We are dismayed that a criminal case has been thrown out due to an error in the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office.
In a front-page article of the Journal this week, titled “Case dismissed due to misuse of security camera,” we delve into the details surrounding, what appears to us to be, an operator error on San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs’ part. This the latest debacle to cause the dismissal of a criminal case.
A security camera in the courtroom zoomed in on four locations in the room. Krebs said he operated the camera, which captured a closed juror’s notebook, but said he doesn’t know why the camera focused on the prosecutor, evidence and the notes of the defense. The last being why the case was thrown out.
This blunder resulted in a criminal case – with threats of physical violence – being thrown out, never to be tried again because of prejudice. An allegedly violent person was allowed to walk free because of a misstep that was easily avoidable.
Mistakes happen, but this one comes in the wake of a much more sinister case with even darker ramifications. In 2017, under Krebs’ watch, former San Juan County Detective Stephen Parker’s questionable conduct was responsible for reduced charges or dismissal of three island sex crime cases. Parker had an inappropriate relationship with the victim of a sex crime involving an Orcas teacher. The teacher was found guilty, but the case was overturned when it was discovered that Parker was involved with the victim. Parker also failed to give the prosecutor’s office paperwork on the rape of a child case. That case resulted in reduced charges of a misdemeanor.
The third case involved rape charges of a 20-month-old child, which were dropped to molestation charges because the perpetrator’s confession to Parker was thrown out by the judge.
How many cases will be thrown out or altered under Krebs’ watch?
We hope this is the last incident.
San Juan County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord and Krebs have petitioned the state to not release the security camera video. We urge them to release the footage.
We understand Krebs’ reluctance to release the footage if it further compromises the security of the courtroom by demonstrating the weaknesses in the system. The longer and harder they fight to keep it sealed, the less trust the community has in these two elected entities.