LOCAL NEWS

King County prosecutor requests criminal probe of missing texts of former mayor, police chief

Aug 19, 2022, 12:00 PM
texts...
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks at a press conference on March 28, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. The mayor and other leaders from Washington state discussed the deployment of a new field hospital at CenturyLink Field Event Center which is expected to create at least 150 hospital beds for non-COVID-19 cases and will include 300 soldiers from the 627th Army Hospital at Fort Carson, Colorado. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

The King County Prosecutor’s Office does not typically request criminal investigations by law enforcement, but outgoing Prosecutor Dan Satterberg is making an exception in the case of the missing text messages of Seattle’s former mayor.

“On July 28, Dan Satterberg asked King County Sheriff Cole-Tindall to put together a structured investigation into the missing text messages, and we’ve been told the Sheriff’s Office has done so,” said Satterberg’s spokesperson, Casey McNerthney, in an e-mailed statement to KIRO Newsradio.

As first reported by the Seattle Times, a spokesperson for Sheriff Cole-Tindall confirmed the department was “in the early stages of reviewing the matter,” offering no additional detail.

Last year, a whistle-blower revealed that 10 months of Durkan’s texts had vanished, including from the period in 2020 when the city was contending with racial justice protests over the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the creation of the CHOP, riots, and the abandonment of SPD’s East Precinct.

Still questions over timeline of Mayor Durkan’s missing texts in wake of forensic report

Later, the Seattle Times uncovered several other city leaders also had not kept their text messages from roughly the same period, including then-Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, Seattle Fire Department Chief Harold Scoggins, and several SPD commanders.

Texts of elected and public officials are public records and must be retained for at least two years. Knowingly destroying them before then is a felony under state law.

The Times eventually sued the city over the missing texts – a lawsuit that settled earlier this year with the city agreeing to pay nearly $200,000 while creating a series of reforms in releasing and retaining records.

The city admitted no fault.

With Durkan out of office and Best stepping down, the demand for answers and accountability had somewhat dissipated, but not to Satterberg, who noted multiple people calling for accountability as part of the reason he asked for the criminal investigation.

“The case had never been referred to us, and typically we don’t ask for an investigation to be conducted,” Satterberg said in a statement to KIRO Newsradio. “But in recent weeks and months, I heard from people in the community that this matter was important to them and I considered it my responsibility to make this request to the Sheriff before the end of my term.

“It wasn’t clear to me that anyone was going to start this investigation without prompting. Just like the public’s right to an open courtroom, people have a right to know what is in public documents – including text messages,” he added.

There had been multiple calls for an investigation, including from the president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government and also City Councilmember Andrew Lewis earlier this year following the release of a forensic analysis related to multiple lawsuits over the city’s response to the 2020 protests. That analysis found Durkan’s phone had been set manually in July of 2020 to auto-delete texts after 30 days, but did not determine who changed the setting. The former mayor said she did not change the setting and that the city’s IT department managed maintenance and configuration of her phones and had worked on it that July.

The IT department said it was not its policy to change the retention settings on phones.

Best said in an earlier deposition that she had periodically deleted text messages and the analysis backed that up.

Durkan and Best have not responded to requests for comment about Satterberg’s call for an investigation.

Follow Hanna Scott on Twitter or email her here

Local News

Teen home run ball...
Jake Chapman, KIRO 7 News

Teen from Puyallup catches home run ball that ended M’s 21-year playoff drought

17-year-old Marchany Roman, of Puyallup, caught the drought-ending home run hit by Cal Raleigh after the M's defeated Oakland Friday night.
1 day ago
smiley woke...
L.B. Gilbert

Tiffany Smiley criticizes Seattle Times over cease and desist letter

After being issued a cease and desist order, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tiffany Smiley is now criticizing The Seattle Times.
1 day ago
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 30: Julio Rodriguez #44 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates with fan...
Nicole Jennings

Mariners will not be hosting playoff games this weekend

The Mariners will be playing in the first round of the MLB playoff games this weekend. So how likely is it that those games will take place in Seattle?
1 day ago
Aberdeen High School...
Sam Campbell

Boy accused of using Aberdeen HS TikTok to post shooting threats

Classes are set to resume in Aberdeen after they were canceled because of threats posted to one of the high school’s social media accounts.
1 day ago
Suspect in REI bike theft - Police said the suspect admitted to stealing the bike, and he was arres...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Man suspected of stealing bike from REI worth $2,400 arrested in Bellevue

A man suspected of stealing a bike worth $2,400 was arrested by Bellevue police on Tuesday.
1 day ago
Flood Insurance...
Ted Buehner

Rainy season is in a month, are you ready with flood insurance?

After an all-time record dry summer, it may be hard to believe that the Washington flood season is just around the corner.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
King County prosecutor requests criminal probe of missing texts of former mayor, police chief