The judge found that two attorneys, who made the allegations as part of a pending lawsuit stemming from the fatal shooting of Charleena Lyles by Seattle police, violated professional-conduct rules.
In a blistering decision, a King County judge on Tuesday found no merit to allegations that a Seattle police officer perjured himself in testimony about last year’s fatal shooting of Charleena Lyles.
Superior Court Judge Julie Spector found that Seattle attorneys Karen Koehler and Edward Moore, who made the allegations as part of a pending lawsuit stemming from the shooting, violated professional-conduct rules and ordered them to pay the city of Seattle reasonable fees and costs yet to be determined.
In a nine-page order, Spector said the two attorneys “intentionally filed a baseless motion, lacking any support from the factual record or existing law, attacking the character and credibility of Defendant Officer Jason Anderson, at the cost of his right to a fair trial, on the anniversary of Ms. Lyles’ death as a means of garnering media attention.”
Koehler and Moore claimed that Anderson, one of the two officers who shot Lyles on June 18, 2017, perjured himself when he testified in a pretrial deposition that the door to her apartment was closed when the confrontation occurred.
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To bolster their assertion, the lawyers, who represent Lyles’ estate and the guardian ad litem for her four children, released police video and audio synchronized to silent surveillance video from the apartment hallway, which they say shows Anderson stepped into the hallway through an open door as he fired.
In their motion, Koehler and Moore asked Spector to find that Anderson had given “material false testimony” and refer the matter to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for review.
In a response filed Friday, the city’s attorneys described the motion as “frivolous” and a publicity stunt. They said the motion should be denied and that monetary sanctions should be imposed for violating professional-conduct rules.
They noted Anderson has consistently stated that it was his recollection the door was closed.
In response to the ruling, Koehler issued a statement saying: “No one ever said that fighting for justice on Charleena Lyles’ case would be easy. With all due respect to the court, we strongly disagree with the findings made and will request reconsideration.”
Lyles, 30, was shot by Anderson and Officer Steven McNew after she reported a burglary and, according to the officers, suddenly attacked them with one or two knives inside her northeast Seattle apartment.
At issue, the city’s attorneys said in court papers, was Anderson’s “recollection” of a “rapidly evolving, dynamic situation in which he and his partner were faced with an imminent threat of a deadly weapon.”
Koehler and Moore relied on a biomechanical engineer they described as an expert, who compared partial patrol-car video from outside the apartment building and full audio of the call, recorded on the officers’ microphones, to the hallway surveillance video. In the synchronized version, the sound of shots can be heard on the police recording as Anderson is seen in the doorway and hall on the surveillance video.
They contended Anderson’s “false story” about the closed door, along with misrepresentations of distance and lack of shielding, combined in part to mislead the Police Department’s Force Review Board (FRB), Force Investigation Team and crime-scene investigators, as well as the court in the lawsuit.
The FRB in November unanimously found the shooting to be reasonable, necessary and proportional and consistent with department training and policy.
In a subsequent report, the FRB explained that Lyles posed an immediate lethal threat to the officers and two of her small children nearby.
Anderson told police investigators he fired after Lyles thrust a knife toward him and then quickly moved toward McNew, who was trapped inside the apartment.
In Tuesday’s ruling, Spector denied the perjury motion and ordered materials submitted by Koehler and Moore to be stricken.
She also found that Koehler and Moore filed the motion and alerted the news media before serving the city. Koehler tweeted and retweeted multiple news articles about the perjury allegations, the judge said.
The synchronization was done by someone who is not a video analyst, who didn’t use original police video and whose methods aren’t reasonable or reliable, Spector said.
She ordered Koehler and Moore to comply with professional rules and maintain the decorum afforded to the defendants and the court.
The monetary sanctions will be determined after the city submits the fees and costs it incurred to respond to the motion, to be paid within 20 days of Tuesday’s order.