City Attorney Files Assault Charges Against Seattle Cop

The City Attorney’s office has filed misdemeanor assault charges against Seattle police officer James Lee after he was caught on video kicking a 17-year-old boy in a downtown convenience store following a botched drug buy-bust operation in October.

Chief John Diaz asked the Washington State Patrol to investigate the incident. Looks like it didn’t go in Lee’s favor.

Here’s the release from City Attorney Pete Holmes’ office.

The City Attorney’s Office on Wednesday charged Seattle Police Department Officer James J. Lee with one count of Fourth-Degree Assault, a gross misdemeanor, following a criminal investigation by the Washington State Patrol. Lee was videotaped kicking a 17-year-old boy in a downtown convenience store on Oct. 18, 2010 during an arrest for an undercover buy-bust operation.“We understand that our police officers have a dangerous job,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said.  “They are thus permitted the legal ability to use reasonable force in apprehending people suspected of having committed a crime.  When the force used is not reasonable under the circumstances, the officer must be held accountable.”

In an uncommon move, Police Chief John Diaz requested an outside criminal investigation, the results of which were delivered to CAO’s Criminal Division Chief Craig Sims late last month.

Lee, who joined SPD in 1999, is on administrative reassignment. If convicted, he faces a maximum term of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Lee’s actions were among those listed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and 34 community and civil-rights organizations in a request to the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether Seattle police have engaged in a pattern of violating the civil rights of suspects, particularly minorities. A formal probe began recently.

The teen was charged with first-degree attempted robbery but later acquitted in King County Superior Court.  In February he filed a claim seeking $450,000 from the City or a jury trial, saying he was the victim of “unjustified and excessive force.”

SPD just issued a statement too (sort of):

The Seattle Police Department opened an Office of Professional Accountability investigation into the actions of an undercover Seattle Police officer during the arrest of a 17-year-old male suspect.  Police Chief John Diaz made a formal request to the Washington State Patrol to conduct a criminal investigation into the actions of this officer.  Today, the City Attorney’s Office informed the Seattle Police Department that they have charged the involved officer with Assault in the 4th Degree.  The Office of Professional Accountability will continue to monitor the case as it proceeds through the criminal justice process.  The involved officer remains on administrative reassignment.