News Tribune

Published: 07-24-98

Category: Local/State

Page: B3

Keywords: Crime, Murder, Child/Children, Law/Legal, Court, Pierce County, Lawyer/Attorney, Ethics, Misconduct

Byline: John Gillie; The News Tribune

The conduct of prosecutors has been so unethical in the case of a man accused of killing a 9-year-old Lakewood girl that the case should be dismissed, a Seattle defense lawyer claims.

In a motion filed in Pierce County Superior Court, Fred Leatherman Jr. contends deputy prosecutors Barbara Corey-Boulet and Lisa Wagner "have intimidated defense witnesses, abused the material witness warrant procedure, hampered the defense investigation, hidden exculpatory evidence, (and) demonized the defendant."

Guy Rasmussen, charged with aggravated first-degree murder in the 1996 death of Cynthia Allinger, is due to go to trial Sept. 1. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty in the case.

Corey-Boulet and Wagner denied the legal transgressions Leatherman alleges.

"His motion is simply inappropriate and unsupported by the facts," Wagner said.

Leatherman's lengthy written attack on Corey-Boulet and Wagner also drew a critical response from Pierce County Prosecutor John Ladenburg.

"The state submits that the topics discussed by the defendant's attorney are no more than calculated personal attacks upon the deputy prosecutors assigned to this case; that such attacks are unethical, and have no place in the practice of law in this county or elsewhere," Ladenburg says in a written response.

The prosecutor asked Pierce County Superior Court Judge Karen Strombom, who is presiding in the murder case, to reprimand Leatherman "for wasting the court's time and taxpayers' money."

"I'm concerned because such personal attacks don't belong in a criminal case in this county," he said.

Leatherman was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

The Seattle attorney, known for his ardent opposition to the death penalty, listed several specific complaints about the deputy prosecutors' conduct:

* The two attorneys used material witness warrants to harass defense witnesses who could provide an alibi for Rasmussen. Leatherman alleges that the prosecutors had those two witness, one an 11-year-old girl, the other an Idaho construction worker, arrested on suspicion of not cooperating with prosecutors.

But the two witnesses would have willingly talked to investigators if they had only asked, Leatherman said. The girl, who committed no crime, was held over a weekend at Pierce County's juvenile jail at Remann Hall. The man was arrested in Idaho while on a construction job, returned to Pierce County and held in jail for a week, Leatherman claims.

Wagner said the 11-year-old was arrested only after she failed to show up for a court-ordered deposition, and prosecutors had to track the construction worker through several states before finding him.

* Leatherman contends the prosecution failed to provide the defense with complete surveillance logs kept by law enforcement officers who followed Rasmussen.

The prosecutors countered they had turned over all existing logs to the defense. Leatherman said the logs are important because they will show Rasmussen couldn't have dumped Allinger's body in a field where she was found.

* Wagner posted a caricature of Rasmussen in her office that showed him with horns drawn on his head. Such a caricature prejudiced defense witnesses called to her office, Leatherman claims. Wagner acknowledged she briefly displayed such a picture in her office.

"When I added the horns to the defendant's mug shot, I was exercising my First Amendment right of free expression," she said. She added that no defense witnesses saw the picture.

* Leatherman wants the judge to remove Corey-Boulet from the case because she and her husband have been named as defendants in a civil lawsuit over her husband's management of funds at a medical clinic he managed.

The deputy prosecutor and her husband, Francis, have denied the allegations made in the suit filed in Pierce County Superior Court by Clinic Management Partners.

Ladenburg said his review of that lawsuit caused him no concern. But he has referred any decision on whether criminal charges should be filed to the King County prosecutor's office.

Leatherman contends that if Barbara Corey-Boulet is charged in the clinic investigation, she will have to leave the Rasmussen case, delaying the trial.

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* John Gillie covers Pierce County courts. Reach him at 253-597-8663 or by e-mail at