Durkan, other officials won’t be charged in case of missing text messages

Sep 12, 2023, 4:43 PM | Updated: Sep 13, 2023, 6:46 am

Image: Former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks at a news conference about the COVID-19 outbreak on...

Former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks at a news conference about the COVID-19 outbreak on March 16, 2020, in Seattle. (Photo: Elaine Thompson, Pool/Getty Images)

(Photo: Elaine Thompson, Pool/Getty Images)

King County prosecutors announced there will be no charges filed against former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and other high-level officials for deleting tens of thousands of text messages during the Black Lives Matter protests of the summer of 2020.

In a memo Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion and her colleague Dan Clark of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) wrote to the King County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday that was provided to KIRO Newsradio, the attorneys stated the KCPAO requested the investigation because “ensuring public officials are acting in the highest regard for creating and maintaining public records is a matter of utmost importance to our community.” But in the end, prosecutors chose not to move forward with charges.

“Based upon your investigation and our legal analysis of the facts as you presented, we conclude that there is no legal basis to file criminal charges in this case,” Manion and Clark wrote.

The prosecutors announced they wouldn’t move forward after they received a lengthy report and an executive summary from the King County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Intelligence Unit that was provided to KIRO Newsradio from the KCPAO.

“After reviewing over 5,720 pages of sworn testimony, digital evidence, expert witness reports, and contemporaneous communications, I have found no evidence of a criminal conspiracy to destroy public records contained in any city cell phones, and no evidence that unauthorized access from outside the city had caused the loss of data,” the executive summary from the sheriff’s office stated.

Previous coverage: Seattle to pay $2.3M over ex-mayor Jenny Durkan’s deleted texts

The document also stated no single factor led to the destruction of the text messages that belonged to the city officials during the four-month period in question.

“It was a perfect storm of training delinquencies, outdated and conflicting policies and procedures, and insufficient safeguards to prevent the loss of records that primarily contributed to the destruction of these text message,” the sheriff’s office summary stated.

The attorneys used their memo to summarize “the factual nuances of each case as they bear on the state’s evaluation of the evidence and ultimately, its inability to file charges.” After outlining their legal analysis in the memo, Manion and Clark concluded they “cannot establish beyond a reasonable doubt that any of these City of Seattle employees had a criminal intent to destroy public records.”

2021 piece by Dave Ross: Durkan looks back on a term that was ‘defined by COVID’

Prosecuting attorney Dan Satterberg ordered the King County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the deletions on July 28, 2022.

A whistleblower revealed Durkan’s texts from a 10-month period were missing.

The missing texts came from the summer of 2020 when police deployed tear gas against protest crowds and abandoned their East Precinct during the Capitol Hill Organized Protest.

Then-Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best and current Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins also failed to retain their texts during roughly the same period.

The law requires both willful and unlawful action on behalf of the individual to constitute criminal conduct. Investigators found neither.

Lawsuits in the case have been settled, but the outcome of the investigation remained in question.

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Durkan, other officials won’t be charged in case of missing text messages