Clallam County deputy disciplined for inappropriate texts with alleged victim of domestic violence

Michael Leiter suspended in January for 30 days without pay

Michael Leiter

Michael Leiter

PORT ANGELES — A Clallam County Sheriff’s Office deputy who admitted he sought sex with an alleged domestic violence victim through text messages on his work cellphone was suspended in January for 30 days without pay.

Deputy Michael Leiter returned to work Feb. 6 after apologizing for violating department policy by making an “unwelcome solicitation of a person or sexual relationship while on duty or through one’s official capacity” earlier this year and for using his work cellphone to text the woman “for personal reasons,” according to a Sheriff’s Office report.

Leiter’s suspension without pay began Jan. 9.

There were 45 text message exchanges between Leiter and the woman from Jan. 1 to Jan. 4, when the woman told the Sheriff’s Office that Leiter was sending her “inappropriate” text messages, according to the report.

According to Sheriff’s Office records, the woman, a Canyon Lake, Calif. resident, revealed the text messages as she was attempting to bail out a Kitsap County man who allegedly assaulted her Dec. 30 at 7 Cedars Casino.

Went to sheriff

She revealed the communication upon learning the Sheriff’s Office was continuing its investigation of the incident, according to sheriff’s office records.

The Kitsap County man was arrested for investigation of gross misdemeanor fourth-degree assault-domestic violence and resisting arrest.

The charges were dismissed Jan. 8, according to county District Court records.

The exchanges between Leiter and the woman began early Jan. 1 when Leiter updated the woman on the domestic violence case, escalated with him complimenting her on her looks, and included sexually suggestive language, according to the text messages.

Violated policy

Leiter also violated department policy by maintaining an “inappropriate” relationship with a known victim as a result of his investigation into the domestic-violence allegation and for using his status as a deputy to gain influence over the victim, according the Sheriff’s Office report.

“This investigation clearly shows that Deputy Leiter used his status as a member of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office in a way that could reasonably be perceived as an attempt to gain influence or authority for non-department activity — i.e., sex,” according to the sheriff’s office report.

“I wasn’t intending on using my position for, for anything,” Leiter said in the Jan. 8 interview with Sgt. John Hollis.

“But ultimately, she could’ve took it that way.

“So, so yes in that aspect I’m guilty.

“But it was not my intent or anything for that.”

Leiter’s intent did not matter, according to Hollis’ report.

“Deputy Leiter’s claim that he did not intend to actually engage in sexual acts with the victim of a crime is irrelevant as, under his own admission and facts of the case, he did in fact solicit a sexual relationship,” Hollis wrote.

“It is clear that between the dates of 12/30/2018 through 01/04/2019, Deputy Leiter sent inappropriately, sexual in nature, text messages to a victim of domestic violence, on his work phone, both while on and off duty, in an effort to solicit a sexual relationship.”

Leiter said what occurred between him and the woman is “embarrassing,” according to the record of the interview.

“I was just having a conversation with her.

“Just talking about different things.

“It was highly inappropriate,” he said.

“It’s, it’s, it’s embarrassing.

“I, I know better.

“It should’ve never happened.

“I apologize to you and I apologize to the department, and everybody for, for my conduct.

“Um, the allegations are all accurate, as you can tell.”

Leiter’s suspension came to light after Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols emailed the Clallam County Bar Association with a “potential impeachment disclosure notice” in the event that Leiter is called as a witness in a court case.

Nichols said he was obligated to issue the Jan. 25 notice under the U.S. Supreme Court case, Brady vs. Maryland, state criminal rules on discovery, and rules of ethical conduct.

The ruling requires law enforcement agencies to notify attorneys of potentially exculpatory information, in terms of the credibility of a witness, and for prosecuting attorneys to disclose that information to officers, most notably, Nichols said, to defense lawyers.

“Whether or not a defense attorney chooses to use that information is a determination best made by the defense,” Nichols said.

The notice also will be sent to lawyers involved in each case in which Leiter is called as a witness, Nichols said.

“This is the normal protocol we follow.”

The notice applies to evidence in the government’s possession that is favorable to the accused and that is material to either guilt or punishment, including evidence that may impact the credibility of a witness.

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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