Special Reports

City attorney defends actions, decries 'rush to judgment'

Tacoma City Attorney Robin Jenkinson thinks she and her staff have been unfairly portrayed by the media as "hiding behind attorney-client privilege" and refusing to discuss the facts of the David Brame case.

In an interview with The News Tribune on Friday, Jenkinson said she wants the truth to come out just as much as others do.

But she also wants people to know: "In all of this, while we've been talking about legal issues and concerns about privilege, I haven't lost sight of the magnitude of the tragedy that's been experienced by the Brame and Judson families and Haley and David Jr. Everything else pales by comparison."

Brame, the city's police chief, fatally shot his estranged wife, Crystal, and committed suicide with his department-issued handgun April 26.

In response to a number of questions, the city attorney said:

•Neither she nor assistant city attorneys Elizabeth Pauli and Shelley Kerslake met with assistant police chief Catherine Woodard to discuss the propriety of Woodard aiding Brame in his divorce.

•She didn't know that Kerslake recommended attorneys or mental health therapists to Brame after Crystal Brame filed for divorce, but said it wasn't unusual for city employees to ask her staff for such advice.

•She learned of Brame's "messy divorce" in an e-mail from Kerslake on April 13, but she viewed the e-mail, written on Kerslake's pursuit of a job in the police department, "as largely informational." She thought the fact Brame wasn't focused on Kerslake's request was a matter of a busy man setting priorities, not a sign of deep psychological problems rising to the surface.

•She did not know that Kerslake successfully asked a judge to seal records in a controversial lawsuit that contained accusations of a 1988 rape against Brame. She would have expected Kerslake to inform her of the rape allegation and of the sealing of documents in such an important case. However, asking to seal documents is such a standard procedure in many lawsuits that her attorneys often do it without telling her, she said.

•She knew about elements of the lawsuit and its progress after its filing in 1999, but Kerslake did not tell her of the rape allegation. Jenkinson said she didn't find out about that until after the shooting.

•It was unusual for an assistant city attorney to write her own job description, as Kerslake did for a post in Brame's office, and Jenkinson didn't know what arrangement Brame and Kerslake had made.

Jenkinson said she accepts responsibility for mistakes in judgment that her office may have made concerning the Brame affair.

But she also wants to see Tacoma get beyond the Brame scandal.

"The rush to judgment that's occurred, I think serves no one," she said.

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659