Island County sheriff’s sergeant accused of drugging, raping women

Investigators believe Sgt. John Nieder mixed a date rape drug into drinks of two women before sexually assaulting them.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118

WHIDBEY ISLAND — Investigators believe Sgt. John Nieder with the Island County Sheriff’s Office mixed a date rape drug into the drinks of two women before sexually assaulting them, according to court documents.

Nieder appeared in Skagit County Superior Court Oct. 14 and the judge set his bail at $200,000.

Prosecutors charged Nieder the same day with two counts of rape in the second degree. Under the charges, the 50-year-old sergeant assigned to Camano Island is accused of raping the women while they were “incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless or mentally incapacitated.”

A team of deputies and detectives from the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office arrested Nieder at his Conway home and executed a search warrant on Oct. 13. The Island County Sheriff’s Office placed Nieder, who has a history of sexual harassment allegations within the department, on administrative leave pending the outcome of the case.

A report by Detective Emily Wolfe with the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office states that the two women first met Nieder through the dating app Bumble, where he used the name “Flaxen.” The women dated Nieder briefly before the alleged assaults occurred.

One of the women reported on Oct. 5 that she had been raped by Nieder at his home. She reported feeling unusually weak and strange after drinking wine that he had provided her. She could not lift her arms or walk by herself, the report states. She reported she was “really out of it and could hardly feel her body” when Nieder started raping her; he choked her during the rape, making her feel unsafe, the detective wrote.

The woman reported Nieder raped her again in the morning while “it seemed like he did not want her to wake up,” the report states.

The woman went to a hospital for a sexual assault exam. The lab manager said the woman’s description of what occurred was consistent with a sedative being used. A blood sample was sent to the lab, but results were not back yet at the time of the report.

In 2020, another woman reported a similar story. Nieder gave her whiskey at his home and she felt intoxicated. The woman said the sex started out consensual but then he put his hands around her neck and choked her, the report states. She was scared and told him to stop, but he raped her while choking her, the report states.

The woman said the next day she felt far sicker then she should have been from drinking the amount of alcohol she had consumed, the report states. She originally told investigators that she didn’t want to pursue charges because she was going through a messy divorce, but now she is willing to go forward with prosecution.

“Based on our training and experience, and the experiences of both victims, we believe a date rape drug was mixed with the drink that Nieder poured for them,” Wolfe wrote.

The detective also spoke to a woman who had contact with Nieder through his job at the Island County Sheriff’s Office. Nieder was one of the deputies who responded to her 911 call regarding a court order violation following a “horrific assault,” the report states. The woman reported “Nieder made her feel uncomfortable and that it was evident that he liked to see women hurt, ” the report states.

Prior to his arrest, Nieder had a history involving sexual harassment and assault allegations in Island County. In 2014, he was fired for sexually harassing a female detective who was training him to investigate sex crimes. After an appeal, an arbitrator ruled that while he had sexually harassed his colleague, his termination was too harsh of a punishment and the former sheriff was forced to re-hire him.

In 2019, a male deputy on Camano Island reported that Nieder had touched him in “an aggressive and sexual manner.” The sheriff’s office investigated and was unable to substantiate the allegations. The deputy filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office and county claiming sexual harassment and other allegations. The county recently settled for $105,000 on the condition that the deputy quit.

This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News Times, a sibling publication to The Herald.

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