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Why two-year delay in revealing Brady letter?

  • Written by Alex MacLeod

When Randy Gaylord talked to the county council in January 2017 about Detective Stephen Parker’s sexual relationship with the victim in the Orcas teacher-student sex case, he introduced the council to something called a “Brady” letter.

A Brady letter, he explained, must be written by a prosecutor when significant new information is learned that could affect a defendant’s right to a fair trial. He described it as law enforcement’s duty, in particular, to let a defendant know if a prosecution witness has said or done something in the past that raises a question about her or his credibility.

In Parker’s case, the Brady letter disclosed behavior and dishonesty so outrageous that it ultimately led to a conviction being overturned, the case thrown out and several other child-sex cases being compromised. As Brady letters go, it was a doozie.

In criminal-justice circles, the shorthand for a Brady letter is “dirty cop,” though the nature of things said or done that result in such a letter span a broad range. But they always are the result of words or deeds that call into question an officer’s credibility and must always be provided to defense counsel when an officer with a Brady letter is involved in a criminal case.

It turns out the sheriff’s department hired another deputy — coincidentally on the same day it hired Parker — who already was the subject of a Brady letter: Zac Reimer, whose Brady letter was from Whatcom County, dated July 22, 2014, nearly half a year before he started work in San Juan county. Reimer’s letter is on the low-end of the range for Brady letters.

Editor's note: When working in Whatcom County in 2009, a civilian ride-a-long forgot to sign some paperwork. Another person, connected to the civilian through a business relationship,  signed the document for her. Reimer erred when he didn't print the name of the person who signed it under the signature.  It was on an official document requested by a superior. 

In 2014, case law had changed and the Whatcom County Prosecutor created a Brady letter regarding the incident.

Though he judged it serious enough  to warrant a Brady letter, the prosecutor added: “We do not view him as a deceptive officer, but have decided the notice has to be given under the case law and these facts…”

Unaccountably, neither Gaylord nor anyone in the local county bar knew about the Reimer letter for nearly two years after Reimer was hired. A Whatcom County attorney gave a copy of it to Colleen Kenimond, who handles public defense for the county, and she emailed it to Gaylord Nov. 15, 2016, with a note saying: “I expect you did not know about this or you would have been providing this to the bar.”

Gaylord responded the same day, saying his office was unaware of Reimer’s Brady letter, to which she responded: “I guess the question is did the sheriff know?” Gaylord replied that he was “researching that.”

The county then began providing lawyers Reimer’s Brady letter, though Kenimond says the last one she could find in her records was Feb. 6, 2017. She said her records show a case involving Reimer last August, and no Brady letter was provided.

The issue here is not Reimer, who Krebs chose to be undersheriff last spring. As Kenimond said in an email to me last month: “I find Reimer to be companionable, kind and so far honest.”

The issue is when the sheriff knew about the Reimer’s Brady letter, when the prosecutor learned about it and what he’s done since. Here are the key questions:

Did the department’s background check of Reimer’s time in Whatcom County discover the Brady letter? If not, it is, along with the Parker background check, another example of seriously flawed backgrounding. If it did, why did Nou (now a deputy on Lopez) and/or Krebs hire Reimer, knowing he came with a formal question about his credibility? And why did they fail to notify the prosecutor’s office as required for nearly two years?

What did Gaylord learn when, as he told Kenimond in November 2016, he was “researching that”? And can he explain the apparent lapses in notifications of the Brady in cases since February 2017?

These questions have been put to Gaylord, Krebs, Nou and Reimer, all but Nou multiple times. None has responded.

Now it is up to voters to get answers to these questions. Take this article to the next candidates’ forum, or have it with you the next time you run into Gaylord or Krebs on the ferry or in the grocery store.

These issues strike at the heart of the criminal-justice system — a defendant’s right to a fair trial — and you deserve to have answers.

- written by Alex MacLeod, retired newspaper editor living on Shaw Island

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