The trial of a man accused of killing a fellow boater in a collision on Lake Tapps ended in mistrial Monday after the judge learned two Bonney Lake police officers set to testify for the prosecution are the subjects of an internal investigation.
Opening statements in the trial of Neil Richard Larsen were set to begin when Pierce County Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan declared the mistrial and dismissed the jury, which had yet to hear a witness.
Hogan said Larsen deserved to know the results of the internal investigation before the officers were called to the stand, so his lawyer could properly cross-examine them.
Larsen’s attorney, Michael Schwartz, said he might want to attack the officer’s credibility depending on the outcome of the investigation.
Deputy Prosecutor Tim Jones, who notified the judge of the investigation Monday morning, asked Hogan to let the trial proceed and “see what happens.”
Hogan declined, saying it was unclear how long the internal investigation might take.
“I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to be tied to a time line over which we have no control,” she said.
Hogan set a new trial date for Oct. 12. A new jury will need to be seated.
Larsen, 43, is charged with homicide by watercraft.
Prosecutors allege he had been drinking and was driving his boat recklessly the night of Sept. 29, 2008, when it collided with a boat driven by Ron Scott. Scott, 49, died, and his six passengers were hurt, one of them critically.
Larsen also is charged with four counts of assault by watercraft. He’s pleaded not guilty.
The internal investigation involving the two Bonney Lake police officers came to light late last week, after a jury had been sworn in to hear the boating case.
Police Chief Mike Mitchell said that as the Larsen case proceeded to trial, Schwartz put in a request for information about any internal investigations involving the officers who might be called to testify. At the time, there was none.
That changed recently. Mitchell said the investigation, which is in its preliminary stages, was disclosed to attorneys in the Larsen case out of fairness.
“We take our job very seriously, and we take the judicial system very seriously, and want to be open and upfront,” he said.
Mitchell said the allegations against the officers are not criminal and had to do with on-duty conduct. They have nothing to do with the investigation of Larsen’s case, the chief said. He declined to divulge further details or release the officers’ names.
The officers remain on the job while the investigation plays out.