that Pierce prosecutors submitted the Dalsing case to Snohomish County prosecutors in 2013 for review and a possible charging decision after the initial charges against Dalsing were dismissed. Pierce prosecutors made that move to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, according to Ausserer’s statements in court records.
Ausserer’s 2014 charging statement didn’t mention that fact. It also didn’t mention that Snohomish prosecutors declined to file new charges in 2013. Their reasoning: supposed new information justifying possible new charges against Dalsing wasn’t new.
Judge Murphy agreed when he dismissed the Dalsing case.
Ausserer’s new charging statement also contended that Pierce prosecutors learned for the first time in 2014 that Dalsing’s daughter had been receiving sexual abuse counseling and making statements about the original incidents.
Records in court files show that prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies knew of the counseling three years earlier and discussed it in emails. The information wasn’t disclosed when Dalsing was charged again. The federal lawsuit contends the omissions were deliberate.
“Ausserer withheld the above exculpatory material points from the Court, as part of a pattern of ‘judicial deception,’” the lawsuit states.