Crime

Prohibited courtroom photos bring tensions to a head in trial of Andre Thompson, Bryson Chaplin

A screenshot shows a photo of Officer Ryan Donald posted to Facebook. The photo was discussed Thursday morning in the trial of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin.
A screenshot shows a photo of Officer Ryan Donald posted to Facebook. The photo was discussed Thursday morning in the trial of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin. adickson@theolympian.com

Tensions reached a head Thursday morning in the trial of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin, when Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Graham brought forward photos of Officer Ryan Donald taken during court Wednesday, in violation of court rules.

The photos were posted to the Facebook page of Lisa Ganser, a friend of the Chaplin-Thompson family, who has been in court since the start of the trial.

Graham asked that Ganser be removed from the courtroom for the remainder of the trial. Thurston County Superior Court Judge Erik Price instead issued a stern warning.

Price, who presides over the case, called the photos an “utter and complete violation” of the court’s rules and expectations. According to court rules, only members of the news media may record or take photos during court proceedings.

“This court has tried over and over and over again to be exceedingly tolerant,” Price said.

“This is this court’s issue, this is this court’s courtroom, and this is utterly unacceptable,” he added.

One photo shows Donald holding a skateboard, admitted as evidence in the trial, with the caption. “Here’s olympia poLice officer Ryan Donald action out his kop narrative on the stand.”

Another shows Donald on the stand, and has the caption, “Ryan Donald just described one of the skateboards of Andre and Bryson as 4 feet long. The whole kourt chuckles and laughs.”

A third photo shows Donald and Graham standing in a courthouse hallway, with the caption, “officer ryan Donald on the right getting coached by Graham cracker.”

Both defense attorneys, George Trejo and Sunni Ko, told the court how supportive Ganser has been to the family throughout the case.

Price called Ganser forward. Ganser said she hadn’t taken the photos — they were sent to her, and she posted them on Facebook.

“I don’t feel like this family is getting a fair trial,” Ganser said. “I don’t feel that this system is fair toward black folks.”

Price said that wasn’t the issue at hand — the issue was courtroom behaviour. He did say, however, that he has made considerable efforts to be fair to both sides.

“My overriding concern, despite what you believe, is to give both sides a fair trial,” Price said.

Chaplin and his brother, Thompson, face assault charges resulting from an alleged May 21, 2015, attack on Olympia police Officer Ryan Donald, who was attempting to apprehend the brothers after responding to a report of thefts and an assault at the west Olympia supermarket.

Both men were shot during the altercation with Donald, who was cleared of wrongdoing by the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office and the Olympia Police Department.

The Prosecutor's Office also filed theft charges against Thompson and Chaplin last October. Chaplin pleaded guilty on March 27 to three counts of third-degree theft. Thompson still faces one count of third-degree theft.

Each man is charged with two counts of second-degree assault for the alleged attack on Donald, and Chaplin also faces one count of fourth-degree theft for an alleged assault on a Safeway employee.

Amelia Dickson: 360-754-5445, @Amelia_Oly

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