KENNEWICK — A judge Wednesday temporarily sealed all investigation records and reports in the case of a former Prosser mayor accused of having sexual contact with a teen boy.
Judge Robert Swisher gave attorney Scott Johnson two weeks to file a motion and prepare arguments on why the documents pertaining to his client, Linda Lusk, should be permanently sealed while the criminal case proceeds.
Lusk, 49, is charged in Benton County Superior Court with third-degree child molestation. She has pleaded innocent to the charge and faces trial Aug. 23.
Prosecutors allege she exchanged sexually explicit text messages with the boy, who is a student at Prosser High, and had sexual contact with him when he went to her house on an early-release day from school.
Lusk served one term as Prosser's mayor before losing her re-election bid in 2007.
The Herald sought access to criminal case records through the Benton County Prosecutor's Office when the charge against Lusk was announced June 9.
Johnson objected to their release and requested Wednesday's hearing. He argued the "intense media focus on this case" will affect Lusk's ability to have a fair trial in Benton County.
Johnson added that he doesn't want everything sealed, but said it's "hard to put together an intelligent motion" until he receives all reports and evidence from the prosecution. Then he can review the information and complete his request.
The Herald agreed to the brief delay until Johnson files his motion.
A hearing is set July 21 for a judge to decide if the records, according to state law, are in the public interest or would "substantially and irreparably damage" Lusk.
Also Wednesday, Prosser City Attorney Howard Saxton asked the court to review the original and a redacted version of a Prosser police report.
Prosser police briefly investigated the Lusk case by contacting the teen's parents after hearing some friends of the boy talking about Lusk performing a "sexual act" with the teen.
The next day the investigation was turned over to the Benton County Sheriff's Office because of possible conflicts of interest because of Lusk's past job as mayor.
Saxton said the court then has three options: to release to the Herald "the city's responsive letter and redaction log" as prepared by Saxton; to prohibit disclosure of the report in its entirety; or to release it after completing redactions.
Lusk did not attend Wednesday's hearing. Johnson said he told his client she didn't need to be there because the case is "not at a critical stage" while he argues this public records issue.
Swisher responded that Lusk "needs to be here from now on."
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org