Kelly Carroll’s attorney says she may file a wrongful prosecution lawsuit in federal court
VANCOUVER — The city of Vancouver is dismissing its case against a Battle Ground woman who opened her pet grooming business in defiance of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order.
In a release on Thursday morning, the Vancouver City Attorney’s office noted that the investigation by City Attorney Jonathan Young revealed Kelly Carroll had taken “proactive steps” to make her PetBiz dog grooming business essential under the governor’s order by “adding dog daycare services and serving essential workers.”
“This fact was never argued by the defense,” the city wrote in its release, “but the role of a prosecutor is unique in our legal system and requires a commitment to seeking truth rather than convictions.”
Carroll’s attorney, Angus Lee, called the “newly discovered” evidence “political cover” by the city in an attempt to dismiss “bad prosecution.”
“This was not a prosecution, it was a persecution that appears motivated by political and religious animus at the City Attorney’s Office,” Lee wrote. “There was never any legitimate basis for the prosecution of Ms. Carroll, which is made clear by the City’s last minute admission that she was actually innocent.”
Carroll reopened her business at 5620 NE Gher Road on May 16, while Clark County was still in Phase 1 of reopening. She did so following a rally outside which drew the attention of Vancouver police, who then visited the business three days later.
In the report filed by police, the officer noted that “a customer picked up her two dogs and paid for the service with a credit card, so there was no mistaking that Carroll was open for, and conducting business at that location.”
On May 29, Carroll was charged with violating an emergency order, and faced up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
In its motion to dismiss, the city noted that it had learned the customer observed paying for services on May 19 was “an essential worker,” and that Carroll had expanded her business to include pet daycare services prior to reopening.
Young’s motion also acknowledges that the officer who filed a report on the May 16 rally later admitted that he had “not read or familiarized himself with the Governor’s Orders,” and thus was not in a position to testify that any laws were broken.
Lee had a different interpretation of that bit of information.
“Clearly the City was worried about what the officer would admit in that interview,” he wrote.
“The City now admits that Ms. Carroll was actually innocent,” Lee added. “And while she is happy to have the charges dismissed, the wrongful and selective prosecution of Ms. Carroll has caused her great financial and emotional harm. Because of this selective prosecution for a crime she did not commit, she has also experienced massive online harassment, and damage to her professional reputation.”
Lee had filed two previous motions to have Carroll’s case dismissed, and a hearing had been scheduled for Aug. 11.
In an additional motion to dismiss the case filed on Aug. 3, Lee argued that the city’s legal action appeared prejudiced, and based on Carroll’s political views. The Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution, he noted, prohibits prosecution based on “race, religion, or other arbitrary classification, such as one’s speech or political views.”
“It is abundantly clear from the record that Ms. Carroll was selected by the City Attorney’s Office for prosecution because she had spoke (sic) out against the lockdown,” wrote Lee, “and because she had a public rally where many of those present waived the American flag and engaged in prayer.”
Two days before the city filed the charges against Carroll, Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes wrote a letter to Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle and the City Council, noting that the city would be taking an educational and informative approach to enforcing the governor’s Stay Home-Stay Healthy order.
Lee says another email sent by the city’s Emergency Manager notes that over 15,000 reports of business non-compliance had already been received, with no evidence that legal action had been taken against any of them. Instead, the Community and Economic Development Department was asked to notify businesses they were out of compliance first, which Lee says was never done in Carroll’s case.
The city’s legal action against Carroll and her business became a focal point for protest groups, who rallied at city hall, and outside the homes of Young and Deputy City Attorney Kevin McClure.
One protest prompted Young to file a complaint with Vancouver Police, alleging that the group was guilty of “threatening a public servant.”
Vancouver Police declined to pursue the case, noting that officers at the scene of the protest observed no direct threats from the group towards Young or McClure.
Young also alleged that Carroll was personally at the protest outside of his home, but Vancouver Police concluded that there was no evidence to support that, and Carroll has directly stated that she did not attend the rally on June 28.
The city’s decision to drop its case against Carroll may not be the end of its legal entanglement with the Battle Ground business owner. In his email, Lee said he would likely soon be filing a federal lawsuit for wrongful prosecution against the city on Carroll’s behalf.