The attorney for a man charged with causing a deadly boat collision on Lake Tapps two years ago will use the results of a recent Bonney Lake police internal investigation to attack the credibility of two key witnesses against his client.
Attorney Michael Schwartz convinced a judge Thursday the findings of the investigation – which found wrongdoing on the part of two Bonney Lake police officers – should be fair game for the defense.
“The very heart of this matter goes to their credibility,” Schwartz said of former Sgt. Kenneth Mc-Donough and officer Vince Sainati. “They are fairly crucial witnesses.”
McDonough and Sainati were among the officers who investigated the collision between defendant Neil Richard Larsen’s boat and another vessel the night of Sept. 29, 2008. At least one of them took Larsen’s statement that night, and both reportedly made observations about Larsen in the aftermath of the collision.
Pierce County Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan agreed to sign a subpoena requiring Bonney Lake police to turn over to Schwartz any records associated with the internal investigation.
Larsen, 43, has pleaded not guilty to charges of homicide by watercraft and four counts of assault by watercraft.
Prosecutors allege he had been drinking and was driving his boat recklessly when it collided with a boat driven by Ron Scott. Scott, 49, died and six of his passengers were hurt, one of them critically.
Larsen is to go to trial for the second time in December. His first trial ended in mistrial last month when Hogan learned McDonough and Sainati were subjects of an internal investigation.
The two men were found to have violated Bonney Lake Police Department policy during a traffic-enforcement program. McDonough allowed officers to quit work early while receiving full pay during the campaign, deputy prosecutor Mark Sanchez reported to Hogan.
Sainati took advantage of Mc-Donough’s directive on at least one occasion and was found to have been in neglect of his duty, Sanchez said.
McDonough was found to have violated the department’s code of ethics, neglected his duty and to have committed conduct unbecoming an officer, Sanchez told Hogan.
Bonney Lake police announced in a news release Wednesday that a sergeant who oversaw the traffic-enforcement program – the department didn’t name him – resigned as a result of the investigation.
It was unclear what, if any, punishment Sainati received. Deputy prosecutor Tim Jones pointed out that the department found Sainati’s violation was not one of dishonesty and that he was acting with the approval of a superior.
The investigation also found Bonney Lake police met the goals of the traffic-enforcement program despite the policy violations.
No criminal charges have been filed against McDonough or Sainati.