“On March 6, 2009, Donald Edward Fuller was arrested by Seattle police after an incident that began with Mr. Fuller allegedly jaywalking in downtown Seattle. The Seattle Police Department (SPD) initially referred felony assault charges to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office; they were declined. SPD then referred misdemeanor assault charges to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office (CAO); they also were declined. At the point the case was declined, Mr. Fuller no longer faced criminal prosecution.
Mr. Fuller filed a complaint alleging officer misconduct with SPD’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA). The OPA sergeant investigating Mr. Fuller’s complaint contacted an assistant city attorney and advocated for reconsideration of the CAO’s prior decision to decline a criminal prosecution against Mr. Fuller. That attorney agreed to follow up directly with one of the arresting officers and subsequently determined that a sufficient factual basis existed to charge Mr. Fuller with one count of a misdemeanor assault and one count of obstructing a law enforcement officer, based on the March 6 incident.
Charges were filed by the CAO on May 29, 2009, and on March 3, 2010, Mr. Fuller was convicted by a Seattle Municipal Court jury on the obstructing charge and acquitted on the assault charge. Even though the jury convicted Mr. Fuller of obstructing a law enforcement officer and, in my view, there was sufficient evidence presented at trial to support that conviction, the fact remains that Mr. Fuller would not have been charged, tried or convicted of a crime if the OPA sergeant had not contacted the CAO to urge reconsideration of the decision not to charge Mr. Fuller. I understand the SPD and OPA have taken measures to ensure that OPA investigators will not unilaterally intervene in criminal charging decisions against complainants in the future.
There was no prosecutorial misconduct in this matter, and I strongly disagree with any suggestion to the contrary. However, when he filed his OPA complaint, Mr. Fuller was entitled to rely in good faith on OPA’s policy that “[f]iling a complaint does not affect other civil or criminal proceedings.” As a former member of the OPA Review Board, I understand that it is vitally important for the community to know that neither OPA nor any other arm of law enforcement will retaliate when individuals exercise their rights to complain about police misconduct.
I am taking this action because it is crucial that the public have full faith and confidence in both OPA and the criminal justice system. The CAO will continue to work to build the public’s trust in this system.” – Pete Holmes