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Judge mulls dismissal in evidence theft case

Peninsula Daily News,
BYLINE: Tom Callis, Peninsula Daily News
Link to Article

Clallam County, WA

PORT ANGELES -- The case against a former Clallam County Sheriff's Office employee accused of stealing $8,644 from the evidence room remains in limbo after arguments for and against its dismissal were heard Thursday.

Clallam County Judge Ken Williams opted to give Ralph Anderson -- the attorney for Staci L. Allison -- and county Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly time to file additional briefs before making a ruling.

Anderson moved for dismissal in October, citing late disclosure of evidence.

Kelly, while admitting some documents should have been uncovered by the prosecution sooner, argued in court that it was done without malice and that evidence was made available to the defense as soon as its existence became known.

"Even a very experienced trial counsel . . . are going to miss things," she said.

Anderson maintained that the late discovery of evidence -- including a box of documents from the State Patrol, which investigated the theft -- the week before the case was set to go to trial in September shows that the Prosecutor's Office has mismanaged the case.

Allison, a former evidence technician who now lives in Montesano, is charged with first-degree theft and money laundering.

The charges came seven months after the Sheriff's Office in November 2006 found 129 empty evidence bags -- which once contained $51,251 -- stuffed in a plastic tube in the evidence room.

Authorities said Allison stole the money and deleted computer records to cover the thefts.

She is charged with stealing $8,644 because that's the amount prosecutors think they can prove was stolen, they have said.

While spending most of the hearing directing criticism at the former deputy prosecutor who handled the case until October, Anderson fired one shot across Kelly's bow that prompted an immediate objection.

"Apparently, the state has not learned the lessons of Covarrubias," he remarked.

Robert Covarrubias was convicted of first-degree murder, but the verdict was overturned by the Court of Appeals on technicalities. Some of those technicalities included prosecutors' delay in turning over evidence.

Covarrubias, who had won a second trial from the state Court of Appeals, instead pleaded guilty July 23, 2009, to first-degree murder with sexual motivation in the 2004 death of 15-year-old Melissa Leigh Carter and was sentenced to life in prison.

Anderson was Covarrubias' attorney.

"I'm sick and tired of hearing that," Kelly responded. Williams agreed to strike Anderson's comment from the record.

During the hearing, Williams also reset the trial from Jan. 24 to Feb. 14 and scheduled a hearing Jan. 27 on another motion filed by Anderson.

That motion, citing potential conflicts of interest, seeks to dismiss Kelly from the case.

Anderson said he plans to call Kelly's husband as a witness if the matter proceeds to trial.

The Clallam County Sheriff's Office hired her husband, Don Kelly, to organize the evidence room after it became aware of the missing money.

During that work, Don Kelly, a former sergeant with the Sheriff's Office, found $5,000 in an envelope apparently hidden in the evidence room, said Sheriff Bill Benedict, who took office in January 2007.

That amount was included in the $51,251 reported missing.

But the prosecuting attorney said it doesn't pertain to the case because that missing envelope isn't included in the charges.

She said she would move for dismissal of her husband as a witness if she stays on the case.


Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at .

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