Former Clallam County sheriff's evidence room employee sent to prison

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A former Clallam County Sheriff's Office records specialist convicted in 2011 of stealing $8,644 from the courthouse evidence room between 2003 and 2008 was sent to state prison Friday.

Staci L. Allison, 43, sat quietly in an orange jail-issue jumpsuit as Clallam County Superior Court Judge George L. Wood vacated a stay of sentencing pending appeal that former Superior Court Judge Ken Williams had signed in December 2011.

The stay was based on a review by the state Court of Appeals, which last month upheld the three-year sentence that Allison received after she was found guilty by a jury of first-degree theft and money laundering.

The appellate court also upheld an order forcing Allison to pay $51,905 — the total amount that was missing from the evidence room — in restitution.

Funds, which consisted of seized evidence mostly related to drug cases, were discovered missing in an internal audit in 2006.

Allison, who was hired by the Sheriff's Office in 2002, was fired in April 2007 after a State Patrol investigation found a total of $51,251.33 missing.

Prosecutors charged Allison on provable thefts, they said, saying the penalty would be the same on a conviction for either amount.

Allison was transported from the Clallam County jail to the Washington Corrections Center for Women at Purdy on Friday.

She has long maintained her innocence.

“It's a sad thing for everybody,” said Ralph Anderson, Allison's defense attorney, after Friday's court hearing.

“I don't think anybody really takes any joy out of this, but it does bring closure to something that's been going on for a real long time.”

Allison will get credit for the time she served in the Clallam County jail since she was arrested in Ephrata on a local bench warrant Dec. 23.

Allison was living and working in the Eastern Washington city when Wood revoked the $10,000 bail that Steven Jones had posted for his daughter in December 2011.

“She was released on $10,000 bail, which was posted by her dad pending appeal,” Anderson explained.

“He asked the court to revoke the bail because he was concerned about her welfare, and the court did so.”

Without bail, a stay of sentencing is no longer valid.

“Based on concerns for her welfare, and also the fact that there was no bail, she has to go back into jail and, by law, she then will be transported today or tomorrow down to Purdy,” Anderson said.

Even if the bail had not been revoked, Allison would have been sent to prison in a matter of days on a mandate from the Court of Appeals.

Anderson said it was unlikely that the state Supreme Court would review the case.

“So it looks like the case is over,” he said.

Allison likely will serve most of her sentence at a work camp or “some less secure place” than the women's prison at Purdy, Anderson said.

Sheriff Bill Benedict has said the county's insurance did not cover the missing funds.

The law firm Backlund & Mistry of Olympia represented Allison in the appeal.

The three-year sentence was challenged on the grounds that the county Prosecuting Attorney's Office engaged in “prosecutorial mismanagement,” that the money-laundering statute is unconstitutional and that the $51,905 in restitution was not “causally connected” to the crimes.

The appellate court rejected all three arguments.

The defense team asserted that two of Allison's supervisors, Chris James and Alice Hoffman, also had access to the evidence room and that there were “lax procedural safeguards.”

Appellate Judge Bradley Maxa wrote in the 11-page opinion that items found near Allison's work station showed that $51,905 was missing, according to a State Patrol audit, and that Allison was the “primary custodian” of the evidence room.

“While the evidence only showed about $9,000 in unexplained deposits to Allison's bank account, there also was evidence that she traveled to South Korea three times and to Disneyland [in California] without expense, and for two years stopped relying on payday loans to pay her basic living expenses,” Maxa wrote in the Dec. 3 opinion.

“Under these circumstances, we cannot say that the sentencing court abused its discretion in finding a causal link between the criminal activity and the damages and in imposing the entire loss as restitution.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 04. 2014 7:07PM
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