Troy Fisher says he's filing claim against city of Olympia over dismissed charges

mbatcheldor@theolympian.comAugust 1, 2013 

Former Capital Playhouse interim artistic director Troy Fisher said Wednesday that he plans to file a tort claim against the city of Olympia over a police investigation that resulted in 14 child pornography charges against him. A judge later dismissed those charges.

Fisher has called a news conference for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Port Plaza at Percival Landing to announce his intention to file the claim against the city for defamation and violation of his civil rights, according to a news release from Friends of Troy Fisher, a group that supports him.

Fisher said he will file the claim in about a month, but he declined to say how much money he is seeking from the city. If the city denies his claim, he will sue, he said.

“I have been put through a living hell, and I want the truth to be told,” he said. “And I think that it’s only fair that the truth be told with the same diligence and the same exposure that the untruths were told.”

When contacted, Olympia Police spokeswoman Laura Wohl defended her department, saying “our investigation was done in good faith and according to the laws as we know them.”

From 1988 to last year, Fisher was a fixture at Capital Playhouse, which offers a full season of musicals and other plays and runs the summer children’s theater program Kids at Play.

He was arrested in July 2012 and charged in November with 14 counts of possession of child pornography. Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Schaller dismissed the charges against Fisher in February, saying that the pornographic images police discovered on his computer were obtained without a search warrant.

Fisher said his tort claim will include reports from two forensic experts, one hired by Fisher and another by one of his employers, which he said exonerate him.

“I not only maintain my innocence but I now maintain that I am exonerated from the charges that were brought against me,” he said.

At his attorney’s recommendation, Fisher hired Randall Karstetter — president of the Computer Technology Investigators Network — to investigate the case, Fisher’s news release says. The Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, which has employed Fisher as music director, hired Bill Nelson, president of IT Forensics, to do the same.

According to the release, the experts concluded that the images at issue were not user-accessible and were in “unallocated space” which “includes images the system might have acquired and deleted without the users’ awareness.” Three of the images were “most likely acquired as a result of a computer virus or other malware and without the knowledge of any one of the persons who told police they used Fisher’s computer.”

Furthermore, the group claims that the child pornography websites mentioned in a police report “were never searched for, viewed, accessed, or visited in any way.”

Fisher added “that there was no evidence on my computer that I ever searched for or looked at or ever possessed such images or that anyone who was ever on my computer did so.”

Fisher’s friends had reported him missing in July 2012, and police said they accessed his computer to try to determine his whereabouts when they discovered the child pornography. Police say they later obtained a search warrant.

Fisher was found unharmed at the Safeway on the city’s west side, appearing disoriented and unable to account for his whereabouts between July 22 and July 25, 2012, according to police.

An Olympia police detective made an in-depth search of the computer’s hard drive, and, according to court papers, found suspected images of child pornography there about five hours after she had been told Fisher was found safe the morning of July 25, 2012, Judge Schaller said in court.

Pierce County Special Prosecutor Scott Peters, who was appointed to handle the case, has stated in court filings that he believed the Olympia Police Department acted in good faith when it seized Fisher’s computer. But Schaller ruled that all of the evidence seized by police is inadmissible in court, including evidence from two computers at Capital Playhouse, because of the initial warrantless search.

Fisher said he lost his association with the playhouse and most of his income as a result of the charges and publicity surrounding them. He said he was on administrative leave from the Unitarian church until last week, pending the report from Nelson. He said he has been teaching private lessons.

“You know, I guess I don’t know if I’m like most people, but I always just assumed that justice existed in our country,” he said.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 @MattBatcheldor

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