Fight Over Child Porn Evidence Pits Prosecutors Against Former Detective

Source: TheNewsTribune

“We can’t see her.”

Four little words, yet they carry enough cargo to fill a legal freight train.

Written in June 2011 by Pierce County sheriff’s deputy Mike Ames, the four words could be bottled and sold as lawyer bait.

So far, their implications have hooked more than 50 attorneys and four judges in three counties — all players in a vast courtroom drama.

The four words float through a messy criminal case, two contentious lawsuits and multiple appeals to the Washington State Supreme Court filed over the past three years.

“We can’t see her.”

For Pierce County prosecutors, the four words underscore a thorny child rape case and a grim two-front defense against follow-up lawsuits that accuse their office of malicious prosecution and dishonesty.

For Longbranch resident Lynn Dalsing, the four words represent the difference between innocence and guilt: the gap between freedom and a possible life sentence in prison for sex crimes she says she didn’t commit.

The four words refer to an ugly photo: one frame in an infamous series of child pornography images, familiar to those who collect them like baseball cards.

The photo depicts a woman and a young child. The child’s face is visible. The woman’s is not, according to sworn statements in court records.

For Ames, the recently retired sheriff’s deputy, the four words he wrote in 2011 represent his integrity: a promise to tell the truth, whether county prosecutors like it or not, whether he’s a difficult guy or not.

Three years later, Ames contends county prosecutor Mark Lindquist and his staff are trying to ruin his reputation and brand him as a dishonest cop to cover up their own mistakes, while tagging Ames with $118,000 in attorney fees for trying to clear his name.

“I serve the citizens of Pierce County, and I believe they deserve to be told the truth about how certain aspects of their criminal justice system is being run,” he said in a written statement.

Prosecutors say they’re fulfilling a duty they cannot shirk – a duty to disclose information about Ames’ credibility, whether he likes it or not.

“The plaintiff (Ames) and his attorney — who have a history of filing meritless complaints — made numerous false allegations against several people,” Lindquist said. “This is a rare remedy designed to discourage ill-conceived and irresponsible litigation.”

Is Ames a malcontent, a lying deputy, a disgruntled employee with an ax to grind?

If so, he has plenty of allies. Recently, 34 attorneys, including a host of veteran defense lawyers, a respected law professor and two former Pierce County chief deputy prosecutors, filed legal declarations in Ames’ defense.

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