Claim resurrects Wallace controversy
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
January 6, 2009 · 4:20 PM
The alleged victim in a controversial incident that led to Island County Deputy Jay Wallace being fired for dereliction of duty and falsifying a police report has filed a claim against the county for $250,000 in damages.
Victoria Walker, a Bellingham resident, reported two years ago that she had been physically and sexually assaulted at a home in Freeland.
She called 911 for help twice, but the deputy never contacted her.
The claim states that Wallace was negligent in his responses. It also claims that the Island County Sheriff’s Office committed “negligence and outrage” in retaining Wallace as a deputy since he is “unfit to serve as a policeman” and “had dangerous propensities and lack of proper temperament.”
The claim asks for damages for negligence, outrage and punitive damages.
Wallace, who was reached at his Greenbank home Monday, still defiantly asserts his innocence and proclaims that he was unjustly targeted by the former sheriff’s administration when he decided to run for sheriff.
Wallace wasn’t aware of the claim, but seemed bemused. At first he said he hopes Walker gets the money, but he quickly changed his mind.
If the case goes to trial, he said the truth about what happened will finally come out and he will be vindicated.
“She’s caused enough trouble. Everything she said is a lie and I can tear her apart in court,” he said. “I don’t think the county has anything to worry about. I spent 30 years telling the truth and I’m not going to stop now.”
Wallace himself filed a $1.5 million complaint for damages against the county last February. He claimed that former Sheriff Mike Hawley fired him for political reasons.
Walker’s attorney, Alexander Ransom of Bellingham, filed the 48-page claim for damages Nov. 12 and county officials have kept the matter quiet. Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said he only heard about it a couple of weeks ago. Hawley, who was a central character in the drama, wasn’t aware of the claim until last week.
Betty Kemp, the county’s risk manager, said the claim is being handled by the Washington Counties Risk Pool, which is essentially the county’s insurer. The Risk Pool handles any complaints for more than the county’s $50,000 deductible, Kemp said.
Monica Torrez, an attorney for the Risk Pool, said the claim is currently under review. She said she should have a better idea near the end of the month as to whether the claim will be settled or whether it will proceed to a lawsuit.
Walker’s attorney, Ransom, said he didn’t want to jeopardize negotiations by commenting on the claim.
Hawley and Brown both said they couldn’t comment because of pending litigation. Walker couldn’t be reached for comment.
In the claim for damages, Ransom uses the sheriff’s office internal investigations against Wallace, a detective’s report and a sheriff’s office memorandum as exhibits. Based on the documents, the claim lays out the general story of what happened.
On Feb. 7, Wallace responded to a 911 hang-up call from Shoreview Drive in Freeland. He knocked and observed an individual who refused to answer the door. That night Wallace referred to the person as “he” or a “guy” 10 times in recorded conversations with dispatch operators, but he later wrote in a police report that he saw a woman.
Wallace left the scene and cleared the calls as “no police action required.” About two hours later, Wallace was again dispatched to a second 911 hang-up call at the same location. He didn’t respond at all and cleared the call as “no police action required” one minute later.
It turned out that Walker had made the 911 calls. She claimed that she was held captive at the home by Matthew Friar, who allegedly assaulted her, tied her up and sexually assaulted her. The next morning she escaped from the home and reported what happened.
The claims states that she suffered “severe and serious injuries” and “mental anguish as well as other psychological injuries; shame, humiliation.”
Friar, a Bellingham resident, was arrested and charged with unlawful imprisonment, felony harassment and assault in the fourth degree, domestic violence. Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks later dismissed the charges after Walker wouldn’t cooperate with investigators and then disappeared.
Friar died from an overdose in Portland, Ore., in 2007.
In Wallace’s version of the events, however, there were no beatings and sexual assaults. He claims he saw Walker through the window and that she obviously didn’t want contact. It was a “slip of the tongue,” he said, when he referred to her as a man. He said she created the whole story of being tied up and assaulted because she was mad at Friar.
Wallace claims that Hawley, the lieutenant who supervised him and the three detectives who conducted the investigations into the case were all out to get him. Wallace said his trouble began when he decided to run for sheriff. He claims Hawley and his minions didn’t want Wallace to win, so they manufactured the controversy.
Moreover, Wallace said his attorney just discovered that there’s a box of evidence in county archives that the sheriff’s office never produced. He said it was purposely hidden away.
“They withheld evidence,” he said. “They violated a Superior Court order.”
Hawley eventually fired Wallace for shirking his duty and dishonesty. The Attorney General Office charged Wallace with false swearing, a misdemeanor, for allegedly lying on his report of what happened. A judge later dismissed the case over a constitutional issue. In essence, the judge ruled that the allegedly-falsified report could not be used against Wallace because he was ordered to write it as part of his employment.
The Island County Sheriff’s Guild backed Wallace and challenged his termination in arbitration. The arbitrator, however, found that the firing was justified and called Wallace’s version of events “totally implausible.”
In the claim for damages, Ransom argues that the Island County
Sheriff’s Office was negligent in employing Wallace because he had failed to respond property to four different incidents.
The claim cites a memorandum written by Lt. Evan Tingstad to Wallace in Aug. 11, 2005. Tingstad asks Wallace to explain four incidents in which he didn’t property respond to calls. In one incident, Wallace reported a roll-over accident just before the end of his shift.
Instead of handling it, he asked the State Patrol to deal with the accident. The two men had to wait for half an hour until a trooper could respond.
But again, Wallace defends himself. He said Tingstad’s version of the events simply aren’t true and that the lieutenant was trying to ruin Wallace’s career. In regard to the roll-over accident, Wallace said he was relieved by a senior deputy.
“The more you look at it, it’s all political,” he said.
While Wallace looks forward to being vindicated in court, the attorneys for the risk pool must decide whether it’s worth risking a trial with such conflicting accounts.
Or whether it’s best to settle.
Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at email@example.com or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.