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EDITORIAL: What happens next in Friday Harbor following release of District Court's security cam video

  • Written by Sharon Kivisto

So what should happen now that it is inarguably apparent that the manipulation of San Juan County District Court's security camera during a criminal trial was deliberate? Will there be an investigation to determine if this has happened before? Will the county Prosecutor Randy Gaylord issue a Brady Letter due to Sheriff Ron Krebs' conflicting testimony? If there is an investigation - what agency has jurisdiction?

Screenshot from fourth video clip focusing on the defense attorney's papers. 

The county Council's only leverage over the independently elected Sheriff is approval of his budget. In response to the incident the Council sent out a press release stating: A review of potential replacement cameras that can effectively meet security parameters as well as ensure the privacy of counsel, defendants, and the public is underway." 

Four video clips showing the San Juan County District Court's security camera zooming in and focusing on an exhibit, the defense and prosecuting attorneys' papers and a juror's notebook during a criminal trial were released Friday, March 1, 2019. The ruling by Acting District Court Judge Don Eaton to unseal the clips gave the public an opportunity to determine for themselves if the manipulation was deliberate or accidental.  

San Juan Islander has posted the four video clips. They are posted at the very bottom of four separate pages. The fourth clip is on bottom of this page.




The camera's  controls are located in the Dispatch Office. The camera movements happened to be observed by Superior Court Judge Kathryn Loring when she was at her clerk's desk. She had her clerk inform Judge Eaton. He halted the trial to investigate and ultimately dismissed the criminal case with prejudice. 

On February 2, 2019 Dispatcher Nicholas Wainwright testified he has manipulated the camera. Most recently, on Thursday, January 31, 2019 when he zoomed in on the large sheet of paper that was an exhibit of Gaylord's. This is the shown in the first video clip. He told the court that he was curious what was on the exhibit.

Sheriff Ron Krebs's explanation of the other three zooming clips has been inconsistent.  He told the media that he accidentally zoomed in when he was attempting to enlarge the camera image on the monitor in the Sheriff's Dispatch Office and that it was completely accidental and very brief.

His testimony on two separate days under oath in front of Judge Eaton gives two different versions of what happened. 

The following is taken from a brief filed by Friday Harbor Attorney Steven Brandli.  

On the stand Friday, February 1, Sheriff Krebs testified that, in the afternoon of January 31, he went to the dispatch room in part to check on the security cameras as he often does. He stated that he was familiar with the operation of the PTZ feature on the two outside cameras that have this feature, and had used the PTZ feature on prior occasions, but that he did not know until that afternoon that the District Court courtroom camera had the PTZ feature. He selected the courtroom camera to view full-screen with a click and then a double-click. He never explained why he double-clicked the display. He stated that the camera suddenly and accidentally zoomed in. This was when he realized that the camera had PTZ capability. The camera focused on what he recalled as hand-written notes. He “freaked” for a few seconds. He then zoomed the camera back out.

Judge Eaton asked specific questions on Friday, February 1 to ascertain if Sheriff Krebs knew of the multiple camera manipulations that had occurred on and shortly after 3:38 p.m. 

JUDGE EATON: And the only thing it zoomed in on was Mr. Gaylord’s notes.

SHERIFF KREBS: It was one of their notes.

JUDGE EATON: Somebody’s notes.

KREBS: Yes, somebody’s.

JUDGE EATON: Or just one set of notes.


JUDGE EATON: And it’s your testimony that you did not pan the camera intentionally . . .


JUDGE EATON: And did not see the camera pan around inside the courtroom while you were there.


JUDGE EATON: And did not, you did not tilt the camera while you were there . .


JUDGE EATON: And you did not see the camera tilt up or down while you were there.


JUDGE EATON: And you did not see the dispatcher manipulate the camera at all in terms of tilting, panning, or zooming.


JUDGE EATON: And then you left dispatch.


On Saturday February 2, Sheriff Krebs signed, and the State filed, a declaration under penalty of perjury. In that declaration, Sheriff Krebs stated:

On Thursday January 30, 2019 [sic], while monitoring the security footage from the surveillance cameras, from the dispatch room I inadvertently manipulated the camera in the District Court courtroom in such a way that it zoomed in on one or more locations in the courtroom. This occurred while I was attempting to enlarge the screen of the district court courtroom so that I could get a larger view of the entire area. The enlargement was not intentional, nor did I view or intend to view any item or writing located in the district court courtroom.
Also on Saturday, February 2, 2019, Krebs testified under oath: 

PROSECUTOR RANDY GAYLORD: You were present in the dispatch office when the camera screen in the district courtroom was zoomed in on three different places?


Sheriff Krebs changed his testimony further in response to questions from Judge Eaton:

JUDGE EATON: When did you see all of these zooms into the juror notebook and the prosecutor’s table and the defense attorney? I heard you say about what you saw. But when did you see all of that?

SHERIFF KREBS: At whatever time is on the video.

JUDGE EATON: When it was happening?


JUDGE EATON: So you were in the dispatch room long enough to see all of the various time that that camera zoomed in on these various things?


JUDGE EATON: And saw all of that?


Viewing the clips, it is impossible to believe the camera manipulation was accidental as Sheriff Krebs asserts. Dispatcher Wainwright said he did the manipulation that shows on the first video clip because he was curious what was on the large poster board.

Wainwright said, he noticed the view on the screen moving around when Sheriff Krebs was in the Dispatch Office by the controls. He didn't know if Krebs was operating the controls. Krebs testified he didn't know if he was manipulating the controls during the zooming or if it was a dispatcher. Both men had remarkably poor memories for what had happened two days before.  

The first clip shows the camera zooming in on an exhibit belonging to Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord, the second clip zooms in on a juror's notebook, the third clip zooms in on papers in Gaylord's notebook, and the fourth clip zooms in and out on Defense Attorney Colleen Kenimond's papers.

The camera's action between the clips was redacted at the request of Sheriff Kreb's attorney. The attorney and Prosecutor Gaylord stated that showing the default position of the camera would impair courtroom security. They argued that blind spots in the small courtroom would be revealed. 

Even without video showing the camera position between the zooming, it is obvious the camera was deliberately  moved and focused on the attorneys' papers and the juror's notebook. 

This incident should not be brushed aside. The county's citizens deserve to have it fully examined. Trust in the local law enforcement system has been shaken. We need to do what we can to restore it.