Concerns expressed by judge over prosecution’s preparedness and investigation highlight hearing in John Ley case

During a court hearing Tuesday in the case of State of Washington v. John Ley, concerns were raised about the prosecution’s preparedness and the completeness of its investigation.
During a court hearing Tuesday in the case of State of Washington v. John Ley, concerns were raised about the prosecution’s preparedness and the completeness of its investigation. File photo

Judge John Fairgrieve expressed concerns about the completeness of the investigation, and noted the infrequency of such charges being brought and the challenges it presents

Ken Vance, editor
ClarkCountyToday.com

A public hearing was held Tuesday (Jan. 9) in the voter registration case in Clark County against former legislative candidate John Ley  The hearing was to address four significant motions filed in the case by Attorney Angus Lee, who represents Ley. 

John Ley
John Ley

The hearing, held in Clark County Superior Court, featured some compelling comments from Judge John Fairgrieve, who essentially admonished the prosecution for its lack of preparedness and investigation that led to the charges against Ley., a Republican candidate for Washington state’s 18th Legislative District state representative Position No. 2 in 2022. Ley is  charged with allegedly registering to vote and as a candidate in an incorrect voter district.

Judge Fairgrieve, a former chief deputy prosecutor for Clark County, expressed concerns during the hearing about the completeness of the investigation, and noted the infrequency of such charges being brought and the challenges it presents. “These types of charges are very infrequent. First time I’ve actually seen these types of charges,” Fairgrieve stated. The judge acknowledged the unusual nature of the case and the unfamiliarity of law enforcement officers in investigating such matters, suggesting that this might have contributed to the oversight in the collection of evidence.

Attorney Angus Lee
Attorney Angus Lee

According to Lee, Fairgrieve was referring to the fact that the state law used to charge Ley has only led to three convictions in the state of Washington in more than 100 years and two of those cases were more than 100 years ago. In addition to that, in each of the three cases, the convicted parties later had those convictions reversed on appeal.

Judge Fairgrieve further pointed out the importance of the defense’s motion for specific documents – the specific voter registration application and declaration of candidacy at issue in the charges against Ley. “It seems to me that this is not an unreasonable request on the part of the defense,” Fairgrieve remarked, emphasizing the legitimacy of the defense’s pursuit of these documents.

Highlighting a potential gap in the prosecution’s case preparation, Judge Fairgrieve expressed surprise that the critical documents were not collected during the initial investigation. “I’m a little surprised that they were not collected during the initial investigation of this case,” he observed, raising questions about the thoroughness of the prosecution’s approach.

The judge also addressed the state’s uncertainty regarding the form and availability of the requested documents. “So at this point, it seems to me that the state’s saying, well, we’re not quite sure what form these documents might be in, and you don’t have ’em at this point, is that right?”

Deputy Prosecutor Erik Podhora responded to Fairgrieve by confirming that the prosecution did not have possession of the declarations that Ley was accused of falsely submitting. The motion for the prosecution to compel those documents will be heard at a hearing on Feb. 15.

“We filed all four motions appropriately, meeting minimum time requirements under the rule, and the prosecution just wasn’t prepared to respond,’’ Lee told Clark County Today.

Another of Lee’s four motions filed challenged the legality of the search conducted by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, targeting the contents of Ley’s text message communications. The motion highlighted three key areas of concern: the absence of a signed affidavit by the officer as required by the Constitution, the failure to disclose exculpatory information, and the overly broad scope of the warrant. The prosecution wasn’t prepared to argue that motion so Fairgrieve scheduled it for a March 15 hearing so they could have more time. 

The same was the case with Lee’s motion to dismiss, which will also be heard on March 15  The motion for dismissal cited a lack of evidence, based on statements from the primary investigating officer, who expressed belief in Ley’s truthfulness.  The officer’s probable cause statement in this case says “[a]s a result of my investigation and analysis, I do not believe John Ley intentionally lied.” 

Another motion filed by the defense was that the charging document provided by the prosecution was not sufficient. Instead of arguing the motion, the prosecution provided a new charging document. The hearing on Feb. 15 will determine if the new charging document is sufficient.

Defense Attorney Angus Lee later stated that “the charges should not have been filed until a full and thorough investigation was completed.” He added, “the government can’t claim it is defending democracy when prosecuting a candidate before the investigation is even complete.”  Lee further noted that the government is accusing Candidate Ley of misfiling in 2022, adding, “There is no excuse for charging a case that has not been fully investigated over a year and a half later.”

Clark County Today will continue to report on this case.


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5 Comments

  1. Margaret

    “Deputy Prosecutor Erik Podhora responded to Fairgrieve by confirming that the prosecution did not have possession of the declarations that Ley was accused of falsely submitting.”
    How can the documents be labeled as incorrect or “false” if they aren’t even available for a judge to examine?
    It appears that the judge in this case is being careful to verify the information.
    Interesting that a candidate has to meet filing deadlines precisely, yet the prosecution in this case can appear without some essential documents and unprepared to respond for a scheduled hearing on a case that was investigated a year and a half ago.
     
    On Jan 9,2023 Clark County Auditor Kimsey held a hearing on a list of voter registration challenges based on residence in an open public hearing. It was explained that challenged voters were given written information prior to the hearing about how they could update their voter registration, if they had moved for example. In several cases, the voter updated their residential address prior to the hearing, and the case was dismissed. In other cases, the voter information was deemed correct, and the case was dismissed.

    Reply
  2. Doug

    How many chances will the prosecution get? They appear to have really messed up in even bringing these charges…Seems like an exceptionally weak case.

    Reply

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