The day after a jury trial for the Olympia man accused of exploding an ATM at a Centralia bank was supposed to begin, a Lewis County judge dismissed the case due to mismanagement of evidence.
Lewis County Superior Court Judge J. Andrew Toynbee dismissed all charges against Ryan Thomas Moulder, 38, on Tuesday with prejudice, meaning that the case can’t be refiled in the same court of law.
Moulder was arrested on Jan. 4 as one of two suspects in the Dec. 19, 2021, explosion at the First Security Bank, located at 604 South Tower Ave.
He was accused of working together with an unidentified subject to siphon acetylene gas into the machine with a hose and igniting it, causing an estimated $25,000 in damage, in an attempt to steal the money contained inside.
Moulder was scheduled to face trial on one count each of unlawful possession or control of an explosive device, second-degree misplacement of an explosive, first-degree malicious mischief and first-degree theft on May 2. But the trial was put on hold on April 28 after Moulder’s attorney, Bret M. Woody, of Olympia-based law firm Eloquence Law, PLLC, filed a motion to dismiss Moulder’s case with prejudice.
In his argument, Woody accused Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer of failing to send Woody all the evidence the prosecutor’s office had relating to the case.
Woody’s office received evidence from the prosecutor’s office sometime after Jan. 20, but Woody told Meyer over the phone April 6 that he believed he was missing some evidence from Meyer’s office, according to Woody’s written motion. Woody specifically referenced a screenshot photo he had viewed but didn’t have a video that was logically associated with the image. Meyer reportedly responded with, “You have what we have,” and told Woody the Centralia Police Department, which was the agency leading the investigation into the incident, “‘may’ have additional evidence that could be viewed,” according to Woody’s motion.
A back-and-forth email exchange between the two attorneys commenced.
On April 15, Meyer sent Woody an email reading, “As we discussed on the phone previously, we have provided you all the discovery that we have. I indicated to you that there may be video evidence at Centralia and I would request it. That request has been made. Please note, we also discussed that you are free to go to Centralia to look at the evidence collected (with an appointment of course),” according to court documents.
Woody told the court May 3 he interpreted Meyer’s emails as Meyer telling Woody to obtain the evidence himself.
“Mr. Meyer acts as if he alone is the gatekeeper of information,” Woody said.
The email exchange was included in Woody’s motion, and Toynbee told both parties May 3 that he “did not appreciate” reading the emails from Meyer.
“I in no way meant to imply that he had to get it himself,” Meyer said in response.
The omnibus hearing, which is typically held several weeks before trial confirmation, is the legal deadline for all evidence to be submitted to both parties before trial.
But there were some complications surrounding the omnibus hearing in Moulder’s case: The hearing was initially scheduled for Feb. 24, but was pushed out to April 7 and then continued twice more, with the hearing ultimately taking place on April 21 — just two weeks before trial was scheduled to begin.
Normally, the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office sends the Centralia Police Department a subpoena for evidence prior to the omnibus hearing. But that didn’t happen in this case, according to Centralia Police Chief Stacy Denham.
“That's something that the prosecutor's office is looking into what happened there,” Denham told The Chronicle on Wednesday.
Woody filed motions in court on April 21 compelling Meyer’s office to provide a witness list, Moulder’s criminal history and all remaining evidence. He filed a public records request with the Centralia Police Department that same day.
On April 26, Woody received an email from the Centralia Police Department notifying him that his records request had been filled.
“In response to this public records request, defense counsel received numerous items it had not been made aware of, including not just video evidence, but photographic evidence, written reports, search warrants and returns on those warrants,” stated Woody in his written argument, which was filed on April 28. “It is unclear at the time of this writing if that is the entirety of the evidence that is held by the Centralia Police Department as it pertains to this case.”
The new evidence amounted to over 100 pages, not counting the video evidence.
The day Woody filed his dismissal motion in Lewis County Superior Court, Meyer reportedly handed him a packet containing the new information from the Centralia Police Department.
Meyer said he was unaware of that additional evidence from the Centralia Police Department until after Woody submitted the public records request.
The lead detective investigating the case was involved in a shooting incident in February and has been on administrative duty, meaning the officer was prohibited from going out in the field but was allowed to perform the administrative aspects of their job, since.
“As a result of that, there was some miscommunication. And it's sad to say that this was the end result of it,” said Denham on Wednesday.
Meyer told the court Tuesday that he mistakenly believed the lead detective investigating the Dec. 19 explosion was on administrative leave — meaning the officer wouldn’t be allowed to perform any of their their job responsibilities — and so he met with another Centralia detective on March 25 regarding the case.
During that March 25 meeting, Meyer said he asked the detective to go through the evidence the Centralia Police Department had related to Moulder’s case.
“I was confident that we had it all,” said Meyer on Tuesday, later adding, “I was sad, mad (and) upset to learn there was more information out there.”
When asked by Toynbee when he requested evidence from the Centralia Police Department, Meyer stated that never formally requested additional evidence from the Centralia Police Department.
“Am I happy about how this case has gone? Absolutely not, and I’m going to take some kind of measures to preventing this from happening again, absolutely,” said Meyer.
Because Moulder retained his right to a speedy trial, the state had only a couple weeks from the May 3 dismissal hearing to bring the case to trial. Both parties agreed that wasn’t enough time to adequately prepare given the volume of unexamined evidence they received from the Centralia Police Department, so Meyer made an offer to immediately release Moulder from custody, which would extend the speedy trial deadline by 30 days.
Moulder had been held on $500,000 bail since his Jan. 5 preliminary hearing due to community safety concerns.
When asked by Toynbee if Moulder’s release would change his position regarding the dismissal, Woody said it would not.
“The prejudice is done,” he said, later adding, “I don’t trust him (Meyer) at this point for anything.”
While Woody alleged that Meyer purposefully and maliciously withheld evidence related to the case, Toynbee ruled that the mismanagement of evidence was not done with “evil intent.”
“I’m finding that there is mismanagement. I’m not finding that there is evil intent and frankly I don’t need to,” said Toynbee, adding that mismanagement of “potentially exonerating evidence” alone was cause to dismiss the case with prejudice.
Moulder was released from the Lewis County Jail at 8 a.m. the next day.
“I know the prosecutor told me they're looking at some of their policies to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again. We are also doing the same,” said Denham. “We're a bit embarrassed by it, obviously, because it's obviously not a reflection of that detective, it's not a reflection of the prosecutor's office and what we normally do, and this organization, so (it’s) very frustrating, very embarrassing, but I guarantee that something like this will never happen again.”