Case dismissed after government misconduct in Friday Harbor

San Juan County District Court Judge Pro-tem Don Eaton determined that government misconduct had taken place during Dustin Schibel's trial this week. On Saturday, February 2, 2019, the Judge dismissed the case against Dustin Schibel who had been charged with 4th-degree assault, harassment, and first-degree criminal trespass.  Since the case was dismissed with prejudice, Schibel can't be retried.  

The security camera is in left of center in this photo. The prosecutor's table is on the right. The jury box can be seen under the artwork, the defense's table is on the left. 

Judge Eaton was notified by county Superior Court Judge Kathryn Loring that the security camera in District Court was zooming in on documents. She happened to notice the action on a monitor next to her assistant's desk. While the jury sat in the jury room, Judge Eaton investigated, viewed the entire day's video and held a hearing for the motion to dismiss.  

Judge Eaton recited the facts:

Juror's notepad. This is a photocopy of a photocopy of a screenshot from the video.

"During the testimony portion of this jury trial Thursday, January 31 the  security camera in District Court was remotely manipulated in a manner that caused it to pan and tilt and zoom from its default setting on four different occasions. It focused closely first of all on the notepad of Juror #3, then panned and tilted and focused closely on an illustrative aid that the prosecuting attorney was using... in respect to jury notebook and prosecutor's exhibit the  words that appeared were clearly legible. Sometime later, the  camera then was manipulated and zoomed directly on typewritten page in a three-ring binder on the  table where prosecuting attorney was seated. Viewing of closeup and screen shot shows several lines of typewritten words. Several of which are  legible, the  vast majority are not. 

Prosecutor's exhibit. This is a photocopy of a photocopy of a screenshot from the video.

"After camera focused closely on prosecutor's notebook, it zoomed back out and then panned to the left to the defense counsel's table and zoomed down directly on yellow legal pad. Stopped at a point, zoomed in, stopped zoomed in. In process of zooming the focus fluctuated a bit. In addition to handwritten words on the legal pad, also visible was the hand of the defense attorney and the pen she was holding  and  a portion of a typewritten pleading document. Words that were legible on document were the caption... That document is a public document. After lingering on pleading and the handwritten notes, camera zoomed back out and eventually assumed more or less its default position."

Judge Eaton said, "The handwritten notes on the  yellow legal pad,  Court finds those notes are  work product of defense attorney and are therefore privileged and entitled to confidentiality." 

It was up to the Prosecutor to show prejudice hadn't occurred. He had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that no prejudice had occurred. 

Judge Eatson said, "The zooming of the camera on the prosecutor's table was done by Sheriff Krebs according to his testimony. His testimony on Saturday suggested he also focused on the  juror's notebook." The Judge said there hadn't been testimony to determine exactly who caused the focus on defense council's notebook but is was clear that it was done by a state actor - either someone in the San Juan County Sheriff's Office or someone in the IT department. "More likely than not all these manipulations were done by someone in the San Juan Sheriff's office  as opposed to someone in the IT department. In either event they were state actors," Judge Eaton said. 

Judge Eaton said the actions of the state - manipulating the security camera - violated the defendant's Constitutional rights to a fair trial, including his right to effective assistance of council.

Schibel's conditions of release were immediately lifted. There will be another court proceeding to file the Findings of Fact and the actual dismissal. Schibel is not required to be there. 

Still to be determined is if the video recording is to be kept sealed. Prosecutor Randy Gaylord argued strenuously that the public should not be allowed to see it. He cited safety concerns if the public sees how the camera works. 

Judge Eaton will hold a hearing at 2 p.m. Tuesday, February 12 in the San Juan County District Courtroom to hear arguments on both sides. He will take comments from the public. Written submissions are also allowed ahead of the hearing. 

