State says Sheriff Ed Troyer texted their potential witness during pre-trial

Opening statements in the high-profile criminal trial against Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer could start as early as Wednesday. Jury selection continued Tuesday in the case at Pierce County District Court.

Representatives with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office raised concern about Troyer contacting a potential witness and the question it presents heading into trial. During day two of jury selection, the state representatives told the court that Troyer texted one of their potential witnesses, who is a retired sheriff’s deputy.

"The state does have concerns and wanted to notify the court. This witness was not happy to hear from the defendant. He is a state witness. And I would also point out that, before retirement, he was supervised by Sheriff Troyer," said Barbara Serrano, assistant attorney general.

Though Serrano said the text from Troyer to the potential witness did not "necessarily violate pre-trial conditions," his defense attorneys gave an explanation and apology.

"I take the full blame. I simply asked him—we’re busy picking a jury, getting ready for openings. He’s got his contact information. He has the text and [it] says I’m just confirming this is your number. Very friendly text," said Anne Bremner, Troyer’s defense attorney

This trial stems from an incident in January 2021. Officials said a Black male newspaper carrier was making deliveries in Tacoma when Troyer began following him in his personal car. Officials said Troyer called in a large police presence, repeatedly telling an emergency dispatcher that the newspaper carrier threatened to kill him. 

Court documents said Troyer then backed off of his threat claims after questioning by Tacoma Police. After a months-long investigation, the attorney general’s office charged Troyer with misdemeanor counts of false reporting, and making a false or misleading statement to a public servant.

Eight potential jurors were called into the courtroom Tuesday for additional questioning based on their answers to the juror questionnaire. An area of focus on the questionnaire were questions 59 and 60—referring to bias, prejudice and impartiality. The state said one juror in particular noted that he met Troyer during his campaign for sheriff.

"This is someone who went out of his way to get a sign, to meet Sheriff Troyer on two occasions and has a sign in his yard about supporting Sheriff Troyer. I think that’s a very strong level of support," said Melanie Tratnik, assistant attorney general.

"The fact that he at one time supported Sheriff Troyer during his run for sheriff would be a lot different than saying that he wants Sheriff Troyer to get away with committed crimes. And he stated clearly he would convict him," said Nick Gross, Troyer’s defense attorney.

After hearing both arguments, presiding Judge Jeffrey Jahns of Kitsap County District Court gave a response.

"The one question is if the state proves this crime beyond a reasonable doubt, are you going to convict? And he didn’t hesitate. He said, ‘Oh yeah, I will.’ And I believe him. While the court understands some of the concerns about prior contact with the defendant, if the state proves this case, that juror would convict. So, for that reason the challenge for cause is denied," said Judge Jahns.

Jury selection continues Wednesday. Once completed, Judge Jahns said opening statements will be scheduled.