Sheriff John Urquhart won’t face criminal charges for allegedly groping former King County deputy Brian Barnes outside a restaurant in Renton in 2014.
Urquhart told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that he thinks the accusations against him were politically motivated.
“This is nothing but bogus allegations to affect an election, and it’s shameful,” Urquhart said. “This was a nasty, dirty campaign just in general. For the office of the sheriff, for the highest law enforcement officer in King County, that’s not the way it should be.”
Urquhart lost to Mitzi Johanknecht in the King County sheriff’s election in November.
“There’s no question about this. This incident supposedly happened in March of 2014 and the person did not come forward officially to us until the week before the election. As soon as the report came in from him, I sent it down to the Renton Police Department to investigate, and they did.”
According to Urquhart, Johanknecht’s campaign knew well before he and the Renton Police did. And although the allegation should have been reported immediately, Urquhart said, it wasn’t.
“I have to think that is because they wanted to wait until the October surprise when they could let it drop just before the election, which is exactly what happened.”
Though the Renton Police Department did find probable cause to charge Urquhart with a felony for assault with sexual motivation and sexual indecent liberties, Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe decided against filing those charges.
Urquhart vehemently denied the allegations against him. “Nothing happened,” he said. “It’s real clear. There was no probable cause.”
A meeting did occur between Urquhart and Barnes in March 2014 at a Renton restaurant, but Urquhart said it was strictly about business.
“I met him for coffee and or dinner because I wanted to talk him into staying as a storefront officer in Skyway,” Urquhart said. “He had decided that he wanted to move on. Storefront officers are hard to find, and he had done a good job of that.”
Barnes was later investigated for dishonesty and no longer works as a King County deputy, Urquhart said.
“This is his way of getting back as far as I’m concerned.”
Urquhart has filed a defamation suit against Barnes, who he claimed has a history of alleging criminal behavior against elected officials.
“I’m going to follow that through on behalf not only me but the other people that he has maligned over the years,” he said. “I’m not going to be crying in my beer over it, but you know, I’ve got a 40 year career as a police officer that’s been spotless, spotless. And then this comes up.”
Though Urquhart does think the allegations were politically motivated, he said he does not know how much, if anything, Johanknecht knew.
“I do know that her people, the people that are on her transition team, the people that worked on her campaign, did know about this. How much they told her I don’t know.”
Despite how public opinion about him may have changed throughout the course of the investigation, Urquhart said he feels proud of what he’s accomplished as King County Sheriff since he took the job in 2012.
“I can get up in the morning and I can look myself in the mirror and know not only that I’ve done nothing wrong, but that the sheriff’s office is in a better place than it was five years ago.”