The Board of Clark County Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to not pay a $9 million judgment awarded to Clyde Ray Spencer this month in U.S. District Court.
An attorney for Spencer, however, believes the county will have no choice.
“We’ll resolve that with the court,” said Kathleen Zellner of Chicago.
On Feb. 4, a jury determined that Sharon Krause, a detective from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, fabricated the evidence that wrongly put Spencer in prison for 20 years after he was convicted of sexually abusing his children. Krause’s supervisor, Sgt. Mike Davidson, was found liable, as well.
Krause and Davidson are both retired, but the county paid for their legal counsel.
On Wednesday, Commissioners Tom Mielke, David Madore and Steve Stuart voted not to indemnify Krause and Davidson, meaning they will no longer protect them by paying the settlement.
Chris Horne, the county’s chief civil deputy prosecutor, said since Krause was found to have fabricated evidence, she was outside the scope of her duties as a county employee.
Spencer, 66, said Wednesday he’s not surprised the county refuses to pay and has confidence his attorney will prevail in court. He and Zellner both pointed out Davidson was found liable as Krause’s supervisor, so the county can’t argue Krause acted alone.
Spencer added that interest will continue accruing on the $9 million award.
Spencer, who works as a security chief for an apartment complex in the Los Angeles area, was released from prison in 2004.
In 1985, Spencer, who had been a motorcycle officer with the Vancouver Police Department, entered an Alford plea. That’s treated as a guilty plea but allows the defendant to acknowledge a jury could find him guilty while maintaining innocence. He was sentenced to two life sentences plus 14 years.
Gov. Gary Locke commuted his sentence in 2004, citing numerous flaws in the investigation. Spencer’s convictions were subsequently thrown out, and the charges were dismissed.
During a 13-day trial in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, a jury of four men and four women heard testimony from 25 witnesses.
Spencer’s son and daughter, Matt Spencer and Katie Spencer Tetz, each refuted the graphic sexual abuse allegations Krause fabricated as part of investigative reports. Former Clark County Prosecutor Art Curtis testified that he relied on Krause’s reports when he decided to file charges against Spencer.
Jurors also heard from Matt Hansen, who maintains that he was abused by his stepfather, and jurors learned about evidence that went missing. That included medical exams that showed Spencer’s daughter and stepson had not been physically abused.
There also was a video of former deputy prosecutor James Peters interviewing Tetz that disappeared almost as soon as it was made. It turned up in Krause’s garage in 2009. She testified that she didn’t remember the video being taped, or how it ended up in her garage. That video would have hurt the state’s case, Spencer’s attorneys argued.
On the witness stand, Krause was unable to explain why there were two separate evidence indexes created in the case — one that included the medical exams and one that didn’t. She testified that she didn’t recall preparing the indexes, but she didn’t dispute that it was her work.
Jurors also heard that Davidson had an affair with Spencer’s wife, a relationship Davidson maintained didn’t begin until after Spencer went to prison and the couple divorced.
Krause retired in 1995. She lives in Arizona, while Davidson lives in Central Oregon.
Last year, the county paid $5.25 million apiece to two men who spent 17 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of rape. The county took out a loan to pay the settlement after its insurance claim was rejected because the county didn’t have insurance in 1993, when the men were convicted.
Likewise, if the county does have to pay in Spencer’s case, it will not be covered by insurance.