Sheriff Found Not Guilty of Falsely Accusing Black Newspaper Carrier

A sheriff in Washington State who was charged last year with making a false claim that a Black newspaper carrier had driven up to his home and threatened to kill him has been found not guilty, prosecutors said.

A jury in Tacoma acquitted Sheriff Ed Troyer of Pierce County, Wash., on Wednesday, according to the state’s attorney general’s office.

“Part of upholding the rule of law is respecting the decision of a jury,” the attorney general, Bob Ferguson, said in a statement. “I appreciate the jury’s service,” he added.

The charges stemmed from an incident that began at about 2 a.m. on Jan. 27, 2021, when Sheriff Troyer called 911 and reported that he had used his S.U.V. to corner a man who was driving “in and out of driveways” in his neighborhood in Tacoma, the largest city in the county of 925,000 residents.

“He knows who I am and he threatened to kill me,” Sheriff Troyer, who is white, told the dispatcher, according to a court document filed by the attorney general’s office, which handled the case after a referral from Gov. Jay Inslee.

Minutes after the 911 call, 40 police officers with their sirens blaring descended on the neighborhood, believing that another officer was in danger, the attorney general’s office said.

When the officers arrived, they approached the carrier, Sedrick Altheimer, who kept his hands on the wheel. He told the officers to look at the seat of his car, where copies of The Tacoma News Tribune were piled.

“I am working!” Mr. Altheimer, who was 25 at the time, yelled, according to prosecutors. “I’m a Black man in a white neighborhood, and I am working!”

Prosecutors said that when officers asked Sheriff Troyer what had happened, he acknowledged that Mr. Altheimer never threatened him.

Officers released Mr. Altheimer to finish his route about half an hour after they arrived on scene, the attorney general’s office said. No one was arrested that night, and the police let both men go.

In March 2021, The Seattle Times published a story that quoted Mr. Altheimer and linked to a police report about the encounter. The account infuriated civil rights activists, who filed a federal lawsuit against Sheriff Troyer.

On April 24, 2021, Governor Inslee, a Democrat, referred the case to the attorney general’s office because no action had been taken “to initiate a criminal investigation at the local level.”

After its investigation, the attorney general’s office filed two misdemeanor charges against Troyer in October 2021 — one count of false reporting and one count of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant.

At the time, Sheriff Troyer, who has worked for the department since 1985, described the charge as “a blatant and politically motivated anti-cop hit job.”

Anne Bremner, a lawyer for the sheriff, said on Thursday that if the attorney general “had made Sheriff Troyer part of the investigation instead of the target, we wouldn’t be here.”

She added, “Sheriff Troyer is very grateful to the jury for their hard work and for their just verdict.”

A spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said on Thursday that the department was not commenting on the case. A lawyer for Mr. Altheimer did not immediately respond to an inquiry for comment on Thursday.

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