Former Coupeville deputy marshal guilty of disorderly conduct

Gowdey - Photo by Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times
— image credit: Photo by Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times

Former Coupeville deputy marshal Hodges Gowdey said accusations that he handcuffed his former girlfriend during a roadside squabble seven years ago and coached her about what to tell investigators are completely fabricated.

Moreover, he said he will “sue the living piss out of everyone involved” in the criminal investigation against him.

And then he hopes to go back into law enforcement — and may be able to — even though he’s been dogged by trouble for much of his career.

He was investigated for domestic violence allegations twice before and was the subject of internal investigations at least four times, according to documents the Whidbey News-Times obtained through public records requests.

He’s always vigorously defended himself and come up on top, for the most part.

Gowdey was set to go to trial in Island County Superior Court on felony charges of unlawful imprisonment and witness tampering Tuesday, but instead pleaded guilty Monday to a gross misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct for a separate incident.

He spent a day in jail but won’t have to do any more time under the deferred sentence.

“I am agreeing to this recommendation from the state as a way to end this injustice towards myself,” he said in an interview after court.

“I am in no way agreeing that I committed any crimes that the state contends that I did on the evening of April 3, 2007 on Madrona Way.”

Under the plea agreement, Gowdey admits that he swore at the woman during an argument in the Coupeville Town Hall parking lot that preceded the alleged incident on Madrona Way the same night. He was on duty and in uniform at the time.

Gowdey said in an interview that he did meet the woman on Madrona Way, but denies that he handcuffed her or dented her car.

Gowdey claims Detective Sgt. Teri Gardner, who was since promoted to captain of the Oak Harbor Police Department, lied in her report when she wrote that Gowdey admitted he may have dented the woman’s car and that he couldn’t remember whether he handcuffed her.

He denies that he coached her on what to tell investigators.

“She is a jealous ex that exploited her relationship with Detective Gardner to make up this story to cause harm to myself and family,” he said, adding that his ex-girlfriend and Gardner are friends.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme said in court that the felony charges against Gowdey would be “extremely difficult to prove” given that the judge ruled that the defendant’s statements in an interview inadmissible. Detectives tricked Gowdey into making comments through a fake internal investigation; Judge Alan Hancock ruled that the tactic was inappropriately coercive and his statement could not be used against Gowdey.

Ohme said prosecutors didn’t even know about the police department’s internal investigative ruse until Skinner interviewed witnesses.

Due to the suppression of Gowdey’s statements, he said, “the state was left without its main corroborating evidence.”

In addition, the victim was “ecstatic” with the resolution, Ohme said.

“The victim did not want the case to go forward,” he said. “She did not want Mr. Gowdey to be convicted of a felony and she did not want him to serve any jail time.”

In her victim impact statement, the woman was very critical of the Oak Harbor police for pursuing the investigation against Gowdey, claiming they were “motivated by ego, not justice.” She wrote that what Gowdey did was “frightening, intimidating and wrong,” but that she has forgiven him.

Judge Hancock agreed with the recommendation. He sentenced Gowdey to 90 days in jail with 89 days deferred and credit for a day in jail; he won’t have to serve the additional time as long as he pays court costs, doesn’t break any laws and has no contact with the victim for the next year.

“Mr. Gowdey abused his office, it’s fair to say,” Hancock said.

Hancock opined that the case may spell the end to Gowdey’s career in law enforcement, but Gowdey said he hopes that is not the case. It will be up to the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission to decide whether his peace officer certification will be revoked.

He won’t be a cop in Coupeville anymore.

The case against Gowdey started because the Island County Sheriff’s Office took over the Coupeville Marshal’s Office; Gowdey was guaranteed a job with the sheriff’s office if he passed the background check.

Undersheriff Kelly Mauck looked into the internal investigation into the incident in which Gowdey swore at the woman; Gowdey had admitted acting inappropriately and had been disciplined. But the woman, who has since broken up with Gowdey, told Mauck there was more to the story; she now claimed Gowdey had handcuffed her on the side of the dark road and later asked her not tell investigators about it, according to the police report.

The Oak Harbor police initially investigated the criminal allegations that Mauck uncovered, even though the woman worked at the police department.

The case was later forwarded to a Snohomish County detective.

As a result of background investigation, the sheriff denied Gowdey a job in the department.

The case marks the third time that Gowdey faced criminal investigation for domestic violence, according to court records and documents the Whidbey News-Times received from the Town of Coupeville and the Island County Prosecutor’s Office through public records requests.

Gowdey vigorously defended himself each time and has never been convicted of domestic violence.

He was tried and acquitted of domestic violence 15 years ago in Issaquah in a case involving his ex-wife.

Gowdey was investigated for an alleged sexual and physical assault in late 2012, but the Island County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file charges for “second-degree assault with sexual motivation, domestic violence,” because of insufficient evidence, according to documents.

A neighbor of Gowdey’s girlfriend reported that he had been shouting, swearing and using “demeaning language” toward the woman, according to a report written by former Marshal Lance Davenport.

The woman’s son later reported that Gowdey assaulted him and his mother; he claimed his mother told him that Gowdey had assaulted her in a sexual manner, according to a report by a detective with the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

Gowdey and the woman both denied the allegations.

In addition, Gowdey was the subject of several internal investigations over the years.

A detective from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office also conducted an internal investigation of the boy’s allegations that Gowdey had assaulted him and his mother.

As with the criminal investigation, the detective reported that the woman denied “the attempted rape” and denied any domestic violence; she wrote that the boy was not a reliable witness.

“My experience and knowledge tells me (the woman) and Gowdey are engaged in a domestic violence relationship,” the detective wrote, “but without the assistance of the victim, law enforcement cannot become involved.”

Gowdey told the detective that he may have argued with his girlfriend, but that he  never assaulted the woman or her son, the report states.

Former Marshal Lance Davenport found that allegations were either unfounded or not sustained.

In addition, Gowdey testified during an evidentiary hearing that he worked as an officer in Oroville for two years, but lost his job for lying to his boss.

Gowdey worked in the City of Snoqualmie for six months before coming to Coupeville, where he worked for nearly 14 years.

Former Marshal Lenny Marlborough disciplined Gowdey for the 2007 incident in the Town Hall parking lot. Gowdey lost some vacation and was required to get anger-management counseling, personnel records show.

In 2011, former Marshal Dave Penrod had an Anacortes police detective complete an internal investigation of Gowdey on four issues of misconduct, all of which were sustained.

In the first one, Gowdey was away from his radio and wasn’t reachable by cell phone for an extended period in December of 2010, prompting two sheriff’s deputies to “run code” to come to his aid. They found him walking back to his patrol car, which was parked near the apartment of a woman he was in a relationship with.

In the second issue, radio logs and GPS records “appeared to indicate” that he spent a significant amount of time parked near his girlfriend’s apartment while he was on duty, “thereby establishing a significant pattern of non-productive work time,” Penrod wrote.

The third issue was that Gowdey left Coupeville while on duty on a number of occasions to go to his home in Oak Harbor without notifying the dispatch center. He said he was taking his allowed breaks at home.

The fourth issue, the documents show, was that Gowdey drove from Oak Harbor to Coupeville in excess of 120 mph for “a non-emergent call.”

The Anacortes detective called the speed excessive, documents show.

Penrod initially imposed significant discipline for the findings of misconduct, but Gowdey filed a grievance. Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard revised the discipline to include a warning letter for two of the incidents and withdrew discipline altogether for two of the issues, the records show.


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