The Seattle Times
May 6, 2024
By Mike Carter

Article Link


The Washington State Patrol has been fined $750,000 for public-disclosure failures surrounding a couple’s efforts to find out why troopers dismissed a citation given to a driver believed responsible for a crash that killed their son.

If upheld, the fine imposed by Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff would be among the largest public-records penalties levied against a public agency, according to the Washington Coalition for Open Government.

Chushcoff, in an order issued April 12, found the State Patrol “failed to conduct reasonable searches for records responsive” to more than 40 public disclosure requests filed by Bart and Penny Adler of Olympia and their attorneys for information into the investigation of a Sept. 2, 2020, collision on Highway 512 that killed their 23-year-old son, Isaac.

In all, the court found the State Patrol failed to “properly produce” more than 647 records — and concealed another 1,700 emails and other documents the judge found were responsive to the Adlers’ repeated requests.

The Adlers’ public records lawsuit turned up evidence that investigating troopers failed to prepare a “Fatality Packet” — including all reports, diagrams and photographs detailing the crash — for nearly nine months after it occurred, and that during that time, dash-camera video and other records were destroyed, according to court documents.

Issac Adler was stopped at a red light on Highway 512 near Interstate 5 when his Subaru was struck from behind by a speeding vehicle driven by a man identified in court documents as Patrick Nicholas III. Adler’s car was spun around and crushed, and he suffered fatal injuries. Nicholas was not hurt, according to the lawsuit.

The Adlers learned Nicholas had a long history of criminal convictions and traffic violations. At the time of the crash, he was driving on a suspended license and was not insured, according to court records. He was cited for negligent driving and lack of insurance and allowed to leave the scene, according to court documents.

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