Former Police Officer Awarded $9 Million After Spending Almost 20 Years In Jail On False Charge

smallbadge-1gavel2Clyde Ray Spencer, a former motorcycle patrolman, was secured a $9 million damage award from a federal jury after spending nearly two decades in jail on a fabricated case. The jury found that two of his colleagues at the police department fabricated evidence and possibly coached witnesses to convict him of sexually abusing his two children. Retired Clark County Police police Sgt. Michael Davidson and retired Detective Sharon Krause have been accused of the most serious violations in the case.

Spencer entered an Alford plea in 1985 where he maintained his innocence but admitted that the prosecution could convince a jury of his guilt. The plea got him little benefit: received two life sentences plus 14 years. He says that he entered the plea after learning that his defense lawyer had come little investigation into this case and was not planning to call witnesses in his defense.

After about ten years behind bars, Spencer found an attorney who did investigate and confirmed, with the help of a private investigator, that prosecutors had withheld evidence that his wife was having an affair with the supervisor of the detective handling child sex abuse cases. There was also withheld evidence of alleged witness coaching and a video showing that his then-5-year-old daughter denied sexual abuse before being put through re-enactments with two dolls. News reports describe some of the allegations:

Clark County Det. Sharon Krause, he also discovered, had held unorthodox meetings with the Spencer children, interviewing them in unrecorded sessions in her Sacramento hotel room and buying them gifts and candy. She told the children their father was “sick” and that they could help heal him by accusing him of the sexual crimes. He learned that Spencer’s son, who at first denied any abuse, had changed his story under months of questioning, coming up with a fantastic tale: Not only his father but a group of police officers had abused him. Henderson, suspicious about the night Spencer’s second wife Shirley brought her son to his motel room, wondered if that was a setup. He found his answer: Shirley was having an affair with Vancouver Police Sgt. Mike Davidson—the supervising detective on her husband’s case.

His kids later recanted their testimony, even though they grew up being told by their mother that they could not recall the abuse because they were blocking the memory. She was later included in the group alleged to have conspired to fabricate the case. Shirley Spencer’s alleged affair with Clark County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Michael Davidson was cited in prior rulings in the case. In Spencer v. Peters, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148368, the court detailed Davidson’s involvement:

In October 1984, Davidson assigned Krause to investigate the Spencer case. Dkt. 168-3 at 19.

During the investigation of Mr. Spencer, Davidson’s role as a supervisor included activities such as reviewing the progress of the case, which meant, in part, reviewing the progress the assigned detective was making, reviewing for any problems, and reviewing the case to determine what follow-up needed to be done. Dkt. 168-3 at 18 (November 5, 2012 Deposition of Davidson). Davidson’s role also included having face-to-face meetings with the assigned detectives to review their progress. Id. Additionally, as a part of Davidson’s supervisorial duties he would review the assigned detective’s written reports. Id.

In the Spencer case, Davidson admits that he would have reviewed Krause’s written reports. Id. at 19 and 25. He communicated with the prosecutor’s office regarding the case, including having conversations with Peters. Id. at 22. Although Davidson recalls being involved in portions of the investigation, he has testified that he does not recall what directions or suggestions he gave to Krause. Id. at 27-28.
. . .
Although it is disputed as to what the nature of their relationship was and when it began, Davidson and Shirley Spencer became involved, and Krause became aware of his involvement with Shirley. On March 15, 1985, while Mr. Spencer was in custody at the Clark County jail, a quitclaim deed for the house Shirley and Mr. Spencer lived in was signed by Mr. Spencer and notarized. Dkt. 168-15 at 34-37. Mr. Spencer maintains that his signature on the deed was forged. Id. at 33. In May 1985, Shirley moved out of the house she and Mr. Spencer had shared together. Dkt. 168-1 at 23. Shirley and Davidson have testified that they moved in together in the fall of 1985.

For her part, Detective Sharon Krause was accused of using deliberately, grossly misquoted or misrepresented statements of abuse by the alleged victims; and using coercive interview techniques to manipulate the alleged child victims into making false allegations of abuse against Mr. Spencer. The allegations are familiar from other cases where detectives or experts are accused of putting words or images in the minds of alleged victims: the daughter later testified that “Krause was making the quoted statements and Kathryn would agree with either some or all of them, rather than Kathryn herself providing the graphic details of the alleged abuse and Krause simply quoting her.” The son also accused Krause of the same manipulation. Krause insisted that, even if true, she was entitled to immunity. Spencer v. Peters, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 119022. We recently discussed such common immunity claims by police and prosecutors after abuse is raised.

Prosecutors were later found to have withheld critical evidence including a report questioning the legal basis for a prosecution:

King County Prosecutor, Rebecca Roe (“Roe”). The purpose of Roe’s review was to provide an opinion concerning whether criminal charges of child rape should be filed against Mr. Spencer. The Spencer file was sent to King County for review in part because Mr. Spencer was then employed as a police officer with the Vancouver, Washington Police Department, which is located in Clark County.

