Opposing attorneys: Toss $9M Spencer verdict

Ex-Vancouver police officer was wrongfully imprisoned for 20 years

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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A $9 million verdict for Clyde Ray Spencer should be thrown out, attorneys argued in post-trial motions filed this week in U.S. District Court.

Attorneys for former Detective Sharon Krause and Sgt. Mike Davidson say there was insufficient evidence to show Krause and Davidson knew or should have known Spencer was innocent when they investigated the case for the Clark County Sheriff's Office.

The attorneys asked U.S. Judge Benjamin Settle to either enter a judgment in favor of Krause and Davidson or order a new trial.

The motion has been scheduled to be argued March 21 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

Olympia attorneys Guy Bogdanovich and Jeffrey Freimund also filed a response to Spencer's attorney's request for fees and trial costs, which they called "excessive."

A jury handed down the verdict on Feb. 3. Krause was found to have violated Spencer's constitutional rights to due process by fabricating police reports. Her former supervisor, Davidson, who had an affair with Spencer's wife, was also found liable.

Spencer, a former officer with the Vancouver Police Department, spent nearly 20 years in prison after he was wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing his two children and a stepson.

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.

Clark County commissioners have said they won't pay the $9 million verdict, claiming Krause was beyond the scope of her duties as a county employee when she fabricated reports. The county didn't have insurance when Spencer was convicted, so insurance won't cover any verdict or fees the county has to pay.

The county, which has spent $495,000 in legal fees and associated court costs to defend Krause and Davidson, continues to pay their legal bills.

Spencer's lead attorney, Kathleen Zellner of Chicago, plans to file a writ of execution, asking the judge to order the county to pay the $9 million verdict plus interest at approximately $2,700 a day.

On Feb. 21, she issued a statement after the defense notified the court of its plans to appeal.

"Apparently, Clark County is not confident of its prior position that it does not have to pay the verdict because now it has decided to fight the verdict. We believe that Ray Spencer will win any appeal that is filed, and Clark County will be paying interest and our fees for delaying the inevitable. Watching the county's ever-changing position is a bit like watching an unguided missile. You know it is going to crash; you just don't know when and where," Zellner wrote.

Zellner has asked for $2.49 million in fees and costs for her and her legal team. In a response filed Monday, Bogdanovich and Freimund asked Settle to award no more than $834,350. That figure includes $464,440 in fees for Zellner, which works out to $400 an hour.

Bogdanovich said he billed Clark County at the rate of $205 an hour, while Freimund's hourly rate was $200.

In a segment that aired Tuesday on Katie Couric's eponymous afternoon talk show, Spencer, 66, expressed confidence that the county will be ordered to pay the judgment.

Couric, who started the segment by describing Spencer's case as "wild and very complicated," said Clark County, Krause and Davidson declined requests to appear on her show.

Spencer's son and daughter appeared with him on the show.

His daughter, Katie Tetz, told Couric that Krause had told her that her father was sick and if she went along with what Krause was telling her to say, Spencer would receive the help he needed.

Tetz was 5 at the time. Her brother, Matt Spencer, was 9.

She said her mother told her she was blocking the memory of the abuse because it had been so traumatic. It wasn't until years later, when she and her brother talked about how neither of them had any memory of the supposedly graphic abuse, that they realized Spencer had never abused them, Tetz told Couric.

Spencer's stepson, who maintains he was abused, did not appear on the show.

Ray Spencer on Katie