Bellevue Police Chief Stephen Mylett called criticism by Derrick Coleman’s attorney of how his department handled the Seahawk fullback’s case “baseless and offensive” Tuesday.
BELLEVUE — A news conference conducted by Bellevue Police Chief Stephen Mylett on Tuesday to discuss the Derrick Coleman investigation turned into a defense of the department’s handling of the case and how long it took to recommend charges.
On Monday, Bellevue Police turned the investigation over to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and recommended that the Seahawks fullback be charged with felony hit-and-run and vehicular assault in connection with a crash in Bellevue on Oct. 14. A decision on a formal filing of charges is expected to take a few weeks.
Mylett was asked about the timing of the recommendation, which arrived eight days after the end of the Seahawks’ season. Coleman was the team’s starting fullback for the NFC divisional playoff loss against Carolina on Jan. 17.
Mylett said it took awhile for the department to finish toxicology tests, interviews and reconstructions of the two-car accident that left another man with a head injury and a broken clavicle.
“This is not unusual, the length of time that it took to complete this investigation,’’ Mylett said.
He called the possibility of favoritism toward the Seahawks “absurd,” adding, “We have no motivation to manipulate any investigation for any group, any individual, period. We wouldn’t do that.’’
Mylett also began the 20-minute news conference answering allegations by Stephen Hayne, Coleman’s attorney, who said Monday that the release of a 101-page report to the media and public was an attempt to “save face by tarring Derrick with as many infractions’’ as they could find.
“He has questioned our integrity, our ethical behavior and our professionalism,’’ Mylett said. “His assertions are baseless and offensive.” He added that Hayne’s comments were made to “salvage’’ Coleman’s reputation.
Hayne said he was stunned that the police report was released before charges were filed. Mylett said the timing was to adhere to laws requiring the release of public documents when requested.
“Nothing could be further from the truth that we release these documents in any sort of effort to defame Mr. Coleman,’’ Mylett said. “We are obligated under Washington state law to release documents that are public record when requests are made.’’
Hayne, in a phone interview following Mylett’s news conference, reiterated his complaint about the department releasing the report before charges had been filed.
Hayne said releasing the report and holding a news conference before the filing of charges were “clearly unethical, unprofessional, and it may not be illegal, but it certainly violates the responsibility of police departments not to abuse their power, and that is exactly what they are doing here, and that is a problem the Bellevue Police Department has had with Seahawks and with other people.
“They chose to put this production on, to hold these press conferences, to try to make their case with the public and the media, which in my opinion is a cynical attempt to influence potential jurors and make them look good in what amounts to a flawed investigation.’’
Mylett said when he took over as Bellevue’s chief in April that he pledged to have the department be as open and transparent with the media as possible. He said he would spend “three, four days doing interviews (about the Coleman investigation) because of the demand’’ if he did not hold a news conference.
The police report stated that Coleman acknowledged smoking Spice, or synthetic marijuana, about an hour before the crash. Hayne said Coleman passed field sobriety tests. Blood tests, taken six hours after the crash, proved negative.
Mylett said he would leave conclusions about Coleman’s impairment to the King County Prosecutor’s Office, but said Bellevue Police felt confident in recommending charges. Coleman is alleged to have been traveling about 60 mph in a 35-mph zone at the time of the crash and also to have left the scene. He was found two blocks away about 20 minutes later.
“That (impairment) is just one element of proving vehicular assault,’’ Mylett said. ”The other element is that he drove his vehicle recklessly. And, again, the evidence that we have through the physical evidence that we have examined, witness statements, his own statements, I believe we are rock-solid in proving our case.’’
Mylett called Coleman and the Seahawks cooperative in the investigation.
When asked in October why Coleman left the scene, Hayne said the crash dislodged hearing aids Coleman wears and that his client might have been disoriented. Mylett said Tuesday that Bellevue Police helped Coleman put his hearing aids back into place, and said that showed how fairly the department treated Coleman.
Coleman, 26, finished his third full season with the Seahawks and is now a restricted free agent. Seattle can match an offer from another NFL team or receive compensation if he signs elsewhere.
Coleman was initially suspended by the Seahawks after the crash and sat out a regular-season game against Carolina on Oct. 18. He was inactive the following week with a concussion before returning.