Leading deputy resigns, charged

By SCOTT NORTH

Herald Writer

A top administrator at the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office has resigned and is now charged with a felony for alleged possession of child pornography.

Gary W. Lang, 42, of Arlington, had images on his home computer of prepubescent males and females engaged in sexual intercourse, Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Dave McEachran alleged in court documents filed Thursday.

McEachran charged Lang with a single count of possession of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, a felony.

If convicted, Lang could face up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, but the standard punishment is a jail sentence of less than a year. Because this is his first scrape with the law, Lang also could be eligible for a first-time offender waiver, which would carry a jail sentence of no more than 90 days.

Thursday, Lang resigned from the sheriff’s office, where he served as a bureau chief and other top leadership positions, said his attorney, Stephen Garvey of Everett. Lang resigned because he knew that his legal troubles placed Sheriff Rick Bart in "an untenable position," regardless of the merits of the case, Garvey said.

"This is a guy who spent 20 years of his life in law enforcement, and I would guess (resigning) is one of the most painful things he’s ever done," Garvey said.

Lang came under investigation in April after family members discovered suspected child pornography on his computer and elsewhere in his home and alerted a sheriff’s sergeant. Lang was placed on paid administrative leave while Everett police and the Washington State Patrol scoured his computer equipment and home for evidence. McEachran was appointed special prosecutor because of Lang’s close ties to Snohomish County’s justice system.

The charge was filed in Whatcom County in part because Lang has indicated he is willing to waive any objection to having it handled there, McEachran said. A court appearance is scheduled Thursday.

An affidavit the prosecutor filed along with Thursday’s charge recounts many details already revealed in a search warrant, including information about how Lang’s family came across suspected child pornography on his computer and hidden in a book on golf course design.

The affidavit details how a State Patrol detective scoured Lang’s computer, allegedly finding sexually explicit images and Web site addresses that appeared to be sexually oriented and involving teens and children.

The detective also was able to recover keywords that had been used on the computer to search the Internet, McEachran wrote. "Some of the key words were: sex+children; preteen+sex+pictures; intercourse+and+children," he added.

Images found on the computer and at Lang’s home were shown to a nurse practitioner who works at the Providence Everett Sexual Assault Center. The nurse, who has "extensive training in normal child development, including sexual maturity stages," determined that the images showed intercourse between a girl who appeared to be 9 years old and a boy under 15.

"There were other pictures of children under the age of 13 and under the age of 16 that depicted sexually explicit activity," McEachran alleged.

The affidavit does not detail how many images were found, but McEachran said "we are not talking about dozens. We are talking about 10 that we recovered."

Garvey declined to discuss how Lang will plead. The defense attorney said that considering the evidence provided McEachran, "I am disappointed, but not surprised, by the decision (the prosecutor) felt he had to reach."

Lang has served at the sheriff’s office since 1982, moving up steadily through the ranks. Bart promoted him to chief of operations in January 1997, a position the sheriff said involved him "in every major decision" and policy development since.

"I am deeply saddened by these events and want to reassure the community that your sheriff’s office personnel remain dedicated and committed in providing the highest quality law enforcement services to the citizens of Snohomish County," Bart said in a prepared statement.

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