Officers Say Prosecutor|Ruined Their Careers

     TACOMA, Wash. (CN) – Two veteran sheriff’s detectives claim in court that a prosecutor destroyed their careers and violated their civil rights.
     Detectives Michael Ames and Glenda Nissen sued Pierce County and its Prosecutor Mark Lindquist in separate complaints last week filed in Pierce County Court.
     Both detectives have a contentious history with Lindquist, who is facing recall and whom The Seattle Times editorial board has urged to resign.
     Nissen first sued Pierce County in 2011, claiming she faced retaliation after criticizing Lindquist and backing his opponent. She requested Lindquist’s cellphone records, including text messages and call logs from his private number if it was used to conduct public business.
     The state Supreme Court ruled in September, 2015 that work-related text messages created on a public employee’s private cellphone are public records and ordered Lindquist to provide transcripts of non-exempt texts. A ruling in Nissen’s 2011 complaint is expected this month.
     In her new complaint Nissen, who has worked for the sheriff’s department since 1997, says Lindquist “trampled” on her civil rights and misused public funds to “carry out his vindictive and retaliatory transgressions.”
     Lindquist retaliated against her after she supported Lindquist’s opponent for prosecutor, Nissen says: “Nissen and others were not Lindquist’s political ‘allies’; instead they hoped to concentrate on doing their jobs well and otherwise be allowed to support a candidate of their choosing. Lindquist could not accept this, but rather insisted upon undermining their work despite the fact both had been beneficially serving Pierce County for years before he arrived,” according to the complaint.
     Nissen says Lindquist tried to get her thrown off the Financial Fraud and Identity Theft Task Force, and interfered with her job.
     “To further his own interests, Lindquist asked Sheriff [Paul] Pastor to remove Det. Nissen from the task force. Sheriff Pastor refused, but Lindquist moved her out of the prosecutor’s office anyway on or about May 5th, 2010. Defendants relocated her to the South Hill precinct, away from headquarters and from her home. Lindquist did not remove John Crawford who was also co-located in that office. On or about May 17th, 2010, the prosecutor’s office blocked Nissen’s prosecutor’s office IP address, further limiting her ability to function on the task force. On or about May 28th, 2010, Det. Nissen received a call from her supervisor who asked her whether she was still working on the task force. Det. Nissen then learned that Lindquist had asked the Sheriff to take her off the task force. While the Sheriff did not remove her from the task force, the Sheriff did not otherwise take action to stop Lindquist from undermining her ability to function effectively on the task force, or in any other assignment. Lindquist used Sheriff’s Department command staff to undermine Nissen’s reputation and work,” the complaint states.
     Nissen became so frustrated with Lindquist’s actions, including firing a longtime deputy prosecutor and refusing to prosecute a child pornography case Nissen uncovered, that she complained to The News Tribune publisher in an email and asked the newspaper to investigate Lindquist.
     She says she was suspended for three days for contacting the press.
     Nissen says the prosecutor’s office also tried to finger her for a death threat sent to Lindquist’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor, but the evidence shows Lindquist as the most likely culprit.
     “The investigation produced evidence revealing Lindquist a more likely suspect than Nissen. He was male like the DNA, he was in Seattle, he was a contributor to the New York Times where archived articles were referenced, he used the word ‘naughty’ in a book he wrote, a deputy prosecutor in his book received a similarly oddly and deliberately misspelled letter in the mail, and Lindquist may have been motivated to create a sense of security or dependency on him,” according to the complaint.
     Nissen says Lindquist tried to pursue a criminal complaint against her despite lack of evidence and banned her from the prosecutor’s office.
     Nissen and Pierce County reached a settlement agreement over Nissen’s civil claims arising from the incident, but Lindquist immediately breached the agreement by commenting on it to the press, Nissen says. The breach was the basis for her first complaint, filed in 2011.
     Nissen says the ongoing harassment forced her to resign in January.
     In his complaint, filed on Feb. 2, the day after Nissen’s, Ames, a 26-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, tells a similar story of harassment.
     “Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist has destroyed Pierce County Sheriff’s Department Detective Mike Ames’ reputable career because Mike Ames dared to question the egregious misconduct prolific during Prosecutor Lindquist’s time in office,” the complaint states.
     Ames was a computer forensic specialist when he ran afoul of Lundquist. He was assigned to examine Nissen’s computer during the investigation of the death threat. Ames says Lindquist’s office pressured him to connect Nissen’s computer to the threat, but he found no such evidence.
     “Detective Ames thoroughly examined the computers and verified the computers were not connected to the threatening letter,” the complaint states.
     It continues: “Defendants lacked any basis to question his examination, yet defendants pressured him to link the computers to the threat. Det. Ames refused. Lindquist continued to pressure law enforcement to link Nissen to the threat into 2011. Lindquist complained about Ames and accused him of dishonesty and covering up the evidence to protect his colleague. Det. Ames told command staff he was uncomfortable with the interference from the prosecutor’s office and the false accusations of dishonesty. The Sheriff knew Lindquist was interfering with the law enforcement investigation and was making false accusations about law enforcement, but offered no remedy nor other protections to Det. Ames.”
     Ames says Lindquist also interfered in a child pornography case, charging a suspect over Ames’s objections.
     Prosecutors threatened Ames and “attempted to intimidate him into re-examining the computer data without probable cause,” the complaint states.
     Ames says his overtime was taken away in retaliation for objecting. He wrote to the lead detective in the case, saying the suspect was not shown in any photographs and could not be linked to the case.
     The suspect later sued for false arrest and accused Ames personally of misidentification. Lindquist’s office withheld Ames’s previous email to the lead detective email from the defense attorney, according to the complaint.
     Ames retained independent counsel to defend himself and had to fight the sheriff’s department for reimbursement, he says in the complaint.
     Ames says the prosecutor’s office tried to brand him as a dishonest officer and “aggressively oppose[d]” his fight to clear his name.
     “In the name-clearing case, defendants asked the trial court to sanction Ames and his attorney, claiming the case was frivolous. The trial court initially granted the award on April 8th, 2014, but later reconsidered and reversed on July 30th, 2014. On reconsideration, Mike Ames offered approximately forty declarations from local attorneys, the Sheriff’s department guild, and scholars David Boerner and John Strait, who opposed sanctions,” the complaint state.
     A state court of appeals ruling on that case is pending.
     Ames says he took early retirement due to the harassment.
     Both detectives seek damages for civil rights violations, retaliation and misconduct.
     Joan Mell, who represents both detectives, said in a statement that “Lindquist has destroyed detective Mike Ames’ reputable career” and “trampled on Det. Nissen’s rights.”
     Mike Patterson, representing Pierce County, said in a statement: “The County will vigorously defend these claims through discovery and trial.”
     Lindquist’s opponents have until Feb. 22 to collect enough signatures to place his recall on the ballot.
     Pierce County’s Human Resources Division authorized an independent whistleblower investigation last year after two veteran prosecutors on Lindquist’s staff filed complaints against him.

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