Detective withheld evidence, so judge drops sex charge

LYNNWOOD — Lynnwood police officials continue to investigate one of their detectives whose mishandling of evidence prompted a Snohomish County judge to dismiss a felony sex charge against a former mental health worker accused of abusing a teenage patient.

Superior Court Linda Krese tossed out a child molestation charge after it was brought to her attention that the lead detective, Jackie Arnett, failed to turn over an audio recording and related reports of a 20-minute interview with the teen. The judge was told the boy’s statements during that Feb. 18 interview were inconsistent with others he’d made a couple of weeks earlier.

There was no physical evidence in the case against Lyndon Boyd, a former Compass Health employee. Prosecutors alleged that Boyd fondled a 13-year-old client during a home visit earlier this year. The boy also claimed that Boyd talked to him about sex and disrobed in front of him at a public pool.

Boyd denied abusing his client.

The prosecution rested on the credibility of the boy and other witnesses. Krese found that the Feb. 18 interview could have been used to call into question the teen’s testimony. It also could have raised questions about Arnett’s credibility for her failure to properly report the interview, Krese said.

There’s no way to know what weight a jury would have given that evidence.

The defense discovered the interview in July, a few days into Boyd’s second trial — but some three months after his first trial. A jury in April couldn’t reach a verdict after about a week of testimony that included the teen, Arnett and Boyd.

“The failure of Detective Arnett to disclose the recorded interview and her report prejudiced Mr. Boyd in the first trial,” Krese concluded.

The second trial was scheduled to begin July 8. The day before, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Robert Grant produced two new statements from the teen, written in May and June. The court agreed to allow the defense to re-interview the boy and his mother based on the new statements.

Defense attorney Natalie Tarantino also requested the recorded interview Arnett conducted with the boy about another separate sexual assault allegation unrelated to Boyd. Arnett had testified at trial that she’d taken a report about the incident. The court ordered a copy of the interview to be turned over to Tarantino.

The public defender was provided a link that, to her surprise, contained the undisclosed Feb. 18 interview and picture of the detective’s report, both related to the allegations leveled against Boyd. Some of his comments contradicted what the teen told Arnett on Feb. 1.

“I don’t know whether it was purposeful or ineptitude. Her lack of training for investigating these serious cases is shocking,” said Tarantino, a longtime public defender.

Krese declared a second mistrial when it was clear that neither the prosecutor nor the defense had been provided all the discovery.

The judge made it clear in her written findings dated Oct. 24 that she didn’t find any fault with Grant. He didn’t know about the undisclosed interview, even though Arnett had been asked in March to provide a complete copy of her report to the deputy prosecutor.

Arnett was called to testify in front of Krese to explain why she failed to turn over evidence.

The detective explained that there were ongoing problems with New World Systems, the county’s beleaguered emergency dispatch and records-keeping system. Police and firefighters alike have complained about the multimillion-dollar system that has resulted in delayed responses and technical glitches.

Arnett said that she kept a back-up of all her work because of those problems. She said she didn’t check her back-up materials when Grant asked her to make sure she’d sent him everything.

“She appeared to the court to be deliberately engaged in obfuscation with regards to providing discovery in this matter,” Krese found. “The court does not find Detective Arnett’s reported inability to recall that the February 18, 2016, recorded interview even occurred to be credible, given the number of times she was asked about her work on this case and her presence at the first trial.”

Three days later prosecutors disclosed that Arnett had recorded another interview in March that also had not been turned over. In the interview the teen expressed concerns that a neighbor child might be being abused. The interview was conducted when Arnett went to the teen’s home to take photographs at the prosecutor’s request.

“It is unclear to the court whether Detective Arnett has disclosed all discovery materials or all of her contacts with (the teen) and other witnesses,” Krese found.

Krese concluded that the mishandling of evidence in the case amounted to governmental misconduct. The judge said Arnett’s failure to turnover the Feb. 18 materials “represents, at least, gross negligence on her part in failing to comply with her duty to provide complete discovery. The court is not persuaded that she acted in good faith in providing discovery in this matter.”

The judge dismissed the charge against Boyd.

He’d been held in jail for five months. The state in June denied his application to work as a mental health professional based on the allegations. Boyd now is working as an administrative assistant with Snohomish County Public Defender Association.

“We are happy for Mr. Boyd but he was not fully vindicated as we would have hoped because we didn’t have a fair trial,” Tarantino said. “He’s always maintained his innocence.”

Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe said his office isn’t pointing fingers at anyone. Sex crime investigations are complicated and often generate voluminous discovery.

“We feel responsible, regardless of who caused it,” Roe said.

Lynnwood Deputy Chief Bryan Stanifer, who was acting chief at the time of the judge’s ruling, called for an administrative investigation into Arnett’s handling of the case. That could wrap up by the end of the year.

The Daily Herald did not contact Arnett directly after being told by the police department that she isn’t allowed to talk about the case while the internal investigation is underway.

She continues to work as a detective, investigating crimes against persons, including sexual assaults and homicides, Lynnwood police Cmdr. Steve Rider said. Arnett has been with the department since 2007. She’s been assigned to investigations since 2011.

She has a solid reputation, Rider said.

“She historically has done outstanding work and we’re still looking into what happened this time,” he said. “Judge Krese’s ruling is not indicative of the work Detective Arnett is known for.”

Lynnwood police came under fire in 2011 for how they handled an investigation into a 2008 rape. An 18-year-old reported being tied up, threatened with a knife and raped. Officers questioned the teen’s story and she ended up being charged with making a false report.

Lynnwood police reopened her case in 2011 when a photograph of the woman and her identification card were found with a serial rapist caught in Colorado. Marc O’Leary later admitted that he raped the teen and another woman while living in Mountlake Terrace.

The woman sued the city and eventually settled a lawsuit for $150,000.

“We do thorough and competent investigations 99 percent of the time. A couple of these are anomalies,” Rider said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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