Brian Barnes contends the former sheriff defamed him by publicly describing the allegation as a malicious, politically motivated lie, as well as by labeling Barnes an “organizational terrorist” who habitually files false claims against supervisors.
A former deputy who claimed ex-King County Sheriff John Urquhart grabbed his crotch in a Renton parking lot four years ago has filed a countersuit as part of a formal response to Urquhart’s pending defamation lawsuit against him.
Brian Barnes, in a 15-page answer and counterclaim filed Monday in King County Superior Court, contends his groping accusation against Urquhart is true, and that the former sheriff defamed him by publicly describing the allegation as a malicious, politically motivated lie, as well as by labeling Barnes an “organizational terrorist” who habitually files false claims against supervisors.
“This defamation suit brought by Mr. Urquhart is an abusive attempt by the former Sheriff of King County and former candidate for public office to deflect accountability, punish, retaliate against and damage the reputation of a private citizen, Mr. Barnes,” the counterclaim states.
Among other contentions, Barnes’ court filing also claims that Urquhart, by repeatedly publicly disparaging him, violated the terms of a 2015 settlement agreement under which Barnes was paid more than $160,000 to voluntarily resign from the Sheriff’s Office; and that the former sheriff has selectively used personnel and investigative documents to falsely attack his reputation.
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Urquhart has “intentionally or recklessly caused emotional distress to Mr. Barnes by extreme and outrageous conduct and is liable for severe emotional distress resulting from such conduct,” the counterclaim states.
Barnes’ filing asks the court for a judgment against Urquhart and to award compensation for damages to be proved at trial.
An attorney for Urquhart said in an email they would file a response with the court, but would have no other comment.
Barnes, 49, now a college-campus police officer in Massachusetts, formally complained to the Sheriff’s Office in September that Urquhart, 70, groped him in 2014 in the parking lot of a Renton restaurant following a dinner meeting. His complaint led to a criminal investigation by Renton police, and, following news reports, prompted Urquhart — then running for re-election as sheriff — to sue Barnes for defamation.
Filed in early November, Urquhart’s lawsuit claimed that Barnes concocted the groping claims “for the purpose of causing substantial and irreparable harm” to derail the then-sheriff’s re-election bid.
Shortly after the election, a Renton police investigator who found probable cause that Urquhart groped Barnes forwarded a case to the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office for review.
Prosecutor Mark Rowe later decided not to file criminal charges. While agreeing that probable cause had been met to consider charges, Rowe found the alleged groping did not rise to a felony indecent-liberties charge, and the statute of limitations had lapsed on what he called the “most applicable” gross misdemeanor charge of assault with sexual motivation.