Renton police investigator recommends county sheriff be charged with sex crime; Urquhart denies allegation

SEATTLE -- A Renton police investigator has recommended to prosecutors that probable cause exists to charge King County Sheriff John Urquhart with a felony for allegedly groping a former deputy more than three years ago, The Seattle Times reported Tuesday.

The newspaper said it obtained the nine-page sworn statement of Renton Commander Daniel Figaro under a public records request.

The police investigation was launched afte groping allegations by former sheriff's deputy Brian Barnes. Urquhart has denied Barnes' allegations, calling them politically motivated.

Urquhart issued a new denial of the allegation late Tuesday afternoon.

Urquhart lost his re-election bid on Nov. 7 to challenger Mitzi Johanknecht, a veteran in the sheriff's office. She will take office as King County sheriff in January.

The Seattle Times, citing the documents released under the public records request, said Figaro wrote of his investigation of Urquhart and the Barnes allegation, "This case is being forwarded for review of charges of the felony crime of Sexual Indecent Liberties ... Assault with Sexual Motivation."

The Times said Figaro presented his findings to Snohomish County prosecutor Mark Roe, who told the newspaper in an email that he is personally reviewing the matter and expects to decide whether to charge Urquhart within two to three weeks.

The Times said King County prosecutors referred the investigation to Snohomish County to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest.

Barnes formally complained to the King County Sheriff's Office in September that Urquhart grabbed his crotch in the parking lot of a Renton restaurant in March 2014.

Barnes, 49, resigned as a deputy in 2015 after King County paid him more than $160,000 as part of a settlement. He now works as a college campus police officer in Massachusetts, the Times said.

Urquhart filed a defamation lawsuit against Barnes over the groping allegation earlier this month.

The newspaper said the charge of indecent liberties can be prosecuted for up to 10 years if the offender is "a public officer" who committed the crime in connection with official duties.

The King County Sheriff's Office issued the following on behalf of Urquart to the allegation:

"In October, Sheriff John Urquhart became aware of a 'groping' allegation, leveled by former deputy Brian Barnes, who was investigated for dishonesty and left the Sheriff’s Office in 2014.  Urquhart ordered the investigation out-sourced, and it went to the Renton Police Department. The results of that investigation were forwarded to the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office for a filing decision.

"Sheriff Urquhart has adamantly denied the allegation and was cleared by a recent polygraph test, the results of which were forwarded to the Renton Police investigator.

"Barnes has a history of making allegations going back at least twelve years to when he was a police officer in Webster, MA. In fact, this is the third elected official against whom he has made a criminal allegation just before an election.

"Barnes has also filed official complaints over the years with the Sheriff’s Office Internal Investigations Unit, the King County Ombudsman, the King County Prosecutor’s Office, the Seattle-King County Civil Rights Commission, the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, and the Washington Bar Association.  None were ever vindicated during the review process.

"In 2006, Barnes was sued for defamation by City of Webster Selectman Ray Regis after claiming Regis was a cocaine dealer.  The lawsuit was settled with a written apology from Barnes and a cash payment. 

"Urquhart has also sued Barnes for defamation.  A copy of the lawsuit is attached.

"As part of their investigation, the Renton Police contacted former detective Robin Cleary, who vouched for Barnes veracity.  However Cleary was also fired from the Sheriff’s Office in 2014 for dishonesty during the Darion Holiwell investigation."