Crime

Richland candidate accuses prosecutor of inappropriate touching. He says allegation is retaliation

A Richland City Council candidate has reportedly filed a complaint with police that accuses Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller of inappropriate contact at her home.

Lisa Rector Thomas went to police Thursday night with the allegation from June 2018, according to a story by KONA radio.

Thomas invited one of the Pasco station’s reporters to join her at the police department when she and her two daughters met with officers.

Within hours of that story being posted Friday evening, Miller countered on social media.

Miller accuses the woman he calls a former friend of attacking him in retaliation for his involvement in the domestic violence allegation against Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher.

Miller, in his lengthy Facebook post, questioned Thomas’ timing.

“It’s no surprise that Jerry Hatcher’s alleged lover Lisa Thomas is making this allegation 16 months after the fact, after months of friendly exchanges between the two of us,” Miller wrote, “but the same week that her alleged lover is charged by the Spokane County Prosecutor after an independent investigation by the Washington State Patrol, both asked by me to avoid any appearance of conflict.”

Thomas is looking to unseat Councilman Phillip Lemley in November’s general election.

The sheriff was charged Wednesday with felony witness tampering and fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor.

Both allegations came out of the divorce case filed in September by Monica Hatcher who said her husband had an extramarital affair with Thomas, a worker on his election campaign in 2017.

Monica Hatcher sought a temporary protection order one week ago, claiming her husband strangled her in December 2017 and then forced her to recant that allegation after she recently reported it.

Lisa Thomas screenshot.JPG
Lisa Rector Thomas posted on her Facebook page early Saturday that the timing of Monica Hatcher’s abuse claims against her estranged husband, Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher, is odd. Her post came hours after it was publicized that she filed a Richland police report accusing Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller of inappropriately touching her in June 2018. Screenshot

She initially went to Benton County Commissioner Jerome Delvin and he called in Miller, who then turned over the case to the Washington State Patrol and assigned an outside prosecutor.

The criminal charges were filed Wednesday and on Thursday, Thomas filed her complaint with Richland police.

The mother of three said in her police report that she knew Miller was going to be driving past her house at a specific time on June 5, 2018, and was going to have a bottle of water outside ready for him.

She says she was in the kitchen preparing that bottle when Miller walked into her house uninvited, made “himself at home,” took a self-guided tour and then grabbed Thomas to sit next to him on her couch.

“I was extremely surprised that a man was in my home,” she wrote in the police complaint, as posted by the radio station. “I very rarely have anyone in my home except my children. My children were gone at the time.”

Thomas wrote that she was “in complete shock” and “mortified” when Miller, at one point, was walking toward her bedroom because she had laundry on her bed, including underwear. But Miller turned and went to her living room, where she says he insisted on taking pictures of the two of them on the couch.

Thomas, who was wearing shorts at the time, recalled Miller touching her bare inner thigh while they were seated and putting her arm around his neck. She said he then kissed her left cheek.

“I did not know that was his plan, I did not want this either,” she wrote. “It was unbelievably uncomfortable and all I could really do was laugh because I did not know what to do. It was certainly not funny.”

Andy Miller mug
Andy Miller Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

In her complaint, Thomas said she wants a protection order against Miller because he knows where she lives and, given his high-profile status, she is afraid of what he may do now that she has come forward with her allegation..

Thomas has not been able to be reached by the Tri-City Herald.

Miller hit back in his Facebook post at her decision to invite a reporter along when filed her police complaint.

He also attacked KONA directly, saying the radio station is Thomas’ “favorite cheerleader” and is the only Tri-Cities media that didn’t mention her name when news broke about Jerry Hatcher’s alleged assault and affair.

Miller said when questioned by a KONA reporter about Thomas’ allegation, he gave them copies of “numerous innocent text and FB messenger exchanges, often political arguments that eventually ended what friendship we had.”

“KONA chose only to show some of them and those few in a format that seems hard to enlarge the photos to make them readable. The article does not summarize them,” he continued. “They did note that Ms. Thomas refused to provide any actual screenshots.”

Miller said in June 2018 he was visiting his ailing mom daily and would go on runs or bike rides nearby.

He said he discovered Thomas lived nearby after seeing her walk or jog past his mom’s house, and then noticed she had a Jerry Hatcher campaign side in the yard.

Miller texts.JPG
Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller posted screenshots of text messages with Lisa Thomas. He says they show Thomas invited him over for water in June 2018, and that she had to provide her address since he could not remember where she lived. Screenshot

The prosecutor said Thomas “asked me to drop by for a bottle of ... water” and she had to remind him of her address in a text since Miller had forgotten. He said his text messages show he had a short visit that one day at Thomas’ home, and that a follow-up exchange indicated no problems.

He also shared a screenshot of Thomas’ Facebook post from Aug. 27, 2018, which included a picture of Thomas and Miller, both smiling.

Thomas wrote that she had been “out joggin on my gnarly ponytail day and literally ran into my favorite Benton County Prosecutor.” She included two red heart emojis in the post.

Miller said he wanted to include that post so people could decide if that post is consistent with what Thomas alleges happened between the two of them nearly three months earlier.

Thomas used “#MeToo” when she shared KONA’s news story about her complaint on her Facebook page.

The Me Too Movement — started two years ago in the wake of allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein — is about highlighting and ending the widespread prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Thomas then responded early Saturday with a quote pulled from a statement issued earlier in the week by Jerry Hatcher’s criminal attorney.

Hatcher
Jerry Hatcher

The quote referred to Monica Hatcher claiming she’d been pressured by Miller and Delvin to make the domestic violence allegation against her husband.

She referred to the four-page email that Monica Hatcher sent recanting her claims. Court documents allege Jerry Hatcher forced her to write and send that email, which is part of the basis for his felony witness tampering charge.

But Thomas said the email showed Miller’s manipulation.

“It is clear that some people took advantage of the situation and (coerced) a (vulnerable) person to make claims she admitted were false, and then somewhere (the heald) [sic] put my name into it,” Thomas wrote. “The timing is odd and so are all of the sources. The truth will come out.”

Monica Hatcher, in court documents, said she was confronting her husband with text messages and phone records from Thomas when he attacked her.

Jerry Hatcher says he has been falsely accused by his wife and calls them “inflammatory and damaging” allegations.

He has not been arrested, but was issued a summons to appear Oct. 23 in Benton County Superior Court on the criminal charges.

Hatcher took some time off this week and left town as the charges were filed by an out-of-the-area special prosecutor. He previously surrendered his guns and concealed pistol permit as part of the protection order.

Both Hatcher and his lawyer, Scott Johnson, have emphasized that the sheriff is not stepping down while fighting both the criminal case and the abuse allegations in his separate divorce case.

Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.
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