A Pasco police officer who was placed on leave for two years while fighting sexual assault charges has filed a federal lawsuit alleging malicious prosecution.
Anthony “Tony” Haworth claims the Walla Walla city detectives who investigated the allegations against him, and the Walla Walla County prosecutors who pursued the case, knew all along that he was being set up by the victim and her mother.
He was charged in May 2017 with four felony sex crimes, including third-degree rape, indecent liberties and voyeurism.
The rape and voyeurism were dismissed in March 2018.
The final two charges were dismissed last December after the Adams County prosecutor was asked to review the case and concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute Haworth.
In April, a judge dismissed the case in a way that means prosecutors cannot re-file the charges later.
Haworth, now 40, had been on paid administrative leave from the Pasco Police Department during the investigation, and returned to work as a patrol officer when the charges were dropped.
In the civil action filed late Monday in U.S. District Court, Spokane attorney Bill Gilbert said Walla Walla police and prosecutors were aware of problems with the evidence, including credibility issues with the alleged victim and contradicting statements from witnesses.
Yet, “they were willing to lie and cheat” because they wanted to convict Haworth so bad, said Gilbert in the 90-page complaint.
He said the police and prosecutors pushed forward with the case in spite of having evidence that might exonerate Haworth.
The lead detective knew his investigation was flawed and that his assessment of the case was erroneous, and the lead deputy prosecutor took issue with the defense questioning her conduct and ethics as the case proceeded.
So it became a personal mission for them to prove everyone wrong, Gilbert claimed in the suit.
The lawsuit names both the city and county of Walla Walla, along with Police Chief Scott Bieber and Detective Marcus Goodwater and elected county Prosecutor Jim Nagle and Deputy Prosecutor Michelle Morales.
“Morales and Goodwater were so personally invested in proving a case of criminal conduct against an innocent man, in order to salvage their own reputations, protect their personal interests, and satisfy a personal vendetta against Tony Haworth and/or his attorneys, that they completely lost touch with their professional and ethical obligations to protect the Constitution and serve the greater good,” the suit states. “In so doing Morales and Goodwater violated state and federal law.”
It further states that Nagle and Bieber — the administrators, policy makers and enforcers of their respective departments — “ignored the obvious” and pushed the prosecution with insufficient evidence because they were concerned about public opinion.
The Herald could not reach Richard Jolley, the Seattle lawyer for the city and its police force, or Heather Yakely, the county’s lawyer, for comment on Tuesday afternoon.
The case was handed over to the Walla Walla Police Department and the Walla Walla County Prosecutor’s Office because of conflicts given Haworth’s law enforcement position in the Tri-Cities.
Haworth, who grew up in Othello, has been with the Pasco Police Department since 2012. He previously worked for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office for six years.
He was accused of inappropriately touching a teen girl several times between 2008 and 2013, and raping her once when she was 17.
Prosecutors said it happened after Haworth and the teen drank alcohol together. The girl told investigators she was both unconscious and awake when Haworth took advantage of her, according to court documents.
Several nude photographs of the teen allegedly were found on Haworth’s electronic devices. The girl said she had taken them for a boyfriend, but later deleted them and didn’t know how Haworth got them, documents said in the criminal case.
Haworth denied the claims, saying they were motivated by his divorce and putting his house up for sale.
The Tri-City Herald typically does not identify people who report sexual assault.
However, the criminal case was permanently dismissed because of lack of evidence to support probable cause, and Haworth alleges in the lawsuit that the malicious prosecution stemmed from a story concocted by his ex-wife and her adult daughter to get back at him.
The suit states that the marriage started to “completely unravel” in the spring of 2015.
Then, within two weeks of Haworth filing for divorce in October 2015, his wife came up with the plot that involved her daughter from an earlier relationship to say her stepfather sexually assaulted her when she was a minor, the suit states.
His wife allegedly believed this would force Haworth to pay her money, give her custody of their two younger children and forfeit the family home to her.
The mother and daughter allegedly told this story to a family friend, but gave several different versions, according to the suit. The family friend asked the stepdaughter why she hadn’t reported it earlier, and she allegedly replied, “when the time is right.”
“When Tony found out what (his stepdaughter and estranged wife) were saying, he did the last thing the two conspiring women expected; he reported the allegation to his supervisors at the Pasco Police Department,” the lawsuit states. “Pasco P.D. reviewed the allegations and determined they were not credible.”
Haworth’s divorce was finalized in February 2016 and he was ordered to make spousal support payments into March 2017.
Two weeks after the payments stopped, his ex-wife called the Support, Advocacy & Resource Center to report her daughter’s rape, the suit states. The daughter had to later call and make the report herself since she is now an adult, and the report got passed on to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, who in turn reached out to Walla Walla police for help.
The lawsuit claims it was later discovered that with the family’s shared cellphone plan, text and picture messages sent with one phone could end up appearing on another. Electronics seized, along with witness statements, allegedly showed the adult stepdaughter often shared nude and sexually explicit pictures of herself with other people.
‘Mountain of evidence’
Gilbert says the detective and prosecutor were aware of all that and more, yet they chose to ignore “the growing mountain of evidence that suggested (the stepdaughter) was not credible ... and Tony was innocent.”
Haworth’s ex-wife was charged in 2016 with two counts of felony harassment for threatening to kill Haworth and his girlfriend with a loaded handgun. She later pleaded guilty to one count of harassment, saying she “was upset after having been attacked.”
The Walla Walla County Prosecutor’s Office removed itself from the case in December 2018, about 18 months into the process.
Prosecutor Nagle said in a court filing that he terminated the appointment because of a “lack of resources” in his office after they tried to get the trial continued and were denied.
Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant then turned to Adams County Prosecutor Randy Flyckt to review the case.
Flyckt issued his decision three months later “that any additional litigation in this matter would not be in the interest of justice, and contrary to the best use of prosecutorial and judicial resources.” He recommended it be considered a declined investigation due to insufficient evidence.
Gilbert says that after the Walla Walla Police Department was notified the case would be dropped permanently with no chance of re-filing, Goodwater and Bieber “upped the ante in respect to the personal vendetta.”
Goodwater reportedly argued to Sant and Flyckt that the case was solid. And Bieber tried to force the prosecutors to go forward with the case before posting comments on social media about the case condemning the decision and saying he would take his complaints to the Attorney General’s Office and the “feds,” the lawsuit states.
Nagle then took issue with the city and county being ordered to return all evidence to Haworth and to destroy any electronic/digital/data. He cited the defense’s ongoing threat to pursue civil litigation. Some of the evidence ended up being turned over to another agency to be preserved.
The lawsuit cites 10 causes of action, including: conspiracy; intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress; negligence; and defamation, libel and false light invasion of privacy. It also cites Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, for allegedly engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity.
Haworth is seeking to be awarded both damages and attorneys’ fees, and to reform Walla Walla city and county “policies, practices and procedures to prevent like actions and harms in the future.”
He has asked for a jury trial in federal court.