Opinion

Sound Off: Prosecutor put county at risk

By Peter Moote

The newspaper requested a response to the letter Prosecutor Greg Banks and his attorney sent to me referenced in the article printed in the 3/26/08 edition. I did not previously provide the response because those communications were intended to be confidential. My letter to Mr. Banks was sent to his original attorney in confidence to afford Mr. Banks the opportunity to stop filing his vindictive affidavits without causing further claims. However, since Mr. Banks has obviously violated that confidentiality and made this a public matter, a response is now necessary. I am writing this response to you at the request of Amy Dempsey, in order to complete your picture of the story.

The original claim we filed against Mr. Banks and the county is a true set of facts that was verified by independent reliable witnesses. In comparison, Mr. Banks did not come forward with independent reliable evidence to support his accusations. Instead what you continue to receive from Mr. Banks and his attorneys are unverified, desperate and retaliatory accusations. There is a reason his original attorney and the county settled the case. They had insufficient evidence to support his claims while Dempsey had strong credible evidence to support hers. Evidence is what makes cases settle in substantial amounts, not bold unsupported accusations.

Mr. Banks has stated he was forced into the settlement by the county insurers. The truth is, Mr. Banks had his own separate independent attorney advising him. However, he was a separate party with a separate attorney who could have pursued fighting the claim if he actually had any reliable evidence. He chose to accept the county insurer paying for the harm he caused and has now tried to do an end-around play with this slanderous affidavit he has filed in court proceedings. His argument that he has a duty to file the affidavit is preposterous. You can ask any trial lawyer and they will tell you there is no need to file such a detailed, defamatory affidavit when trying to remove the first judge you are assigned to. Therefore, his affidavit of prejudice was never even needed. Mr. Banks has simply fabricated an excuse to publish his uncorroborated allegations that failed in mediation. Since he lost in the judicial forum, he now seeks to try his case in the public forum.

What is most alarming about the letter from Mr. Banks and his attorney in response to my confidential letter is the defense of immunity protection. What that means is Mr. Banks claims that even if he is guilty of slander, he cannot be prosecuted because he has a shield of immunity that no other citizen would have in slandering another citizen. You, and those who follow the story, must ask yourselves why Mr. Banks would choose this forum to slander Dempsey where he can claim immunity from liability because of the high public position he holds. He could not claim immunity in the original action he brought, so he obviously chose this forum to plead his case behind his public shield of immunity.

Another matter of concern in the letter he and his attorney wrote involves the defense of lack of damages. This is a quizative statement. In essence, Mr. Banks is admitting that nobody believes his allegations against Dempsey because no one believes him. In order to pursue a claim of defamation or slander, one must also prove that they have suffered a loss. In his defense, Mr. Banks apparently intended to prove that no one believed what he was claiming against her, therefore she has no damages and no viable case. If he is going to admit that his allegations are unbelievable, then why would he create this public spectacle, other than out of pure vindictiveness.

The end reality is that only time will tell whether Dempsey actually suffers damages from Mr. Banks’ continuing conduct. There is a two-year stature limitations on defamation actions. What should be of concern to those interested in this case here in Island County is that the county is once again under the cloud of a significant liability action due to his conduct.

In closing, I want to quote for you a written statement Mr. Banks and his attorney made in support of Amy Dempsey when they settled the case. If he is an individual with intrinsic veracity, one must ask why he would publish a slanderous affidavit in October of 2007 when he and his attorney wrote this following statement about her only four months previously in June of 2007:

“Amy Dempsey started working for me in June, 2006. Regrettably, she only worked worked for us until January, 2007. In the short time she was at the office, she quickly learned her duties, and ably handled a very heavy criminal caseload. While she worked for me, I had confidence in her abilities and judgment, and gave her wide latitude in handling her cases. Ms. Dempsey had a very good courtroom presence and demeanor and received high praise from the judge and court staff. She has gone to work as a judge pro tem in a local Municipal Court, where I understand the court is very pleased with her performance. She should be viewed as a viable candidate for employment in any law office.”

We have tried to keep this dispute from arising again. Dempsey wanted to put this behind her. Mr. Banks and the County should hope for the same. However, that does not seem to be possible with his ongoing attacks. He and the county will have to live for the next couple of years wondering whether his continuing slander results in further liability.

Freeland attorney Peter Moote represents Amy Dempsey, a former deputy prosecutor.

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