A former King County Sheriff’s deputy who lost his job last year after accusations surfaced that he stole drug evidence while working undercover for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has been indicted by a federal Grand Jury on three drug-related counts, KIRO Radio has learned.
Mitchell J. Wright, 33, was arrested earlier this week after agents with the DEA witnessed him sell methamphetamine, according to statements made in federal court on Tuesday.
Wright, who was escorted into court in handcuffs and was wearing a tan jailhouse uniform, pleaded not guilty to one count conspiracy to distribute meth and two counts distribution of meth in amounts exceeding five grams.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian A. Tsuchida ordered Wright be held until a hearing scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20.
Should Wright be convicted on all three counts, he would face a maximum sentence of 40 years in a federal prison and a $5 million fine, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah K. Bolstad.
The federal charges released Tuesday are separate from those filed against Wright in King County Superior Court last year after Wright was arrested at his Bothell-area home for investigation of possession of stolen property, possession of narcotics, theft, and tampering with evidence.
Wright was assigned to the DEA field office in Seattle in 2009 to work with a task force dedicated to investigating federal and state-level drug crimes. He was reassigned from that position in February 2013 and resumed work as a patrol deputy out of the sheriff’s office in Shoreline.
Concerns about misconduct on the part of Wright first surfaced in May 2013, when a Bothell police officer caught a woman injecting heroin into her arm in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant. According to court documents, the woman was in a Dodge Ram registered to Wright and told the officer that she worked for him as an informant. The woman also told the officer that she lived with Wright, according to the documents.
A subsequent search of the vehicle uncovered drugs and drug paraphernalia, the documents read.
The King County Sheriff’s Office launched an internal investigation into the incident and Wright was placed on administrative leave on July 3. He resigned from his position as a deputy with the sheriff’s office on July 9.
On July 20, King county deputies cleaning out Wright’s previously assigned patrol car found three “small plastic baggies” marked with DEA case numbers. Residue inside the baggies tested positive for heroin, according to court documents.
It was later determined that between $36,450 and $52,490 worth of narcotics seized by Wright during his time with the DEA were never placed into evidence, according to the documents. Those drugs included hundreds of prescriptions pills, including Oxycodone.
Wright joined the department in November 2002. In 2006, he was named “Shoreline Police Officer of the Year” by his peers. That year, Wright was credited with making more than 150 arrests, “including numerous arrests of suspects in stolen cars, felony narcotics violations, and other serious crimes,” according to a City of Shoreline annual report.
Wright is scheduled to go to trial in April on state charges.
A defense attorney for Wright declined to comment on the federal case Tuesday.