SEATTLE — Documents show Seattle-area prosecutors concluded an investigation into a multimillionaire biotech pioneer without charges because of what they described as inconsistencies from witness statements.
In a memo acquired by The Seattle Times, Edmonds prosecutors said there were too many inconsistent and contradictory statements about what happened the night former Seagen CEO Clay Siegall was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. But in the opinion of some legal experts, the prosecutors’ justification was flawed and strayed from evidence related to whether Siegall assaulted his then-wife.
A few days before the new year, prosecutors closed a monthslong investigation into whether Siegall — once the highest-paid CEO in Washington — pushed his wife to the ground in front of two friends. The incident happened around 3:30 a.m. April 23 at the couple’s Woodway home.
When police arrived at the Siegalls’ home, Siegall’s now ex-wife initially declined to speak to them. She appeared injured on her forehead and knees, according to police reports. A police photo obtained through a public records request shows bruises on her forehead and arms.
Prosecutors contend that details of that night remain too murky to put to a jury. In some instances, Siegall, his ex-wife and the two friends contradicted themselves. As a result, prosecutors wrote, “there is insufficient evidence to support filing charges.”
“This conclusion is based on insurmountable inconsistencies in statements and credibility issues of witnesses involved, including the inconsistent statements and lack of credibility of the suspect,” prosecutors Yelena Stock and James Zachor wrote in the memo explaining their reasoning for not pursuing criminal charges against Siegall.
It is not common for prosecutors to list reasons for declining to charge the suspect. But in the six-page memo added to the case file after they decided not to bring charges against Siegall, Stock and Zachor wrote their rationale in detail.
“The witnesses’ candor of the complete events of that evening has come into question as there are striking differences of what was told to police and what was later written in declarations and spoken in the depositions,” the prosecutors said.
Stock and Zachor declined to comment on this story.
Siegall said through his lawyer that he “appreciates the prosecutors’ meticulous work in evaluating the case and while not agreeing with all of the statements reflected in the letter has nothing more to add.” His ex-wife did not respond to requests for comment. The other couple could not be reached.
Prosecutors face a high bar to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt when the key witnesses have told contradictory narratives, said Carolyn Hartley, professor of social work at the University of Iowa. But it’s not uncommon for people’s stories to differ slightly, she said. Hartley researches court responses to intimate partner violence.
The Seattle Times asked three experts, including Hartley, to offer their opinions on the memo.
Jane Aiken, professor at Wake Forest School of Law, said the document is unusual because of the breadth of detail. She said the prosecutors might be extensively naming their reasons because the case involves a high-profile person, Siegall. Aiken specialized in representing women who were arrested on a charge of killing their partners in abusive relationships and, in 2002, wrote a primer for courts about how to handle complex evidence of domestic violence cases.
Siegall was the CEO and co-founder of the largest biotech firm in Washington state. Seagen’s market capitalization was $30.2 billion at the end of last week.
In the memo, prosecutors pointed to an inconsistency about whether Siegall’s wife and the other woman at the home had sex that night. Aiken said she found the prosecutors’ decision to highlight those details strange.
The sexual details distract from the main point — whether Siegall hurt his wife, Aiken said. According to the prosecutors’ memo, Siegall’s wife and a male friend stated Siegall did so. The female friend did not make a statement about the violence. Siegall denied it.
“The degree to which it is all folded into the account about sex and the assessment of their credibility around the sex is odd,” Aiken said.
The focus on the inconsistencies about the sexual relations between the women seemed aimed at excusing any violence that happened that night and crowds out the details from the witnesses about whether Siegall assaulted his wife, Aiken said.
“You don’t get to beat somebody up because they’re having sex with another woman,” Aiken said. “Tease out all that sexual stuff and just see what you’re left with. And I think you’ll be left with something that should have given rise to a case.”
The prosecutors also said in the memo that all four people were intoxicated at the time. Police “found foil/paraphernalia in the kitchen consistent with narcotics consumption,” they wrote. As a result, statements were muddled, according to the memo.
Alcohol has the potential to fuel aggression, said Lisa Fischel-Wolovick, adjunct professor in forensic psychology and forensic mental health at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who has written about the impact of domestic violence and substance abuse on custody and divorce.
Intoxication can also be used by defense attorneys to question the credibility of witnesses, Hartley said. Added with other inconsistencies, Hartley contends it would be challenging for prosecutors to make a case to charge Siegall.
A Seattle Times investigation found Siegall’s wife had called the police three times in the years before Siegall’s arrest. In one of the calls, a month after their wedding, she claimed he was yelling at her. While the couple was separated in 2021, Siegall’s wife complained on one occasion that he’d locked her out of their Woodway home, and on another that she returned home to find one of her bikinis cut to pieces.
But claims about a defendant’s past generally cannot be brought up at trial because of constitutional protections, Hartley said. Those protections, coupled with conflicting testimony, could be a hurdle for prosecutors, Hartley said.
In domestic violence cases, prosecutors need to present facts in front of an audience that may not believe victims if there is contradictory evidence or testimony.
“It’s different … knowing that something happened, and actually being able to prove it beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law,” said Hartley, speaking about the challenges prosecutors generally face.
All parties seemed to agree, according to the memo, that at some point in the night, Siegall got his phone and began recording his wife and guests. Siegall’s attorney told prosecutors he was “pretending” to record because he was not technologically savvy enough to actually record the incident.
“Given his position and education, the city does not find this statement credible,” prosecutors said in the memo. Still, prosecutors said they did not have access to any video taken by Siegall. Police did not seize Siegall’s phone, and Siegall left Washington after being released from jail, according to the memo.
The prosecutors’ conclusions that Siegall’s ex-wife lacked credibility might be harmful for her if she decides to pursue other legal actions, Fischel-Wolovick said. During her 911 call, she asked police not to come, adding that, “He’ll go crazy, he’s a public person.” While there, according to body camera footage from police, she asked officers to arrest her instead and said that she had pushed him.
A future judge could consider the prosecutors’ memo, which also states Siegall’s ex-wife threatened prosecutors and provided inconsistent accounts of the incident, before making decisions, Fischel-Wolovick said.
It is normal for victims of domestic violence to ask police officers to arrest them instead out of fear of retaliation by the partner, Aiken said.
Prosecutors considering the allegations against Siegall claimed in the memo that, based on the police video recordings, Siegall’s ex-wife repeatedly told officers she pushed and hit Siegall, and said, five times, that he did not push her.
The prosecutors also said Siegall’s ex-wife lacks credibility because she has offered differing accounts of what happened that night. At first she told police officers she was pushed to the floor, then she said she was pushed up the stairs and later said she was dragged 90 feet. One of the witnesses said she was dragged 20 feet.
“People often are bad at judging distances,” Aiken said, “particularly when they’re the one being dragged.”
Since that night of Siegall’s arrest at the mansion, he and his wife have finalized their divorce through an arbitration, the private process dictated by the couple’s prenuptial agreement.
Talk to us
- You can tell us about news and ask us about our journalism by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 425-339-3428.
- If you have an opinion you wish to share for publication, send a letter to the editor to email@example.com or by regular mail to The Daily Herald, Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206.
- More contact information is here.