Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer must post $100,000 bail after violating a court order barring contact with a newspaper carrier following their high-profile confrontation last year, a Kitsap County judge ruled Friday.
District Court Judge Jeffrey Jahns, who is presiding over the criminal case against Troyer in Pierce County, ruled Friday that the sheriff has made contact with Sedrick Altheimer in the time since their initial early-morning encounter in Troyer's neighborhood in Tacoma.
The January 2021 altercation resulted in Troyer being charged by the Washington State Attorney General's Office with two misdemeanors: False reporting and making a false or misleading statement to a public servant. Troyer has pleaded not guilty.
As a condition of Troyer's release on his own recognizance after those charges were filed, he was to keep away from Altheimer. Now to avoid being detained, Troyer must post bail. His attorney, John Sheeran, said that he would immediately. Criminal defendants who use a bonding company generally are required to put up 10 percent of the bail amount, which in Troyer's case would be $10,000.
Altheimer, who said he has since quit his job because he did not feel safe, claimed that he had repeatedly been under surveillance by Troyer, as recently as April 27. He claimed that Troyer had made eye contact while passing his car, followed his vehicle and flashed his high beams at him.
Troyer has denied having any contact with Altheimer except for a chance encounter outside Troyer's father's house earlier this year, in which Troyer claimed not to immediately recognize Altheimer.
Jahns said Friday he did not believe Troyer's account of running into Altheimer by happenstance to be reasonable nor truthful.
"The matter really comes down to the credibility of witnesses," Jahns said.
Troyer nearly detained
The change in Troyer's condition of release, which includes abiding by an anti-harassment order successfully sought by Altheimer, is an effort to force Troyer to follow orders by the court, as Jahns questioned whether the court could trust the embattled sheriff.
Senior assistant attorney general John Hillman said that the court needed to send a message to Troyer that "intimidation of witnesses pending trial is not going to be tolerated by the court."
Sheeran said the bail condition was simply tantamount to a punishment or tax.
Troyer narrowly avoiding being placed into custody at the end of the nearly three-hour hearing Friday, after Jahns initially ordered him to be detained until he posted bail. Sheeran, who said Troyer was ready to post bail immediately, argued that detaining Troyer would be nothing more than an act to humiliate him and force him to do a "perp walk."
Last month, a Pierce County judge granted Altheimer's anti-harassment protection order and ruled that Troyer must stay 1,000 feet away from Altheimer for a year, adding to the no-contact order that had already been in place.
What the charges stem from
Altheimer was delivering newspapers at roughly 2 a.m. in January 2021 when Troyer began to follow him in his personal SUV, believing that Altheimer, 24 at the time, was behaving suspiciously. When Altheimer noticed the SUV, he asked Troyer, who he did not recognize, whether he was following him because he is Black, according to the probable cause statement.
After Troyer allegedly peppered Altheimer with questions about what he was doing, and accused him of being a thief, Altheimer attempted to leave but he said that Troyer continued to follow him, police records show.
Troyer ultimately called 911, claiming that his life had been threatened, which prompted a massive law enforcement response, according to records. Troyer later recanted that Altheimer had threatened him, charging papers show, but he has since disputed that he changed his story and chalked it up to a misunderstanding.
Troyer has said he believed he did not act inappropriately and he has rebuffed calls for his resignation.
Altheimer filed a $5 million federal lawsuit against the county in October, alleging emotional distress from the "racial profiling, false arrest and unnecessary use of excessive force of this man whose only crime was 'being a black man in a white neighborhood.'"