Crime

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist’s timeline of legal issues

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist faces multiple complaints and court actions related to the conduct of his office. Here’s a breakdown and timeline of those matters:

1. Recall petition

Background: The petition charges Lindquist with 12 acts of misconduct and seeks his removal from office.

Process: Recall petitioners seek a ruling from a judge to determine legal and factual sufficiency. If the petition is upheld, they can begin to gather signatures to bring a recall election to the ballot for a public vote in 2016.

Upcoming dates: Tuesday — recall hearing in Kitsap County Superior Court.

Outcomes: A potential make-or-break moment for recall petitioners. If the judge finds sufficiency, the signature-gathering process begins. If not, the recall effort ends.

Delays: If the petition is upheld, Lindquist can appeal the judge’s finding to the state Supreme Court, which would consider the case on an expedited timeline.

Cost: Historically, the county pays for the legal defense of recall petitions against public officials.

2. Whistleblower investigation

Background: Two whistleblower complaints filed by high-ranking Lindquist staffers — deputy prosecutors Steven Merrival and Steve Penner — accuse Lindquist of multiple acts of misconduct. Collectively, the complaints name more than 90 potential witnesses.

Status: The complaints are under investigation by two outside law firms.

Cost: The county contract for the investigation set an initial budget of $35,000, but sources familiar with the process believe that number will increase.

Upcoming dates: Unclear, but sources familiar with the case guess the inquiry will be finished within a few weeks. The subsequent report of the investigation is expected to be lengthy.

3. Bar complaint

Background: Filed by Merrival, retired sheriff’s deputy Mike Ames and local defense attorney John Cain with the Washington State Bar Association. The complaint accuses Lindquist and six of his staffers of violating various rules of professional conduct governing lawyers (and prosecutors).

Outcomes: Bar complaints are investigated by the state bar association. If complaints are found to be valid, discipline can include a reprimand, temporary suspension of a lawyer’s license, and even disbarment. The state Supreme Court is the final arbiter.

Status: The investigative process has begun, but progress is unclear. The Pierce County code allows a budget to pay for the defense of bar complaints — up to $15,000 per complaint, per lawyer, with a lifetime cap of $45,000 for an individual lawyer.

4. Dalsing v. Pierce County

Background: A cluster of three cases — a criminal complaint against former Longbranch resident Lynn Dalsing, dismissed in 2011 and again in 2015; and two lawsuits (one federal, one local) against the county and Lindquist, alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution and violation of civil rights.

Status: Criminal charges against Dalsing were dismissed in 2015 due to prosecutorial vindictiveness. Prosecutors have appealed that decision. Many of their actions in the Dalsing case are referenced in the whistleblower and bar complaints. Both of Dalsing’s lawsuits are active and ongoing.

Outcomes: Sources say settlement talks in Dalsing’s first lawsuit have begun. The status is unclear. To date, the county has paid outside attorneys $161,216 to defend the lawsuit. The federal lawsuit, filed July 28, could generate additional outside legal costs.

5. Ames v. Pierce County

Background: An offshot of the Dalsing cases. Mike Ames, a retired county sheriff’s deputy, was the computer forensics investigator in the original criminal case against Dalsing. In 2011, he wrote an email to prosecutors, saying their evidence against Dalsing (a photograph found to have nothing to do with her) was no good. That led to the first dismissal of charges against her.

Prosecutors, with Lindquist’s approval, subsequently labeled Ames as a “Brady cop,” implying he was dishonest. Ames sued, seeking a hearing to clear his name, but no money. He lost the legal argument; county attorneys tried to make him pay $118,000 in attorney fees. They lost that argument, and appealed.

Status: Oral arguments in Ames’ case are scheduled for Sept. 18 at the state Court of Appeals in Tacoma. To date, the county has paid outside attorneys $283,313 to pursue the Ames case.

6. Nissen v. Pierce County

Background: A public disclosure case involving Lindquist’s personal phone records and text messages. Glenda Nissen, a county sheriff’s deputy, requested the records, believing they might prove that Lindquist was retaliating against her for political reasons. Lindquist, who admits using his personal phone at work, has argued that his phone records are private, and should not be subject to public disclosure. He provided a partial list of call records in response to Nissen’s request; Nissen argues the response was insufficient.

To date, the county has paid outside attorneys $302,734 to defend the Nissen case. Those legal fees are referenced in whistleblower complaints and the recall petition; the allegation is that Lindquist wasted public funds by using staff attorneys to write outside legal briefs supporting his position and presented the briefs as independent while paying outside attorneys to review them.

Status: The state Supreme Court heard the case on June 11. A decision is pending.

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