The file Roe reviewed contained the reports by Sacramento law enforcement officers and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office reports concerning allegations of sexual abuse made by Kathryn to Shirley. Id. at 3. Also included in the file were narrative reports prepared by Krause, which documented her interviews with Kathryn on October 16 and 18, 1984, as well as the August 30, 1984 report which included the narrative written by Shirley after Kathryn disclosed the allegations of abuse to her. Id. at 3-4. On November 27, 1984, Roe concluded that the case was not “filable” due to problems with what Kathryn had said, may not be willing to say, or may not be competent to testify to at trial. Id. For example, inconsistencies in Kathryn’s statements, her reluctance to talk about abuse, and Kathryn’s statements about rubbing Shirley in combination with other statements created questions of “fact v. fantasy,” which Roe indicated was “built in reasonable doubt,” all factored into Roe’s recommendation. Id. at 1-3. While Roe opined that the case was “unwinnable,” she also stated “I believe the child was clearly abused and probably by the defendant….” Id. at 3.

As we have seen in so many cases, there has been no reference to any disciplinary action taken against the prosecutors in this case for such abuses in withholding evidence or other alleged violations. I am also curious how this supervisor could live with this person and not have a single officer raise the obvious ethical concern with the department.

Spencer’s sentence was commuted in 2005 but remained a convicted sex offender.

31 thoughts on “Former Police Officer Awarded $9 Million After Spending Almost 20 Years In Jail On False Charge”

  1. When they can do this to one of their own… Just imagine what they can do to people without means….. His attorney in the first case is unconscionable……

  2. Not a big enough dollar figure and yes, the prosecutors and any police that aided in this fraud should not be disciplined. They should be indicted.

  3. Having dealt w/ the dark side of humans my entire career I still am amazed sometimes @ how much hate a person can have. How much hate did this guys wife have for him to do this. It just is mind boggling to me even though I’ve seen it many times, up close.

  4. I checked, and the conviction was vacated in 2009, and the charges dismissed in 2010.

  5. I would like to see the law develop so that qualified immunity in connection with any formal questioning does not apply if the officer failed to record the interaction. This seems like a basic step which should be required for any questioning being done in good faith. The technology is such that there should always be some means of recording around.

  6. HC1996,
    I looked on the national sex offender registry, as well as for Washington state specifically, and his name does not appear. That makes me assume his name has been cleared from the registry.

  7. This is nothing new or unusual. From cops framing people to Judges being paid to fill up child detention centers, it is sadly our way of life. -hskiprob

    Of course, it isn’t and most, here, know it.

    Let’s not forget the “kids for cash” scandal that couldn’t have happened without widespread corruption and collusion:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kids_for_cash_scandal

    http://www.democracynow.org/2014/2/4/kids_for_cash_inside_one_of (transcript)

    1. anonymously, Name one major law enforcement agency that hasn’t had multiple members of its force prosecuted and convicted for drug trafficking. How about the group of Chicago cops that were framing black citizens for the murders they were committing. How about the NYC scandal where precincts were being coerced to under report crime because of the “Tough on Crime” stance by recent Mayors. How about the corruption amongst the military industrial complex? How many Illinois Governors have gone to prison? How many abrogations of the Constitution have we had.

      I’m just calling out the ones that were caught. The list is almost never ending. It is sadly our way of life and I can take you back to before the Constitution to show you stories such as these, where government officials where acting as criminals with protective immunity.

  8. This is nothing new or unusual. From cops framing people to Judges being paid to fill up child detention centers, it is sadly our way of life.

    Government is both a confiscatory agency and a necessary protection racket, to protect those that are doing the confiscation. With over 115 different taxes and regulatory fees to collect, it requires an enormous effort by law enforcement. Once those in positions of power, understand they will often be protected, it opens the door up to greater misconduct.

    A perfect example is the Federal Income Tax. Even though it is proven that it is being fraudulently enforced here: http://rsjexperiment.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/353/ those in positions of power, both prosecutors and Judges, keep the racket going, even abrogating the Constitution, if necessary.

    For these reasons I’ve been calling for a Voluntary Association of Jurists, made up of thousands of Citizens each selected by a certain number of Registered Voters through affidavits to represent them, to overrule the corrupt appellate courts. Obviously, it would not be legally binding, but public opinion over time could place a huge amount of pressure on the entire judicial process. I personally have never seen any other method that has any potential of working. My contention is that the courts have and will always assist the ruling oligarchs in maintaining their political and economic power and until you can sever this cord, you will never break the corruption that the system fosters. Those who control the money have always controlled the law. For a summary of my ideas: http://rsjexperiment.wordpress.com/home/

    The State is a soulless machine. It can never be weaned from the violence to which it owes its existence – Mahatma Gandhi

  9. Dredd,

    Yep.

    And what others have said, as well. If no one is held accountable, the “bad…acts” continue.

  10. Too often, prosecutorial misconduct, by state agents, gets a “ho – hum” from state agencies; which cements the manifest injustice as immortally unimpeachable.

    Thereby fostering the bad faith acts to continue.

  11. how can his former wife and colleagues NOT go to prison for their part in this?

    Ditto…?

  12. So, have they removed/taken away his conviction/label as a sex offender? This is such a horrible act, how can his former wife and colleagues NOT go to prison for their part in this?

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