SEATTLE, WA — A King County judge has ordered two Seattle attorneys to pay more than $24,000 to the city of Seattle after finding no merit to their allegation that a Seattle police officer involved in last year’s fatal shooting of Charleena Lyles “probably committed perjury.”
Superior Court Judge Julie Spector imposed the penalty in a July 26 order, awarding the city the cost of fees and expenses to respond to the allegation made by attorneys Karen Koehler and Edward Moore in a pending lawsuit stemming from the shooting.
Spector rejected a request from Koehler and Moore to reconsider her June finding that the two attorneys violated professional-conduct rules. In that ruling, the judge concluded they had filed a baseless motion on the anniversary of Lyles’ death to garner media attention, attacking the character and credibility of Officer Jason Anderson at the cost of his right to a fair trial.
Koehler and Moore claimed that Anderson, one of the two officers who shot Lyles on June 18, 2017, perjured himself when he testified in a pretrial deposition that the door to her apartment was closed during a confrontation inside the unit.
The two attorneys cited police video and audio, synchronized to silent surveillance video from the hallway outside the apartment, to support their allegation that Anderson stepped into the hallway through an open door as he fired.
Koehler said Monday that an appeal of Spector’s professional-conduct ruling will be filed. Koehler and Moore represent Lyles’ estate and the guardian ad litem for her four children.
Koehler and Moore had asked Spector to find that Anderson had given “material false testimony” and refer the matter to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for review.
City attorneys described the motion as “frivolous” and a publicity stunt. Anderson has consistently stated that it was his recollection the door was closed, based on a “rapidly evolving, dynamic situation in which he and his partner were faced with an imminent threat of a deadly weapon,” the attorneys noted.
The attorneys asked that the motion be denied and that monetary sanctions be imposed.
In her July 26 order, Spector directed Koehler and Moore to pay $24,469.68 to the city.
Lyles, 30, was shot by Anderson and Officer Steven McNew after she reported a burglary and, according to the officers, suddenly attacked them with one or two knives inside her northeast Seattle apartment.
Koehler and Moore relied on a biomechanical engineer, who compared patrol-car video from outside the apartment building and full audio of the call, recorded on the officers’ microphones, to the hallway surveillance video. In the synchronized version, the sound of shots can be heard on the police recording as Anderson is seen in the doorway and hall on the surveillance video.
The two attorneys contended Anderson’s “false story” about the closed door, along with misrepresentations regarding distance and lack of shielding, combined in part to mislead the Police Department’s Force Review Board (FRB), Force Investigation Team and crime-scene investigators, as well as the court in the lawsuit.
The FRB in November unanimously found the shooting to be reasonable, necessary and proportional and consistent with department training and policy.
In a subsequent report, the FRB said that Lyles posed an immediate lethal threat to the officers and two of her small children nearby.
Anderson told police investigators he fired after Lyles thrust a knife toward him and then quickly moved toward McNew, who was trapped inside the apartment.
Spector found the synchronization was done by someone who is not a video analyst, who didn’t use original police video and whose methods aren’t reasonable or reliable.
She ordered Koehler and Moore to comply with professional rules and maintain the decorum afforded to the defendants and the court.
In their motion for reconsideration, the two attorneys reiterated their position that video evidence, evaluated by a qualified expert, reliably contradicts Anderson.
Even if the perjury claim was found to be baseless, the attorneys wrote, sanctions weren’t warranted unless they failed to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the facts and law.
Both argued their motion was brought in good faith and submitted a declaration from a prominent Seattle attorney, James Lobsenz, who supported their right to raise the perjury issue under a state law allowing judges to refer perjury allegations to a prosecuting attorney.
“I express absolutely no opinion whatsoever as to whether or not any perjury was committed in this case,” he wrote.
But Lobsenz wrote that it was his opinion that the filing of the motion clearly serves a purpose other than harassing a party, generating media attention and inflaming the public.
“Such a motion serves the purpose of deterring and punishing perjury,” he wrote.
From The Seattle Times