Special Reports

Clemmons sister’s case goes to jury

What did LaTanya Clemmons know and when did she know it?

Those were the central themes Monday as Pierce County deputy prosecutors and Clemmons’ defense attorney delivered their closing arguments in the 34-year-old woman’s trial.

She’s charged with four counts of first-degree rendering criminal assistance for allegedly helping her cop-killer brother’s suspected getaway driver after the fatal shooting of four Lakewood police officers Nov. 29.

She’s the first person to go to trial in the case and faces up to five years in prison if convicted as charged.

Deputy prosecutors Stephen Penner and Kevin McCann had to convince the jury that she knew Dorcus Allen was being sought for aggravated murder when she drove him to Federal Way, twice gave him money for a motel room and then gave him more cash for a bus ticket to Arkansas.

They also argued that the crimes were worse than normal because they were aimed at law enforcement officers and carried an impact that was destructive to people aside from the victims.

Penner said Monday that there’s no way Clemmons could not have known it was Allen – her roommate and occasional lover – who drove her brother, Maurice, away from the scene that day and that police were looking for him.

Maurice Clemmons had talked only days before the attack on Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Greg Richards and Ronald Owens of wanting to kill cops, Penner reminded the jury.

His sister was made aware of that talk by other relatives, he said.

On the day of the killings, Allen told LaTanya Clemmons that he and her brother “was just there” when images of the shooting were broadcast on television, Penner said.

During an interview with detectives several days later, she said she knew as early as the morning of Nov. 29 that Allen had driven the truck, the deputy prosecutor added before playing a recording of that interview for the jurors.

Later that day she drove him to the motel and gave him money for the room, Penner said.

“It’s completely unreasonable for her to claim she didn’t know,” he said.

That’s what her attorney, Helen Whitener, argued during her closing argument.

LaTanya Clemmons told detectives she got Allen the room because he was uncomfortable talking to police and the bus ticket so he could go home to attend his grandmother’s funeral.

The manhunt after the shooting focused on Maurice Clemmons, not on any getaway driver, Whitener said.

It was a day or two later that Allen’s name first was mentioned publicly, she told jurors.

It’s conceivable Allen himself didn’t know he was being sought for murder, Whitener said.

Whitener pointed out that Allen – who detectives contend waited at a nearby car wash for Maurice Clemmons – crossed the street to buy a cigar at one point that morning and was milling around outside the truck where one witness testified seeing him pretending to wash it.

“Why bother with pretending to wash the truck if you’re the getaway driver? Stay inside with the engine running,” Whitener said. “Why bother? Because you don’t know what (Maurice Clemmons) is doing.”

She also pointed out that Allen went home after the shooting, took a shower, then accompanied La-Tanya Clemmons to her aunt’s house before riding with her to a Federal Way motel, where he rented a room for two nights with money she gave him.

Not exactly the actions of a man desperate to flee the murder of four cops, she told jurors.

“The state’s getaway driver does not appear to be trying to get away,” Whitener said.

During his rebuttal argument, McCann dismissed those arguments, saying jurors would have to “suspend common sense” to believe it.

Why would Allen move into a motel room “if he didn’t do anything wrong?” McCann asked.

“She did what she had to do to protect her boyfriend,” he said of LaTanya Clemmons.

The result: The community lived in fear for longer than it should have while detectives hunted him down, McCann added.

The jury got the case about noon and left the County-City Building on Monday afternoon without rendering a verdict.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644