EVERETT — Sheriff Adam Fortney has reinstated two more Snohomish County deputies who were fired by the previous sheriff for violating policy.
Master patrol deputy Matt Boice and deputy Evan Twedt lost their jobs Nov. 1, less than a week before Election Day, when an internal investigation found they carried out a warrantless search on a car two years ago, then tried to cover it up.
The new sheriff disagreed with the investigation’s conclusions, reversed the decision of his predecessor and quietly reinstated the deputies Friday.
They will receive a reprimand in their personnel file for writing incomplete reports, Fortney said in a public announcement Tuesday.
Standing before reporters, Fortney defended his decision.
“I know what this looks like,” he said. “Adam’s coming in and he’s reinstating all his friends. And I understand it may take more time to build more trust with the community … I just want to make sure I make it very clear, that’s not what’s going on here.”
Before becoming sheriff, Fortney was a sergeant who supervised the two deputies on the night shift in the South Precinct. Twedt had been a deputy for four years. Boice is a 12-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, and at the time of the firing was president of the deputy sheriff union. Fortney had been the union president before him. Boice contributed at least $500 to Fortney’s bid to become the county’s top cop, in a campaign where Fortney pledged to “take the handcuffs off police officers and put them on the criminals where they belong.”
At Tuesday’s press conference, Fortney said he met with the union two days after becoming sheriff. He said the former sheriff, Ty Trenary, never heard grievances filed by the union on behalf of Boice and Twedt, so it was up to Fortney to make the final determination.
“I’m the new sheriff, I get to weigh in on my guys’ discipline, bottom line,” he said.
As a result of the internal investigation under Trenary, both Boice and Twedt landed on a list of law enforcement personnel with a history of credibility issues — often known as a Brady list, in reference to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland.
Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell said the deputies’ status on the list will not be affected by their reinstatement. The information that landed them there hasn’t changed, and court cases could still be influenced as a result of their actions, Cornell said.
Fortney wrote that he re-hired the pair after “an extensive review of the internal investigation.”
“I do not believe either Deputy Boice or Deputy Twedt purposefully violated any laws, nor were they dishonest in any of the dealings related to this matter,” the sheriff wrote.
The decision came a week after Fortney reinstated another deputy, Art Wallin, who had been fired for violating policy in the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Nickolas Peters. That encounter resulted in the county settling a civil lawsuit for $1 million.
At question in the firings of Boice and Twedt was a traffic stop in Snohomish.
Early June 10, 2017, deputy Boice pulled over a car speeding 10 mph over the limit. Twedt arrived to help arrest the driver, who had a drug pipe in open view on the passenger side. Twedt then found meth in the man’s pocket and a baggie of ammo in the driver’s door. Boice asked for the suspect’s permission to search the car, but the driver declined.
At some point Twedt looked through the trunk anyway, without a search warrant and in violation of sheriff’s office policy and case law. The deputies found a shotgun, and as a felon, it would be a crime for the driver to have a gun.
The encounter came up in June 2019, when a sheriff’s lieutenant overheard two deputies talking about it. An internal investigation was launched and Trenary fired Boice and Twedt — days before Trenary lost to Fortney in the election Nov. 5.
Trenary wrote that Boice and Twedt claimed the warrantless search was OK because it was an “inventory search,” in which deputies make an account of items in a vehicle before it’s towed. The deputies made no mention of that search in their reports, Trenary wrote in the termination letters. And when a deputy trainee requested a warrant to search the trunk, he made no mention that they already found a shotgun.
Trenary accused Twedt of helping the trainee write the warrant, giving him templates, checking his work and suggesting edits, with the apparent goal of using “unlawful search techniques” and avoiding having to jump through legal hoops.
“Your failure to mention anything here that would even potentially provide a judge or a superior officer some clue that you had already done the search is both telling and damning,” Trenary wrote.
In a previous interview with The Daily Herald, Boice claimed the firings were the result of their support for Fortney’s campaign.
In a Facebook post shortly before the election, Fortney claimed there was corruption within the sheriff’s office administration and called for an independent investigation.
Fortney told a Herald reporter he didn’t believe the deputies’ alleged violations were fireable offenses, calling the terminations “absurd.” He blamed the deputies’ actions on a lack of awareness about that specific policy, and on the deputy in training who submitted a “knowingly incomplete affidavit.” Fortney wrote that he found no “concrete evidence” that Boice and Twedt took part in misconduct by the trainee, who was fired for a separate transgression.
“The evidence that they knew in advance what he was doing, or somehow directed him in this regard, is to me wholly inadequate,” Fortney wrote. “The most that can be said is that Dep. Boice and Dep. Twedt wrote less complete reports than they should have. This allowed the prior administration to jump to conclusions, attempting to lay the blame for one deputy’s unethical actions (the Trainee’s) on all of the officers effecting the arrest that night.”
The suspect who was stopped in Snohomish eventually pleaded guilty to drug possession. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail. Charging papers mentioned the shotgun in the trunk, but it doesn’t appear prosecutors followed up with a firearm possession charge. Trenary noted the possibility of more charges could have influenced the defendant’s choice to admit guilt.
Reporter Caleb Hutton contributed to this article.