Clark County, WA – The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office placed a 26-year-old former deputy on their Brady List, effectively ending her career in law enforcement, with absolutely no documentation to explain why she's on the list.
Former Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Erin Willey was fired seven months into her year-long probation after an ex-boyfriend, against whom she had a domestic violence protective order, sent old pictures of her wearing a "Proud Boys Girls" tank top to The Columbian, a local newspaper.
Proud Boys Girls is the moniker given to girlfriends of members of the Proud Boys, a far-right, fraternity-like, misogynistic men’s organization that is known for seeking out street brawls against violent leftists.
Being a member of a group that engages in political violence is incompatible with law enforcement, but Willey was never a member of the group.
Rather than consider the photo evidence that Willey's ex-boyfriend may have violated an order of protection, the sheriff’s office launched an error-ridden internal investigation to terminate the deputy.
The termination of Willey for being a domestic violence victim was controversial, and she quickly found other departments who wanted to hire the likeable and qualified law enforcement officer who had dreamed of being a deputy since high school.
During the application process for another police department, Willey was asked if she had ever been put on the Brady List, and she answered “no.”
The department soon discovered that she was wrong.
At some point during the few months that had elapsed since her termination, Willey’s name had been placed on what’s known as the Potential Impeachment Data (PID) List, better known as the Brady List, for Clark County.
The Brady List, in short, is a list of people whom the prosecutor has determined have credibility or honesty problems that would impact their ability to be a witness at trial, and is a result of the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland.
It’s considered the Scarlet Letter for law enforcement and is meant to be career-ending. And Erin Willey had no idea she’d been branded with it.
“That chief was the first person to advise me I had been placed on the Brady list,” Willey told Blue Lives Matter. “It’s heartbreaking to have been told one thing by the sheriff’s office – ‘you’re just being released from probation’ - then to have them try to revoke my state certification and place me on the Brady List.”
“And all of this happened because my vengeful ex-boyfriend wanted to get even with me for breaking up with him,” Willey lamented. “That’s why I had the protective order against him – he had been threatening me.”
Blue Lives Matter was determined to find out what had happened, so we reached out to the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to find out why, and by whom, former Deputy Willey had been put on the Brady List.
Interim Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney James Smith provided Blue Lives Matter a copy of the policy that is supposed to govern the Clark County Brady List, called the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney's Office Potential Impeachment Data (PID) Policy and Potential Impeachment Data Committee Protocol.
Smith told Blue Lives Matter that the Clark County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) had not been a part of Willey’s placement on the list.
“The sheriff’s office was not involved in the decision to place former Deputy Erin Willey on our PID list, as that decision must be made by the prosecuting attorney,” Smith wrote in an email dated March 7.
Smith did not respond to any further requests.
But when Blue Lives Matter checked with the prosecutor's office they didn't have any documentation about why Willey was on the list, in violation of their own policies.
“I’ve made contact with our chief criminal deputy, Scott Jackson,” Mindy Lamberton with the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney's office advised in an email on March 12. “There are no records in the PA’s possession explaining why former CC Deputy Willey was placed on the list. There was a verbal communication between the PA’s Office and the CCSO which resulted in Ms. Willey on the list.”
“You may want to direct your inquiry to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Public Records Department,” she suggested.
So we filed an open records request with the sheriff’s department for former Deputy Willey’s personnel file and any documentation related to her placement on the Brady List.
The sheriff’s office complied with the request and sent Blue Lives Matter the former deputy’s personnel file, but they denied having any documentation related to her placement on the list.
“The Clark County Sheriff’s Office does not maintain the Brady List,” wrote Sarah Leffler, of the CCSO’s Public Records Unit, in a letter dated April 3. “That is a function of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. If you have not already, you may be interested in contacting them to ascertain if they have records you are seeking.”
Blue Lives Matter reached out to Clark County Chief Criminal Deputy Scott Jackson, Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins, and Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik for comment. None of them responded.
In what appears to be a backroom deal, the sheriff's office and prosecutor violated their own policies to effectively ban Willey from law enforcement.
The Clark County PID policy states that the prosecutor’s office is not the investigatory agency for Brady List referrals. They are only responsible for analyzing the data provided and deciding whether to grant the referral to the list.
“Law enforcement agencies will be asked to provide the Prosecutor’s Office with information on sustained findings of misconduct involving officer dishonesty,” the Clark County PID policy reads. “This includes any sustained findings or violations of a false verbal or written statement. We will also request all criminal convictions pursuant to CrR 4.7 and Brady.”
“Further, we also request sustained findings for biased policing, racial profiling, malicious harassment or any other conduct that suggests bias against a class of people (e.g. race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender, disability, economic status, or other personal characteristic),” the policy continues. “Finally, we request sustained findings of the inappropriate use of force. All such sustained findings shall be submitted to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in writing and the individuals will be added to the PID list without additional review.”
The policy also says that all such sustained findings must be submitted in writing to the prosecutor’s office.
Willey, who has been teaching firearms since she was terminated by Clark County, said that she’s not going to give up on this.
“I have wanted to be in law enforcement since I was 14,” she told Blue Lives Matter. “The fact that no one can give me answers as to why I’m on Brady, or any documentation supporting the matter, is frustrating. It seems like everything is being done behind my back, in hopes that I will give up and walk away.”
Willey says she isn’t going to back down now that she knows her placement on the Brady List was not handled according to protocol.
She said she was in the process of filing a grievance with the Washington Bar Association against the Clark County prosecutor for putting her on the Brady List without cause.
“Tony Golik manages the Brady List, and placed me on the list without any sustained findings. There is no documentation that PA's Office nor the Sheriff's office can provide regarding this,” Willey said. “I’m not going to let an arbitrary decision keep me from doing what I always wanted to do when I grew up. I’m committed to becoming a law enforcement officer again.”
The bar association’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel is responsible for processing grievances about the ethical conduct of Washington lawyers. Its authority was established by the Washington Supreme Court, according to the Washington Bar Association website.