News

Candidate’s case could be criminal

The state Attorney General’s Office is looking into a possible criminal case against an Island County Sheriff’s deputy, a candidate for sheriff, who was accused of mishandling 911 calls.

Jay Wallace, a Greenbank resident, has been on administrative leave from the Sheriff’s Office since the Feb. 7 incident. Sheriff Mike Hawley said Wallace was being investigated for apparently shirking his duty by not fully responding to 911 calls from a woman who was allegedly beaten and held against her will at a Freeland home.

Officials would not discuss what the specific criminal concerns are against Wallace, but they apparently involve allegations of false information provided in a police report.

Wallace said he also cannot discuss the specifics of the case until the investigation is completed.

“When this is all done with, you’ll see that there’s no validity to it whatsoever,” Wallace said Friday. “I have nothing to hide.”

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said Wallace wrote a report on the incident, as did Detective Sue Quandt. Banks said there were discrepancies between the different police reports.

In fact, he said the discrepancies are one of the reasons prosecutors dismissed the criminal case against the suspect in the assault. Matthew Friar, a 26-year-old resident of Bellingham, had been charged in Island County Superior Court with unlawful imprisonment, felony harassment and assault in the fourth degree, domestic violence.

Banks said the charges were dismissed without prejudice, which means they could be re-filed at a later date.

Another big problem with the case, Banks said, is that the 25-year-old victim disappeared.

“It’s very clear that prosecution would be difficult without the victim,” he said.

Friar was released to Whatcom County, where he was wanted on a felony warrant.

Sheriff Hawley said he turned the internal investigation into Wallace’s actions, or inaction, over to a special investigator in the department. He stressed that the investigator acted independently.

According to court documents and 911 reports, Wallace responded to the first 911 call the victim made from the home, but he left without contacting the victim. He didn’t respond at all to the second 911 call after being notified by dispatch, court documents state. Hawley said Wallace’s responses to both calls were against policy.

Hawley said the special investigator uncovered evidence of possible criminal conduct. The sheriff forwarded the criminal case to the Oak Harbor Police Department for investigation. The internal investigation was put on hold until the criminal investigation was completed.

The police apparently found some evidence of a crime. Capt. Rick Wallace with the Oak Harbor Police Department said the police forwarded the case to the Island County prosecutor last week.

Banks said he immediately sent the case to the state Attorney General’s Office. He said he wanted to steer clear of any accusations of politics in charging decisions, especially since Wallace is running for sheriff.

A spokesperson said the Attorney General’s Office may make a charging decision next week.

Jan Smith, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office, said she expects the internal investigation to be completed “shortly.”

Besides Wallace, three other Republican candidates have declared their candidacy for sheriff after Hawley announced he won’t run again. The candidates are Coupeville Marshal Lenny Marlborough, retired state trooper Mark Brown and Chief William “De” Dennis, the administrator of the county jail.

Reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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