"Two King County deputies reinstated"

DAVID ALLEN, attorney
James Keller, defendant

Seattle PI

By Tracy Johnson

Two King County sheriff's deputies accused of roughing up a man in South King County in a criminal case that left a jury deadlocked will be returning to duty, according to their attorneys.

The Sheriff's Office has decided to reinstate Deputies James Keller and George Alvarez after docking them 20 days' pay, according to Alvarez's attorney, Anne Bremner.

A recommendation had been made earlier to fire them.

She said the decision was good news for Alvarez, who "has always known that what he did was appropriate."

Attorney David Allen said Keller was "anxious to get back to police work. This has been an ordeal for him, and he wants to get back out on the street."

Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart declined to discuss the details of the deputies' discipline -- which he said could range from a reprimand to termination.

Sheriff Dave Reichert met with both deputies last week, and his office is expected to announce today which allegations against them were upheld and which weren't.

In March, after an internal investigation, the deputies' supervisor had recommended that the department fire them.

As of yesterday, no decision had been made for a third officer, Des Moines police officer Barron Baldwin, who faced the same allegations.

Baldwin is expected to meet with the city's police chief today.

Last month, a King County Superior Court jury considered allegations that the three officers hit and pepper-sprayed a man who wasn't cooperating with their efforts to turn him into a drug informant.

The man, Michael Winchester, said they also threatened to throw him in the Green River.

Another officer who saw the encounter that October night said he was concerned enough to bring the matter to his supervisor.

But jurors could not agree. They found Keller not guilty of assault and voted 8-4 in favor of acquitting the officers on the other five charges of unlawful imprisonment and assault.

As a result, all of the charges against the officers were dismissed.

Winchester's attorney, D. Michael Tompkins, said the man will seek damages in civil court. He has filed a claim -- a precursor to a lawsuit -- against King County.

"There's no question Mr. Winchester's civil rights were severely abused," he said yesterday.

In their trial, all three officers maintained that they dealt appropriately with Winchester -- a drug addict with two outstanding arrest warrants -- and denied threatening him.

All have been on paid leave since the incident.

In a separate proceeding, an inquest jury recently backed the actions of all three officers in the shooting death of a Federal Way man in September.


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