A judge ruled Friday that Olympia Police Officer Ryan Donald won’t have to submit to a deposition ahead of the trial of brothers Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin.
The trial will start about a week later than planned, decided Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor. Jury selection had been slated to begin Oct. 3, but will now start Oct. 11. The date change will give expert witnesses for the defense more time to examine evidence.
The case has been pending for a year, when the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office filed charges against Chaplin, 22, and Thompson, 24. The brothers are accused of attacking Donald with skateboards in the early hours of May 25, 2015, when he was trying to apprehend them after an incident at a nearby supermarket.
The officer shot Thompson and Chaplin, saying that he feared for his life. Donald was cleared of wrongdoing.
Thompson and Chaplin each face two counts of second-degree assault. Chaplin also faces one count of fourth-degree assault.
Attorneys George Trejo, who represents Chaplin, and Sunni Ko, who represents Thompson, filed a motion to have Donald deposed. During a July 29 interview, Donald declined to answer questions about whether he had ever made racial epithets, or whether he had posted derogatory photos on social media.
During the interview, Donald and his attorney, Saxon Rodgers, argued that the questions violated a previous ruling made by Tabor, which prohibited defense attorneys from asking Donald if he is racist unless a “factual foundation is first laid for such inquiry.”
This isn’t the first time Rodgers, Trejo and Ko have disagreed about questions posed to Donald. On July 20, the attorneys appeared before Tabor after Rodgers said his client wouldn’t answer any more questions from Trejo. Rodgers and Trejo argued in a series of emails, in which Rodgers refers to the two defendants in the case as thugs and Trejo responds by calling Donald racist and Rodgers a racist thug, according to court documents.
Tabor then ruled that Donald would have to undergo more interviews with the defense attorney, but questions about race would be limited.
“Well, the second interview didn’t go much better,” Tabor said.
Trejo and Ko argued that the questions in the July 29 interview were necessary to establish that foundation.
“Well, you have to ask those kinds of questions if you’re going to lay a foundational basis for the key race issues,” Trejo said.
“It does not accuse Officer Donald of being racially biased,” Ko added.
But Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Graham and Rodgers called Trejo and Ko’s questions a fishing expedition. Graham further argued that Donald’s refusal to answer the questions wasn’t grounds for a deposition — that depositions are typically ordered when witnesses refuse to discuss a case.
“Officer Donald has subjected himself to over six-and-a-half hours of interviews with both defense counsels present,” Graham said.
He said that there was no evidence that Donald’s actions had been racially motivated.
When Tabor asked Trejo for his rebuttal argument, the attorney stood up and handed printed sheets of paper to Tabor and the other attorneys. The pages contained screenshots of tweets by Twitter user @Teighlorre. The tweets include a series of photos allegedly taken from Donald’s Facebook page.
One of the photos depicts Martin Luther King Jr. holding an orange popsicle in his outstretched hand. A caption along the bottom of the picture reads, “I HAVE A DREAMSICLE.”
Other photos on the printout show Donald holding a Starbucks cup, hiking and wearing an Army uniform. There’s also a cartoon of a man pointing a gun at an arrow-wielding Cupid. The image is popular online as an “anti-Valentine’s Day” card.
Trejo said he believed the images served as a foundational basis for the questions.
“We felt that we had an obligation to pursue the issue of race as it pertains to Office Donald,” Trejo said.
Tabor said that before Trejo brought forward the document, he hadn’t heard any arguments about a factual basis for the race-related questions — and that factual basis needed to be established before the questions were asked.
He did say, however, that Trejo could ask Donald directly about the photos.
Tabor ruled that Donald’s refusal to answer the questions wasn’t a violation of the previous order, and he denied the motion for a deposition.
Amelia Dickson: 360-754-5445