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Ex-deputy takes plea bargain

Former Coupeville deputy marshal Hodges Gowdey, at left, appears in court with attorney Chris Skinner Monday. Gowdey pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly conduct. - Jessie Stensland photo
Former Coupeville deputy marshal Hodges Gowdey, at left, appears in court with attorney Chris Skinner Monday. Gowdey pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly conduct.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland photo

Hodges Gowdey agreed to a plea bargain Monday, one day before he was set to go to trial on two felony charges related to a 2007 incident.

The former Coupeville deputy marshal pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a gross misdemeanor charge, in Island County Superior Court.

Gowdey was originally accused of handcuffing his former girlfriend during a roadside squabble seven years ago and coaching her about what to tell investigators, court documents state

As Gowdey’s attorney, Chris Skinner of Oak Harbor, pointed out, his client was not admitting to either of those allegations. Under the plea, he’s admitting that he spoke inappropriately to his former girlfriend in the Town Hall parking lot on the same night in 2007.

He said in an interview after court that he was basically admitting to swearing while on duty.

“I am agreeing to this recommendation from the state as a way to end this injustice towards myself,” he said. “I am in no way agreeing that I committed any crimes that the state contends that I did on the evening of April 3, 2007 on Madrona Way.”

He spent a day in jail but won’t have to do any more time under the deferred sentence.

Gowdey said he plans to file a lawsuit against the Oak Harbor police and the Island County prosecutor for violating his civil rights in pursuing what he feels was an unfounded case against him.

He also hopes to continue his career in law enforcement, though he won’t be working in Coupeville.

Gowdey claims Detective Sgt. Teri Gardner, who was since promoted to captain of the Oak Harbor Police Department, lied in her report when she wrote that Gowdey admitted he may have dented the woman’s car and that he couldn’t remember whether he handcuffed her.

He denies that he coached his former girlfriend on what to tell investigators.

“She is a jealous ex that exploited her relationship with Detective Gardner to make up this story to cause harm to myself and family,” he said, adding that his ex-girlfriend and Gardner are friends.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme said in court that the felony charges against Gowdey would be “extremely difficult to prove” given that the judge ruled that the defendant’s statements in an interview with Gardner were inadmissible.

Detectives tricked Gowdey into making comments through a fake internal investigation; Judge Alan Hancock ruled that the tactic was inappropriately coercive and his statement could not be used against Gowdey.

Ohme said prosecutors didn’t even know about the police department’s internal investigative ruse until Skinner interviewed witnesses.

Due to the suppression of Gowdey’s statements, Ohme said, “the state was left without its main corroborating evidence.”

In addition, the victim was “ecstatic” with the resolution, Ohme said.

“The victim did not want the case to go forward,” he said. “She did not want Mr. Gowdey to be convicted of a felony, and she did not want him to serve any jail time.”

In her victim impact statement, the woman was very critical of the Oak Harbor police for pursuing the investigation against Gowdey, claiming the officers were “motivated by ego, not justice.”

She wrote that what Gowdey did was “frightening, intimidating and wrong,” but that she has forgiven him.

Judge Hancock agreed with the recommendation. He sentenced Gowdey to 90 days in jail with 89 days deferred and credit for a day in jail; he won’t have to serve the additional time as long as he pays court costs, doesn’t break any laws and has no contact with the victim for the next year.

“Mr. Gowdey abused his office, it’s fair to say,” Hancock said.

The case against Gowdey started because the Island County Sheriff’s Office took over the Coupeville Marshal’s Office; Gowdey was guaranteed a job with the sheriff’s office if he passed the background check.

Undersheriff Kelly Mauck looked into the internal investigation into the incident in which Gowdey swore at the woman; Gowdey had admitted acting inappropriately and had been disciplined.

But the woman, who has since broken up with Gowdey, told Mauck there was more to the story; she now claimed Gowdey had handcuffed her on the side of the dark road and later asked her not tell investigators about it, according to the police report.

The Oak Harbor police initially investigated the criminal allegations that Mauck uncovered, even though the woman worked at the police department.

The case was later forwarded to a Snohomish County detective.

As a result of background investigation, the sheriff denied Gowdey a job in the department.

 

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