 

 

7 comments

  • Marla Johns
    Marla Johns Thursday, 07 February 2019 10:27 Comment Link

    Speaking personally, I ditto the comments made in response to Sgt Taylor’s comment. However, it is my understanding that if there is a resignation or a recall the County Council appoints the successor. I have concerns about someone currently employed, and who was appointed or hired by the Krebs, being put oin that position. If we cannot trust Krebs to the point he is recalled, how can we trust his hiring and promotional decisions? EVERYTHING is now in question. It needs to be someone from the outside coming in without prejudice.

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  • T Young
    T Young Thursday, 07 February 2019 08:53 Comment Link

    Deputy Taylor,
    Your comment is very troubling for several reasons.

    First, you suggest the reader take a breath as we ask ourselves what motive there could possibly be. Really? As an investigator, you can’t imagine one? Your comments sound more like those of someone sitting on the wrong side of the table.

    Second, are you are suggesting that ignorance of the laws is an excuse? Just because (in your opinion) there was no intent doesn’t make it ok. Is that how you handle your cases? According to your comments, we can commit crimes as long as it isn’t on purpose. Well, at least that is how you seem to think things work in the sheriff’s office.

    Third, you attempt to make this about money and lawyers is ridiculous. Not that that isn’t how it works, but to suggest that the reason here sounds pretty desperate. I’m sure when Judge Loring saw that screen her first thought was along those lines. No way. She saw a crime being committed and did the right thing.

    Your investigative skills should have led you to draw the conclusion that it wasn’t an accident due to not knowing it has a zoom etc. Given that the zoom feature was used to quickly go from notebook to notebook in under a minute and didn’t land on the people he was so worried about, I think it is fair to say he had intent and no trouble understanding the operation of the camera.


    So, now, I have a question for you sir. Were you in the dispatch office along with the gang watching the courtroom?

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  • Kelly Wright
    Kelly Wright Wednesday, 06 February 2019 19:52 Comment Link

    Deputy Taylor,

    As a member of the Sheriff Department, are you authorized to make public statements on this matter? Given that you did not give any disclaimer that you are speaking for yourself, and not the department, this comment will be taken as an official statement on behalf of the Sheriff’s Department.

    Apart from the underlying offense, the total lack of discipline and professionalism on the part of the Sheriff Department is a strong indication that the Sheriff should resign.

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  • B. Phillips
    B. Phillips Wednesday, 06 February 2019 19:46 Comment Link

    Deputy Taylor, can we consider your statement the official position of the County and the Sheriff's office? Or, if it is not, did you follow the procedures outlined in the SO personnel manual for making such statements? Just a few other questions. I heard there was an officer from Lopez that had a DV issue just before being deployed to the Gulf, and they kept it quiet because they didn't think he would return. Do you remember the officer's name?

    Krebs has a demonstrated history of being untruthful (parker incident, lied to council, as an example). Judge Eaton outright stated the video thing was deliberate. Listen to his comments on the audio of the hearing again. The poor young dispatcher was less than honest on the stand as well. The audio from the hearing makes it clear as day what happened.

    You are attempting to spin this as "why would Krebs have done this, its such a slam dunk case". Why indeed.

    We either have to believe him that it was a total accident, that he zoomed exactly to the notes of the attorneys and juror, and literally, after 5 years as Sheriff, and another 6 or 8 as a deputy, didn't know that the district court camera zoomed. OK. Sure. Or, he's lying.

    Do we want a sheriff that is so incompetent that he is wholly unaware of the general nature of the cameras around the station and courthouse, so incompetent that he can't even use them correctly. To the point of Eaton tossing a case out with prejudice and the camera being modified so it cant zoom.

    Krebs is either grossly incompetent or lying, or possibly both. Yes, he should resign. Zac Reimer, current undersheriff can step in and handle things until we have a special election.

    We have privately already received pledges totaling over $23,000 towards a recall effort. We are hopeful that Krebs will do the honorable thing and resign, sparing us the drama of the recall petition and cost to the taxpayers of a special election.

