For two years, Zachary J. Fairley has waited for the day he could clear his name from allegations he was involved with a suspected prostitute and lied to coworkers during a 2013 bomb threat investigation.
Fairley, a former Pasco police officer, was hoping that day would come Friday.
A Franklin County District Court jury felt otherwise.
After two hours and 15 minutes, jurors returned four guilty verdicts against Fairley for making false statements and obstructing his department’s investigation. He was acquitted on one count of patronizing a prostitute.
Fairley was shocked by the outcome of his weeklong trial, saying he did nothing but tell the truth during the police investigation.
He said the criminal case against him was in retaliation for an earlier complaint he made about an offensive picture, and claimed corruption among the department’s top brass.
“I’m extremely surprised,” Fairley told the Herald hours after the verdicts were read. “They didn’t (convict) me with the crime of soliciting a prostitute, and yet they say I lied to investigators. Yet it was all hearsay, my word against theirs.”
Fairley, 33, of Pasco, has remained silent since a gag order was placed on him during the investigation, he said. He testified during his trial, and now wants the public to know his side of the story.
Police Chief Bob Metzger dismissed any attacks by Fairley, saying his former officer was tried in front of a jury of his peers and they clearly didn’t believe him.
“Anything that he is talking about really should have been brought up at trial; the jury should have heard it,” Metzger said Friday. “The jury made a decision and there is nothing he can do about it. It is over.
“The jury has spoken, and I certainly think that is what our system is all about and that is what we have to live with,” the chief added. “I think he’s had his chance.”
Fairley and his attorney, Etoy Alford Jr. of Yakima, say it is not over.
They plan to appeal the guilty verdicts for obstructing a law enforcement officer and three counts of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant, all gross misdemeanors.
Alford said he is confident they will win.
“There were a lot of mistakes that have happened throughout this case, and also throughout the trial itself, which I’m certain will end up in the exoneration of Zach on all of the remaining counts,” the lawyer said. “I am 100 percent certain of that. He didn’t do these things.”
Prosecutor Shawn Sant credited Deputy Prosecutor Brian Hultgrenn with securing the convictions, and thanked Walla Walla police Sgt. Matt Wood and Benton County sheriff’s Detective Larry Smith for their work on the independent investigation.
Sentencing is set for Aug. 26 before District Court Judge Jerry Roach. Fairley could face jail time, though he has no criminal history.
The case against Fairley started after Steven E. Brown called in bomb threats to Columbia Basin College on July 18, 2013.
Pasco police tracked down the phone number used to make one of the calls, and in reviewing the records discovered that Fairley’s number was on the cellphone.
Investigators say Brown’s daughter had used the phone, hours before the threats were called in, to post ads on a section of backpage.com, a website often used for prostitution. There were 17 text messages between that phone and Fairley’s cellphone.
Fairley told the Herald he was on the graveyard shift at the time and was sleeping the following afternoon when Detective Tony Aceves called to ask if he knew Brown, that particular cellphone number or anyone who goes to CBC.
Fairley checked his phone and did not find a contact with that number, he said, and the only link he may have had to the college campus was from his time in charge of the Pasco Police Explorers.
“Given the knowledge I had at the time, I didn’t feel like I said anything that was false or deceiving. I didn’t know that number,” Fairley said.
Fairley was called into the office of then-police Capt. Jim Raymond — now the Franklin County sheriff — about 11/2 weeks later and again questioned about his phone number. Then he was instructed to write a report about how he did not know Brown and did not recognize the number.
Investigators concluded Fairley lied several times to cover up his contact with a suspected prostitute.
Fairley said that if investigators had told him that it was Brown’s daughter, he might have been able to connect it to the online prostitution operation he had been overseeing for the police department.
Fairley was never suspected of any wrongdoing related to the bomb threats. Brown ultimately was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison.
Fairley was placed on administrative leave in January 2014, and the department asked Walla Walla police for an independent investigation into the possible false statements.
Fairley said that after receiving notification from Metzger that he was not to enter the police station or talk to his colleagues about the investigation, he sent an email to several administrators asking them to look for a file in his SWAT locker.
The file contained paperwork about his prostitution operation — of which the administrators were aware was his crew’s “quality of life emphasis” — and that it would protect his name and exonerate him, he said.
Fairley called the printouts, which included names of known prostitutes and lingo used, “intelligence gathering” for the operation. He later learned it all was destroyed instead of being forwarded on to Walla Walla police, he said.
Fairley claims the chief lied when he testified that he never received the email request, and that he didn’t know his officer was working a prostitution sting so he had no idea the documents were relevant to the allegations.
Metzger told the Herald that as police chief, he is the keeper of everything in the department that is either work product or equipment. All personal property found in Fairley’s locker was returned to him, he said.
“It wasn’t part of a case file ... It was simply a bunch of papers in a box,” Metzger said. “If it was evidence, (Fairley) should have tagged it as evidence.”
Fairley — who had served as a sergeant in early 2013 before a demotion — was fired from the department in May 2014.