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Washington Sheriff charged for falsely claiming Black newspaper carrier threatened to kill him

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Alexis Krell

The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office charged Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer with two misdemeanors Tuesday. He’s charged in Pierce County District Court with false reporting and making a false or misleading statement to a public servant.

Those charges stem from an investigation into Troyer’s confrontation with a Black newspaper carrier Jan. 27. Here’s what’s known about what will happen next.

What is the penalty for a conviction on those charges?

The standard sentencing range for both of those crimes is up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine if someone with no prior criminal history is convicted, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Will the sheriff be arrested?

Asked if there will be a warrant for the sheriff’s arrest or a summons for him to appear in court, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said the court will summons him for an arraignment.

When is the court date?

Troyer will appear for arraignment 8:45 a.m. Nov. 1 via Zoom, according to the Attorney General’s Office. That’s when the court can set bail or conditions of release.

All District Court hearings except jury trials are being held virtually at the moment in response to the pandemic.

Will there be a special judge to prevent a potential conflict of interest?

The District Court will decide whether to bring in a special judge to handle the case, a spokesperson for the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office said.

What laws is the sheriff accused of violating?

Part of the false reporting law Troyer is charged under says: “A person commits false reporting if, with knowledge that the information reported, conveyed, or circulated is false, he or she initiates or circulates a false report or warning of an alleged occurrence or impending occurrence knowing that such false report is likely to cause: Evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or transportation facility; public inconvenience or alarm; or an emergency response.”

He’s also accused of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant.

That law says: “A person who knowingly makes a false or misleading material statement to a public servant is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. ‘Material statement’ means a written or oral statement reasonably likely to be relied upon by a public servant in the discharge of his or her official powers or duties.”

Why was he charged?

According to the charging papers:

Troyer followed Sedrick Altheimer as he delivered newspapers about 2 a.m.

Altheimer asked if he was being followed because he was Black. He didn’t recognize Troyer.

Troyer allegedly accused him of being a thief, asked him a series of questions and followed Altheimer again when he tried to drive away.

Then Troyer called 911 and said four times that someone had threatened to kill him.

Troyer is accused of false reporting because he told dispatchers Altheimer threatened to kill him when he “knew the information was false, and knew the report would likely cause an emergency response,” according to charging papers.

More than 40 law enforcement officers started to respond, and 14 ended up at the scene.

He’s accused of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant charge because of his comments to the dispatcher that Altheimer threatened to kill him and blocked in his vehicle.

Altheimer has denied threatening Troyer. He filed a $5 million tort claim against Pierce County, citing “racial profiling, false arrest and unnecessary use of excessive force,'” according to the claim.

Troyer has denied wrongdoing.

“The charge is a blatant and politically motivated anti-cop hit job,” he said Tuesday.

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