"Rahr says FBI 'not kicked off' Ring case"

DAN RING, Defendant

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Eric Nalder, P-I Investigative Reporter

King county Sheriff Sue Rahr sent an e-mail to her employees last week denying -- for the first time -- a report that the Sheriff's Office removed the FBI from a two-year, multiagency investigation of sheriff's Detective Dan Ring just before Ring's arrest in January 2004.

Rahr's e-mail flatly contradicts statements made in July by both the FBI and her own spokesman, John Urquhart.

The Ring case became highly controversial after an August 1-3 Seattle Post-Intelligencer series, "Conduct Unbecoming," which described events leading up to a deal Ring cut with the sheriff's office and the prosecutor.

The deal allowed him to avoid trial and receive $10,000 in cash, as well as approximately $200,000 in attorneys' fees and an enhanced pension. Ring promised in exchange never to work again as a cop in this state.

Records and statements by others involved in the case confirm that shortly before Ring was arrested in January 2004, the FBI agent who had been working on the case since 2002 -- Gary Pilawski -- was cut out of the arrest plans and from that time forward was no longer included in the sheriff's investigation. The FBI has said it was never given a good reason.

The prosecutor continued to communicate with Pilawski regarding the case, but the sheriff also dropped the lead investigator, Sgt. Rob Mathis, from the case.

Rahr's e-mail said: "The FBI was not 'kicked off' the case. After a year and a half, they found no evidence to substantiate a crime of public corruption or any other federal crime. Sheriff Rehert told them their assistance was no longer needed. Had they wished to continue the investigation, there is nothing the Sheriff could have done to stop them."

Mark Ferbrache, supervisory special agent over the FBI's local public corruption and white-collar crime office, told the P-I in July that the FBI was "essentially cut out of the investigation" despite developing "what we all thought -- we, being the FBI -- was a strong criminal case based on the violations that (Ring) was ultimately charged with."

"We've already spoken on the record about this and what we said is all we are going to say," said FBI spokesperson Robbie Burroughs Tuesday after learning of Rahr's e-mail.

Last July, Urquhart, Rahr's spokesman, said: "Practically speaking, (previous Sheriff Dave) Reichert took (the case) away from the FBI."

Asked Tuesday to explain the contradiction with Rahr's e-mail, Urquhart said: "I'm not saying (Reichert) kicked them off the case. He took the case away from them and gave it to someone else. The FBI can say whatever they want."

Rahr declined to comment.

The Ring case was coming to a head just before Reichert announced a run for Congress. Rahr was his top chief, and his handpicked successor after he was elected last year to Congress.

While Rahr's e-mail said the FBI could have pursued its own federal case, the agency was invited by Reichert to assist in an investigation of possible state crimes, not federal crimes.

The longtime vice and intelligence detective was charged with stalking his ex-wife, doing favors for escort services and ripping off an old man as a caretaker.

Evidence was also developed that he bought illegal drugs for personal use, but no charges were ever filed.

After the P-I series, the FBI announced that it is conducting its own investigation of Ring under federal law, and that it will attempt to crack open Ring's sheriff's department laptop computer, which was encrypted and may contain evidence.

On Friday, Urquhart had harsh words about the FBI.

"I don't care what they say. The information they were providing was not correct," Urquhart said. "They have an ax to grind. I have no use for what the FBI is saying regaring the Ring case."

Regarding other matters, Rahr reiterated in her e-mail that she cut the deal with Ring rather than firing him because she feared he would win his criminal trial and then win his job back through arbitration.

"Information obtained from Ring's defense attorneys just prior to the trial provided important, exculpatory information not known to the investigators when they submittd the case for filing," Rahr explained.

Records don't make clear what Rahr was talking about -- and Urquhart declined to elaborate. Rahr said in the e-mail the information was known to sheriff's department internal investigators, but couldn't be shared with criminal investigators because of legal barriers.

Rahr shared her concerns about the criminal case with prosecutors just prior to the charges being dropped in April, but in her email she said: "The Prosecutor's Office dropped the charges against Ring on their own. I agree with their decision."

She also said Ring might have been able to win his job back because the sheriff's internal investigation into his behavior was "entwined" with the criminal investigation, which "violates our past practice and the general principles of labor law"

She added that fighting Ring "would waste hundreds of thousands of dollars from our budget to pay for the legal fees."

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