Spencer lawsuit heads to jurors

Ex-Vancouver police officer spent 20 years in prison

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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TACOMA — A jury of four men and four women watched Thursday as images flashed on a screen: Ray Spencer smiling with his young children, his pigtailed daughter whispering a secret in his ear, his son in a Little League uniform, posing in a batter's stance.

Then they looked over at where Spencer, now 66, sat at a table with his attorneys. His children, now adults with families of their own, sat in the front row in U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle's courtroom.

"You could not give Ray Spencer all the money in America to make this OK," Spencer's attorney, Kathleen Zellner, told the jury during closing arguments.

"If you could put those kids back in his arms and roll back the clock, they would be out of here in a New York minute," she said.

But Spencer spent 20 years in prison because a detective with the Clark County Sheriff's Office fabricated police reports, all to please her supervisor, who was having an affair with Spencer's wife, Zellner said.

And Clark County should pay.

"You can't fix this. The money becomes the justice in this case, that's the way it is … you must recognize what happened here, the incredible travesty of justice," said Zellner, of Chicago.

Spencer, a former officer with the Vancouver Police Department who was a target for other prisoners by virtue of being an ex-cop and convicted child molester, could have been released before Gov. Gary Locke commuted his sentence in 2004, Zellner said. Yet in five appearances before a parole board, he refused to say he was guilty. Just as he refused to plead guilty after he was charged with abusing his stepson and son and daughter and his life fell apart and he suffered from depression.

He entered an Alford plea, acknowledging a jury could find him guilty, Zellner said.

"They put him in a box, they packaged him up and they buried him alive for 20 years," Zellner said, while defendants Sharon Krause and Michael Davidson sat with their attorneys and listened.

A million dollars for each year he was in prison is fair, she said. Two million dollars a year would be fair, too.

"If the Constitution and abuse of power by police mean anything, you've got to do it," Zellner said.

Attorneys for Krause, a retired detective, and Davidson, a retired sergeant, spent closing arguments reminding jurors of the high bar set to rule in favor of Spencer. It's not enough to show that Krause and Davidson were negligent, they said. Jurors have to unanimously agree that the two conspired to deprive Spencer of his constitutional right to due process when they knew, or should have known, Spencer was innocent.

Jurors deliberated for two hours late Thursday afternoon. They'll return to court at 9 a.m. today to resume deliberations.

Missing evidence

The 14-day trial included heart-wrenching testimony from Spencer's children, Matt Spencer and Katie Tetz. They told the jury Krause rarely took notes — incredible, Zellner said, given that her reports contained hundreds of direct quotes from the children that detailed graphic allegations of abuse.

Krause testified that she never used a tape recorder.

Spencer's legal team, which included Zellner and attorney Doug Johnson, also demonstrated that many of the quotes from the children were quite similar, bolstering the case that Krause fabricated the reports. Those reports were key to framing Spencer and keeping the case alive despite evidence that no abuse occurred, Zellner said.

Indeed, former Clark County Prosecutor Art Curtis testified he relied on Krause's reports in deciding to file charges against Spencer.

Zellner said Curtis, deputy prosecutor James Peters and former Superior Court Judge Tom Lodge, who sentenced Spencer to two life terms plus 14 years, all relied on Krause's reports.

But the mid-1980s criminal case against Spencer was equally remarkable for the 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 deputy prosecutor 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 didn't dispute that it was her work.

In addition, the counselor who first treated Tetz after the abuse allegations surfaced testified that the girl never reported being abused by her father. Ann Link's deposition was read to the jury because the psychologist is out of the country and was unavailable to testify at the trial.

Part of the sexual abuse case against Spencer included two polygraph exams that he was told he failed. However, Stan Abrams, who administered Spencer's polygraphs, did not know how to score the tests, said David Raskin, a polygraph expert who has worked with the FBI and CIA.

Abrams, who is dead, was willing to come up with whatever result investigators wanted, Raskin testified.

Defense arguments

While Zellner argued Thursday that there was a clear case of a violation of Spencer's constitutional right to due process, defense attorneys said there was a lack of motive.

Attorney Jeffrey Freimund, representing Davidson, asked jurors why Krause would risk her career to fabricate reports. Witnesses including Curtis and Peters, now an assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho, testified that Krause had a stellar reputation.

And mere negligence isn't enough to find in favor of Spencer, Freimund said. Jurors have to unanimously agree that Krause fabricated reports when she knew, or should have known, of Spencer's innocence.

Even if jurors do believe Krause fabricated reports, then Davidson shouldn't be liable because, as a supervisor, he was relying on Krause's word. Yet as Zellner pointed out, Davidson sat in on some of the interviews.

Davidson testified he and Spencer's wife didn't become romantically involved until Spencer was in prison. Their relationship lasted five years.

Defense attorney Guy Bogdanovich, representing Krause, pointed out that it was Curtis who signed off on the charges and Peters who handled the case in court.

Peters wasn't a defendant because he has prosecutorial immunity, as jurors heard.

Defense attorneys also reminded jurors Thursday of the testimony from Spencer's stepson.

Matt Hansen maintains he was abused. He gave brief descriptions of a few incidents, one which allegedly occurred in February 1985. Hansen's mother dropped him off at the Salmon Creek Motel where Spencer had been staying after he and his wife separated. That sleepover was arranged to facilitate allegations that Spencer molested Hansen, Zellner said.

Hansen was transported to Tacoma from the Clark County Jail, where he's serving time for a probation violation for violating a restraining order that his mother had taken out against him.

On cross-examination, Zellner pointed out Hansen has been convicted of a series of felony crimes that could have resulted in prison sentences totaling 35 years. Instead, he was sentenced to one year and a day as part of a plea deal with the Clark County Prosecutor's Office.

"You knew you were the only witness left against Ray Spencer?" Zellner asked. "So you have gotten a pretty sweet deal from Clark County for all of your criminal offenses haven't you?"

"I don't think it has anything to do with the prosecutor's office," Hansen replied.

If jurors don't reach a verdict today, they'll resume deliberations on Monday or Tuesday, depending on the judge's docket.

While the case played out in Clark County, none of the key figures still live here.

Spencer and his wife, Norma, live in the Los Angeles area, where Spencer works as the director of security for a high-rise apartment complex.

His children and grandchildren live in Sacramento.

Krause lives in Arizona, and Davidson lives in Central Oregon.

Clark County paid for Krause's and Davidson's attorneys and will be liable if the jury awards money to Spencer.


Freelance reporter Ken Olsen contributed to this story.