Accusations fired, facts challenged as Pierce County sheriff’s criminal trial begins

The criminal trial for Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer is now underway. Jury selection wrapped up on Wednesday and both the defense and prosecution gave opening statements.

The sheriff is charged with two misdemeanors that stem from accusations that Troyer falsely reported a newspaper carrier threatened to kill him.

For the first time since this incident happened nearly two years ago, the public heard in some detail what happened from the sheriff’s perspective.

Troyer is charged with one count of “false reporting” and one count of “making a false or misleading statement to a public servant.”

In court on Wednesday, both the prosecution and defense agreed that on Jan. 27, 2021, Troyer saw a car in his neighborhood pulling into driveways. Troyer got into his personal vehicle and started following the car, thinking it was suspicious.

It turned out the car was being driven by Sedrick Altheimer, a newspaper carrier.

Both parties agreed that it was Altheimer who came out of his vehicle and confronted Troyer, asking why Troyer was following him.

Troyer’s defense team alleged in opening statements that Altheimer threatened him, which was what prompted Troyer’s call to 911 through a police backchannel.

“He (Altheimer) said this — I’ll take you out,” said Anne Bremner, Troyer’s attorney. “And Sheriff Troyer took that to mean a death threat.” She added that Troyer will be testifying about what happened.

In the 911 call from the incident, Troyer can be heard saying in part: “I gave you the plate number/yeah/Black male. I tried to be polite to him and he just says I’m a racist, wants to kill me so.”

The prosecution said the full call, which was about six minutes, would be played during the trial.

The call went out as priority zero, or the highest priority call, and triggered a major response.

In the prosecution’s opening statements, Assistant Attorney General Barbara Serrano said Troyer lied on call to dispatch via the police back channel.

“Troyer took back what he said when interviewed by police. He said Sedrick Altheimer did not threaten him and did not show any weapons,” Serrano said. “Officer Chad Lawless, who has been promoted to detective, will testify he asked Troyer twice if Altheimer made threats to him. And Troyer said no,” she said.

The defense says that’s not true, arguing Troyer never recanted the claim that Altheimer threatened him.

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“That’s what the state’s case is — that he retracted his statement, which he didn’t,” Bremner said. She said the responding Tacoma police officer who spoke with Troyer had a “misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the conversation,” and said no initial report was taken at the time.

The Tacoma officers who spoke with Troyer also did not have their body cameras turned on.

One of the first responding officers will be testifying for the prosecution on Thursday morning.

Another point of contention during the opening statements — the prosecution said Troyer’s call brought out over 40 responding officers. The defense said it was more like “seven or eight” officers who showed up in Troyer’s neighborhood.

But the case will hinge on whether the jury believes Troyer knowingly made false reports about the alleged threat last year.

The jury selection was whittled down from 75 potential jurors to 10 — including four alternates. The breakdown of the jurors is seven men and three women, and two people who appear to be people of color.

If he is convicted, Troyer could be sentenced to up to 364 days in jail and fined up to $5,000 on each count, according to court documents.

There is a separate $5 million civil suit filed by the Black newspaper carrier, claiming he was racially profiled by Troyer.