'Anything but typical' Takeaways from Sheriff Ed Troyer's trial
A jury acquitted Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer on false-reporting charges related to his confrontation last year with a Black newspaper carrier. KNKX South Sound reporter Kari Plog joins KNKX All Things Considered host Emil Moffatt to explain what the verdict means and why this case drew so much attention.
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KNKX All Things Considered host Emil Moffatt: Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer has been acquitted of criminal charges stemming from a phone call he made to dispatchers last year about threats from a Black newspaper carrier. The state attorney general accused Troyer of lying about those threats and triggering a priority response for a false emergency. But jurors determined that state prosecutors failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. KNKX South Sound reporter Kari Plog has been covering the trial from the beginning and joins us live now to talk about it. First of all, tell us what led to these charges.
KNKX South Sound reporter Kari Plog: Sure. So in the middle of the night on January 27th last year, there was a man named Sedrick Altheimer, who was delivering newspapers in Troyer's north Tacoma neighborhood. Troyer was following him through the neighborhood and Altheimer confronted him. Troyer called an inside line at an emergency dispatch center in Pierce County and said at least four times on that call that Altheimer had threatened to kill him. But a police report that a Tacoma police officer took on the scene that night said that Troyer actually walked that back in an interview on the scene.
Moffatt: So walk us through the trial. What did attorneys on both sides argue?
Plog: Sure. So the state argued that Troyer knew he was lying when he made the claims about those death threats. Prosecutors said that as a former spokesman, which is a job he did for a long time before becoming sheriff, that he should have known the kind of response that his words would cause, putting other officers and the public at risk. The defense, on the other hand, argued that this was a political smear campaign. They said that Troyer never intended to trigger an emergency response, that he just wanted a couple of units to come and de-escalate the situation. His attorneys attacked the competence of the first responders that night and the officer who took the police report. They also spent a lot of time attacking Sedrick Altheimer, the newspaper carrier, for his actions that night, painting him as the aggressor, who was just looking for a confrontation. And it seems that may have worked in sowing doubt among jurors.
Moffatt: And so, Kari, what was the reaction like when the verdict came down this afternoon?
Plog: So this has been a very emotional case on all sides. There were a lot of tears, a lot of hugs. Troyer has had a very loyal following in the gallery for this entire trial, including during jury selection. And a lot of them who were there were struggling to hold back their celebration. And I think that speaks to his continued popularity, despite all of this controversy that allowed him to win his election in 2020 overwhelmingly.
Moffatt: So these were just misdemeanor charges. Why did this case draw so much attention?
Plog: Sure. So this trial was anything but typical. You don't often see state prosecutors with the attorney general's office arguing over misdemeanors in district court. The defendant is well known. He's popular, like I have said. But more generally, this case often felt like a microcosm of this culture war that we've seen over the past couple of years related to policing, even during jury selection. You know, it focused heavily on people's view of police law and order and the social justice movements that came out of 2020 that really call for higher standards of accountability for police officers like Troyer. And the events of that night got a lot of coverage. The defense said that Troyer was tried in the media as a racist and unfairly smeared by the state as a liar.
Moffatt: So what happens now that the Pierce County sheriff has been acquitted?
Plog: So Ed Troyer has been very vocal about how persecuted he's been in this case. And I can only imagine that by being acquitted, that's only going to get louder
Moffatt: KNKX South Sound reporter Kari Plog, joining us live from Tacoma. Kari, thanks so much.
Plog: Thank you.