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City, police chief dropped from Pasco officer's federal lawsuit

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The city of Walla Walla and several local officials have been dismissed in a Pasco police officer’s federal lawsuit accusing them of negligence and mishandling of a criminal case three years ago.

The complaint, filed in November, named — among others — Walla Walla Police Chief Scott Bieber and Detective Marcus Goodwater, Detective Kathy Loney, Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Morales.

Allegations against Bieber, Goodwater, and the city were dismissed June 11 by Judge Thomas O. Rice.

Walla Walla County officials have filed their own motion to dismiss certain claims against them.

Pasco Officer Anthony Haworth’s attorney, William Gilbert, filed the lawsuit in 2019 with the U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington asking for compensation for past and future economic loss, attorneys’ fees, and more, as well as demanding a jury trial.

Haworth, part of the Internet Crimes Against Children task force, was placed on paid leave for two years when he was charged in May 2017 with sex crimes dating to 2013, including indecent liberties, third-degree rape, a first-degree child sex crime and voyeurism, according to court records.

He returned to his duties after the case was dismissed on April 16, 2019, with prejudice, meaning it cannot be brought to court again, due to “insufficient evidence ... to support criminal charges, and/or sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt,” according to court documents.

The investigation was handled by Walla Walla officials due to conflicts of interest in Benton and Franklin counties, Gilbert said, as Haworth had been a Franklin County Sheriff’s Office deputy before joining the Pasco police force. The case was tried, however, in Franklin County Superior Court.

The federal lawsuit alleges that Walla Walla detectives mishandled the case, including violating Haworth’s constitutional rights during a search of his home.

The lawsuit also alleges Detective Goodwater and Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Morales ignored evidence during the criminal case that would show Haworth’s innocence.

Gilbert, Haworth’s attorney, has filed subpoenas for city officials, although he told the U-B he suspects the entire case soon may be dismissed.

Shortly after the judge dismissed claims against Walla Walla’s chief, Goodwater, and the city in June, Gilbert filed subpoenas for deposition testimony and documents from Goodwater and Loney, which were quashed at a hearing Thursday. He said he reissued his request for depositions, but he expects a fight on it again.

“They do not want me to depose the officers at all,” he told the U-B this morning.

Attorney Heather C. Yakely, representing many local officials in this case, couldn’t be reached by deadline.

Gilbert claimed the detectives provided false testimony, misrepresentations in search warrant applications and misconduct during the search of a phone during Haworth’s criminal investigation.

But Judge Rice ruled “the current attempt to seek discovery on these subjects is neither relevant nor proportional to the needs of the case,” according to court documents. “Requests that Goodwater and Loney provide all documents related to plaintiff’s criminal prosecution are likely duplicative of the discovery plaintiff already received during the criminal proceedings.”

Gilbert told the U-B he was surprised the judge dismissed claims against the city and said the defense was trying to kill allegations against the county.

A motion was filed that certain claims against the county, Nagle and Morales be dismissed with prejudice on June 16, including conspiracy, defamation, libel and false light invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. A hearing on that was scheduled for August.

By law, prosecutors receive absolute immunity while doing their jobs, Gilbert said, and so he doubted any claims against the county would hold, especially since those against the city had been dismissed.

Meanwhile, Gilbert said he continued to fight to get depositions for the detectives, who under state law receive qualified immunity. He mentioned states such as Colorado recently have passed laws eliminating qualified immunity for officers.

“The system is protecting the officers at this point,” Gilbert said. “Unless the law changes, we will end up in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in this case before it is over and done with.”

Emily Thornton can be reached at emilythornton@wwub.com or 509-526-8325.

Emily Thornton covers courts and emergency services, as well as other various stories. She has been in the newspaper industry off and on since roughly 1999 and lived primarily on the West Coast, but also Florida and Europe.