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No retrial for cops accused of beating drug informant

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

Three police officers arrested and charged with allegedly beating and threatening to kill a drug informant in south King County last November are free after a jury couldn't decide whether to convict them and prosecutors decided against a second trial.

At least two of the officers are on the verge of being fired, however.

The trial of Des Moines Police officer Barron Todd Baldwin, 37, and King County Sheriff deputies James Keller, 31, and George Alvarez, 30, on charges of fourth-degree assault and unlawful imprisonment ended in a hung jury, with jurors voting 8-4 in favor of acquittal. Jurors found Keller not guilty of the assault charge.

The jury's split in favor of acquittal and the not-guilty verdict in Keller's assault charge led prosecutors to drop the case against the three officers. "We decided not to pursue a second trial," said Dan Donohoe, spokesman for King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng.

The Sheriff Department completed its internal investigation and recommended Keller and Alvarez be terminated, said spokesman John Urquhart. Keller and Alvarez have exercised their option to seek a formal, face-to-face meeting with Sheriff Dave Reichert to plead their case, but a date hasn't been set, Urquhart said.

Once that meeting takes place, the sheriff can decide whether to fire the deputies, keep them employed with a number of reprimands or conditions, or keep them and dismiss the findings of the investigation.

Baldwin, Keller and Alvarez were part of an interagency law enforcement team targeting street crimes –– like drug sales, prostitution and auto theft –– in south King County. The men were arrested after they allegedly beat up a drug informant who they said failed to return their calls, then drove him to the Green River, where they threatened to kill him and dispose of his body.

The officers were turned in by a fourth Des Moines Police officer who was at the scene but didn't participate in the alleged activity, according to charging papers. The Des Moines interim chief forwarded the information to Reichert, and both agencies launched investigations.

The Des Moines Police Department is still investigating whether Baldwin violated department policy, said spokesman Steve Wieland. Baldwin will remain on paid administrative leave until the investigation is finished, which is expected to be next week, and he's either fired or returns to duty.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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