Criminal charge against former deputy accuses him of official misconduct

Investigation alleges he used official status to talk to teen about case

PORT ANGELES — A former Clallam County Sheriff’s deputy has been charged with official misconduct over his Oct. 2 traffic stop of a 17-year-old boy.

Donald Bruce Kitchen, 50, of Sequim pleaded not guilty to the gross misdemeanor criminal complaint and demanded a jury trial in a Jan. 27 court filing by his attorney, Alexandrea Schodowski of Port Townsend, two days after he was charged.

The maximum penalty is 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

District Court Judge Dave Nuepert postponed today’s arraignment hearing to 9 a.m. March 4 after Schodowski filed a motion saying Kitchen would be out of the county in February due to a previously scheduled obligation.

Schodowski did not return calls for comment Thursday.

The case was investigated by the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office at the request of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, said Brian King, Clallam County chief criminal deputy.

“It is alleged that on or about October 2, 2021, Deputy Kitchen conducted an unlawful detention of a juvenile driver without cause in violation of Clallam County Sheriff’s Office policy,” King said in a Nov. 17 letter to Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols.

Nichols outsourced prosecutorial review of the case to the Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

King said Thursday the Sheriff’s Office has nearly completed its investigation of Kitchen’s alleged violation of agency policy.

Kitchen was a Lower Elwha tribal police officer in December 2013 when he was hired as a deputy.

King said he was placed on paid administrative leave Nov. 12 based on the misconduct allegation, and he resigned effective Jan. 31, six days after the criminal complaint was filed. His salary was $85,239.

The case was initiated in October during an ongoing sexual assault investigation of Kitchen’s son as a suspect, according to the probable cause statement in Kitchen’s misconduct case.

During an Oct. 14 interview with Jefferson County Sheriff’s detectives, a male minor said a 17-year-old boy who was a friend of Kitchen’s son was pulled over by the deputy during a traffic stop.

In an Oct. 20 interview with Jefferson County detectives, the 17-year-old said he was driving on Carlsborg Road when he pulled over after the driver of a law enforcement vehicle behind him briefly turned on his lights, according to the probable cause statement.

During a two- to three-minute conversation, the teenager said Kitchen told him, “I’m not stopping you for anything” and addressed “rumors” being spread about Kitchen’s son, the teenager said.

Kitchen told him he “just wanted make sure that like we weren’t spreading rumors because I know that some kids at the school are,” according to the probable cause statement.

“I didn’t feel pressured or anything,” the teenager told detectives.

He said, in reference to being pulled over, “Yeah, I thought I did something wrong.”

The teenager’s father, who was present during the interview, said his son called him after the traffic stop “and he was a little bit rattled,” according to the statement.

“I was shaking,” the teen told the detectives.

Two Kitsap County Sheriff’s detectives questioned Kitchen Nov. 17 at the Sequim Police Department. A labor representative was present.

In the recorded interview, Kitchen said he was on duty Oct. 2 in a marked patrol vehicle, recognized the teenager’s car, turned on the solid light for “less than a second” behind the teen, according to the probable cause statement.

He said the two vehicles pulled over on Spath Road, just off Carlsborg Road.

Kitchen characterized the interaction as a “social contact” and did not notify dispatch that he was on a traffic stop.

“I wasn’t contacting him for police purposes, it was spontaneous at that moment,” he said.

“(Kitchen) indicated that the reason for the traffic stop was to speak with (the teenager) and offer his thanks for being a friend of his son’s (during the pending cases),” according to the probable cause statement.

The teen is a witness in one of the cases — the alleged victim told him about the alleged assault, according to the statement.

Kitchen said he wanted to thank the teen “for being kind to my son,” according to the detectives, saying he felt he was “doing something nice for (the teen)” to thank him.

Kitsap County Detective Michael Grant said the words “thank” or “thanks” were not in the transcript of the interview with the teen.

Grant determined Kitchen was guilty of official misconduct under RCW 9A.80.010.

He said Kitchen “was acting in an official capacity as a public servant and, with the intent to obtain benefit or to deprive another person of a lawful right or privilege, he committed an unlawful act under the color of law.”

A benefit is defined as “any gain or advantage to the beneficiary, including any gain or advantage to a third person pursuant to the desire or consent of the beneficiary,” Grant said in the probable cause statement.

Nichols said Thursday he has not received notice that the cases against Kitchen’s son have been completed.

On Jan. 14, Nichols emailed the probable cause statement to the Clallam Public Defender’s Office and to the Clallam County Bar Association’s ListServe for distribution among its members.

He did so under the legal obligation, known as the Brady Rule, to provide Kitchen’s lawyer with potentially exculpatory information, he said Thursday.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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