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Thursday, October 26, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Fired police captain fights back

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

BOTHELL

A former Bothell police captain, fired for violating six Police Department regulations stemming from an alleged domestic-violence incident, is fighting to save his job and career.

Michael Gleason, a 20-year veteran, was fired in July after an internal investigation determined he had committed fourth-degree assault and first-degree trespass during an April 1999 encounter with his former girlfriend. Gleason is also accused of making false statements to a police captain investigating the incident.

Through his lawyer, Gleason denies ever assaulting his girlfriend. He also claims Bothell Police Chief Mark Ericks had suggested he leave his apartment to avoid questioning by police and possible arrest.

Gleason's whereabouts after the alleged assault have become a key point in the Civil Service Commission review, which began last week and is expected to last through the end of the month. The commission can uphold, modify or overturn Gleason's firing.

According to sworn testimony and paperwork generated during the investigation, Gleason, 43, and Cynthia Kerr, 39, began dating in early 1999. By April, however, their relationship had soured and Kerr says Gleason was stalking her.

On April 26, 1999, the two met at the Rocker Bar and Grill in Bothell so Kerr could return some of Gleason's belongings. But what happened next is in dispute.

According to Gleason, the two had drinks and argued. Gleason said he left the bar and had another encounter with Kerr in the parking lot. He said he followed her home, fearing she had too much to drink.

After arriving at her apartment, Gleason said, the two walked to the door; Kerr has maintained she ran through the bushes to get to her door ahead of Gleason.

Kerr said once she was inside, Gleason forced open the door, bruising her. He left shortly after, and Kerr called 911, reporting she had been assaulted.

Gleason concedes the two struggled at the door, but he denies he assaulted her.

After the blowup, Gleason said he called Ericks, his chief, seeking advice. He then met Ericks at a local bar to talk, which Ericks acknowledges. In a phone call between the two men a little later, Gleason says Ericks suggested that he might consider leaving his apartment, even as Bothell police were looking for him to ask about the alleged assault.

Jim Cline, Gleason's lawyer, said that at one point during the phone conversation, Gleason asked Ericks: "Are you saying it would be better if I left?" to which the chief allegedly replied: "That's up to you to decide."

Last week, Ericks testified that he only told Gleason to stay at home and refuse to answer the door or the phone.

Gleason told investigators that after his conversation with Ericks, he left his apartment alone and went for a drive.

But Bothell police Capt. Drew Nielsen maintains Gleason lied and that he actually drove with his two roommates to an Everett motel, where he stayed for a few hours.

The alleged lie is another reason cited by the department for firing Gleason.

Gleason has not been charged with any crime. The King County Prosecutor's Office declined to file assault or trespassing charges against him.

Ericks, who approved the findings of the internal police investigation and fired Gleason, noted that the standard of proof is higher in a criminal case than in an internal probe and that prosecutors often refuse to try less-than-clear-cut cases.

"There's not necessarily a direct correlation with whether someone did something or not and whether it's actually charged in court or not," Ericks said. He also testified that he believes Gleason guilty of assault but that he didn't do it deliberately.

Cline said that in upcoming hearings he will bring up prosecutors' decision not to file charges. He also plans to tell the commission that in June 1999, a district judge declined to issue Kerr a permanent restraining order against Gleason and to note that Kerr's credibility has been questioned - even in the internal report that suggested Gleason be fired.

Nielsen, who led the Police Department's investigation, also questioned Gleason's credibility in the probe.

Kerr declined to comment except to express her support for Bothell police.

Gleason has been present during the hearing, keeping a calm demeanor.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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