Witness does '180,' vindicates Wash. cop
Officer James J. Lee was charged with assault for kicking a teen inside a convenience store
By PoliceOne Staff
SEATTLE — The city dropped an assault charge against a Seattle officer accused of excessive force after a witness met with the officer's attorneys and turned a '180,' Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said Wednesday.
A police training expert with the Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission, witness Robert Bragg reportedly saw new evidence without a city prosecutor present and changed his mind about Officer James J. Lee’s conduct, according to the Seattle Times. A surveillance tape shows Lee kicking a teen in a convenience store last year, and city prosecutors charged him with fourth-degree assault in April.
Bragg originally said in a March report that Lee should not have kicked the teen the final three times that he did to take him down. The opinion came before he read Lee's use-of-force statement since the "Garrity" rule – designed to protect officers from making incriminating remarks protected by the Fifth Amendment – barred prosecution from using it.
The missing information was "unprecedented in my experience as an expert witness," Bragg said, and omitting Lee's perspective prevented him from making a thorough conclusion, he said.
While awaiting trial, Lee's defense attorney, Peter Offenbecher, offered to let Bragg see the use-of-force report, according to Holmes, provided that prosecutors would agree not to ask for it. According to a public disclosure report, Bragg met privately with Offenbecher and Buck, and after the meeting, Bragg changed his mind – which Buck insists was a move all his own.
"I've known Bob Bragg for years," Buck said. "I'm not persuasive enough to chase him off what he believes is the truth." Holmes, meanwhile, says he is disappointed and believes he was forced to drop the charge.
Documents released Wednedsay show a side-by-side comparison of Bragg's previous and new statements. View them here.