    Mr. Taylor, take a minute and re-read Kreb's statement to the press, he is giving the Honorable Judge Eaton the finger.

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  • Jenny Fouquette
    Jenny Fouquette Wednesday, 06 February 2019 08:29 Comment Link

    Deputy Taylor,

    What you fail to see here is that it doesn't matter what the motive is, there is never an acceptable time to manipulate a camera to view items in a courtroom other than for legitimate security purposes. Even more importantly, juror notes are confidential and never available during or after a trial. The notes are immediately shredded. In addition, knowing that there is strict rules regarding attorney client privilege and still zooming the camera in on the defense table in any way is a huge violation of that privilege. Our justice system is set up in a way where there are checks and balances. There are rules that are required to be followed - even if they seem like a "non-issue" to Sheriff Krebs. When law enforcement violates that trust by using their own set of rules, it breaks down the foundation of integrity they should be living and breathing every day. The fact that you feel the case was strong makes this an even sadder error on Sheriff Krebs part.

    I was in the courtroom and saw Judge Eaton discuss how "deliberate" the camera movement was. I was in the courtroom when Dispatcher Wainwright testified that he manipulated the camera to see a document he was interested in and testify that Sheriff Krebs was manipulating the camera afterwards. What if Wainwright had zoomed in on something in evidence that had been sealed by the court? He didn't seem to think that zooming in on items for personal interest on a security camera were inappropriate - is that lack of training, bad employee, no standard operating procedures, a climate where the rules don't really apply to anyone in the Sheriff's Department? I heard Sheriff Krebs testify that there were at least 2 people in dispatch, quite possibly 4, that watched all of these documents on the screen but couldn't recall who was actually using the controls. What I didn't hear was why not one of the people in the dispatch room stopped the action, knowing that it is a violation of someone's rights. What I didn't hear was any one of the possible 4 people report the "accident" to Judge Eaton themselves. It was only because an outside entity, one with integrity and respect for the legal system, caught them and reported it.

    Where is the transparency or integrity in how this went down in the Sheriff's Department? It's disgusting that you sat and watched that obviously coached testimony and have yet to question why no one from your department tried stop the action or report it - no matter how minor you feel it was... no matter what the motive was.

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  • Scott Taylor
    Scott Taylor Monday, 04 February 2019 16:55 Comment Link

    What exactly should he resign for? I understand this was not an intentional act on his part. Take a breath and ask yourself what his motive would have been exactly. He was not involved in the case. He did not know the involved persons, victims or suspect. As the investigating deputy, I can tell you this was a very straight forward case. What exactly do you think the Sheriff and deputies of this organization have to gain by violating the rules and the laws? Absolutely nothing. We receive no bonus for wins or losses. We certainly feel an obligation to do our best but fully understand that we are only one part of the justice system. I also understand that we live under the same rules as each community member and that we are also subject to the consequences if we violate them. I can tell you from personal experience that the Sheriff and I, as one of his sergeants, have zero tolerance when it comes to breaking the rules. It does matter to me if a person intentionally violates a law. It should matter to each of you as well. We are all presumed innocent unless proven guilty. That include our Sheriff. Ron Krebs is a man of integrity and I can assure you that he and this organization is not corrupt. The fact is, there is a pending civil case involving a number of local attorneys (millions of dollars), and that is what this is truly about. It is not about seeking justice. It is about a few seeking money. As the son of an attorney and the grandson of an attorney, I have always respected attorneys and defended them when disparaging remarks such as "bottom feeders" have been used in my presence. The fact is, we need attorneys to make our system of justice to work. They are a check and balance. Having said that, just as it can be argued that law enforcement can be subject to using poor judgement, so can attorneys. Again, ask yourself, why would anyone in the Sheriff's Office feel the need to act inappropriately with regard to this case or any other. The answer is, they would not and they did not.

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  • Mary Stone
    Mary Stone Monday, 04 February 2019 15:47 Comment Link

    It is time for Sheriff Krebs to resign.

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