Jury hears Clemmons' sister's interrogation tape

May 27, 2010 

LaTanya Clemmons spoke from a time warp Wednesday.

Jurors in Pierce County spent more than 90 minutes listening to a recording of her meandering answers to persistent questions from a weary detective.

The recording dated to Dec. 1, 2009. The detective wanted to know what Clemmons knew about her brother, Maurice, who had shot and killed four Lakewood police officers two days earlier.

It was hard to tell what the recorded interrogation proved. The questions didn’t address the underlying charges directly.

LaTanya Clemmons, 34, is charged with four counts of rendering criminal assistance – but not to her brother.

Prosecutors allege she helped Dorcus Allen, the suspected getaway driver accused of spiriting Maurice Clemmons out of Parkland after the Nov. 29 shootings. LaTanya Clemmons allegedly gave Allen money for a motel room and bus fare to Arkansas: safer haven in another state, away from the swarms of police.

She is pleading not guilty. She admits helping Allen, but the core of her defense hinges on whether she knew investigators were hunting for him at the time.

Prosecutors charted an indirect course for the first two days of trial, not mentioning the defendant’s name. Instead, they set the scene of the shootings, described the white pickup truck Allen had driven to Parkland, and established when it arrived and departed.

Wednesday, they got around to LaTanya Clemmons, her movements on the day of the shooting and the two days that followed.

Brian Byerly, a Bonney Lake police detective; and Steve Johnson, a King County sheriff’s detective, had joined the multi-agency investigation of the shootings. They were tracking the alleged getaway driver.

A tip said the driver was at The New Horizon Motel in Federal Way. The detectives weren’t sure of the driver’s name yet.

They reached the motel at 2 a.m. Dec. 1, backed by a SWAT team. They knocked. LaTanya Clemmons opened the door. Allen was inside. He told the cops he didn’t do it. The cops arrested him.

“It was all very civil,” Byerly testified. Allen “raised his hands. He made a comment that he knew we would be coming hard.”

The recorded interview with LaTanya Clemmons came next. Pierce County sheriff’s detective Tim Kobel had conducted it, a few hours after the arrest at the motel.

For the next 90 minutes, the recording played, unedited, complete with stammers and digressions. LaTanya Clemmons talked about her child, her dog, her mother, her job.

“We know you were there,” Kobel said.

“I was not,” Clemmons said, interrupting.

“When he was there,” Kobel finished.

“I was not. I was not. I was not,” she said. “I wasn’t there.”

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486 sean.robinson@thenewstribune.com

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