The Benton County sheriff was charged Wednesday with one felony and one gross misdemeanor stemming from allegations recently made by his wife in a protection order.
Sheriff Jerry Hatcher is accused of tampering with a witness and fourth-degree assault, both with domestic violence allegations.
A summons has been issued for Hatcher to appear in court. He’s set to enter a plea to the charges on Oct. 23.
Hatcher, reached Wednesday afternoon on his cellphone, said he was not aware of the charges.
He told the Tri-City Herald, before the cell lost connection, that he has hired an attorney and cannot comment at this time.
His wife, Monica Hatcher, filed a temporary protection order last Friday stating that her husband strangled her and made a threat during a fight about an extramarital affair in December 2017.
She also alleged that last week, Jerry Hatcher encouraged her to make false statements to protect him from losing his job and prevent possible criminal charges.
Her petition was included in the couple’s divorce case, which she filed Sept. 18.
Jerry Hatcher was ordered to surrender all guns, dangerous weapons and concealed pistol licenses as part of that order.
He told the Herald on Monday that divorces can be ugly, he was being falsely accused and his wife’s allegations were “inflammatory and damaging.”
He vowed to continue serving as the elected county sheriff while dealing with the divorce proceedings. It is not yet clear if that will change now that he is charged.
A hearing on Monica Hatcher’s request for a permanent protection order and Jerry Hatcher’s ability to carry guns is scheduled for Oct. 15.
The criminal charges were filed Wednesday in Benton County Superior Court by G. Mark Cipolla, a deputy prosecutor in Spokane County.
The investigation was handled by Washington State Patrol detectives based in the Tri-Cities.
Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller said earlier this week that during the investigation it became clear to him a special prosecutor was needed because he “would just be too close to the case.”
He then contacted his Spokane County counterparts and appointed that office to decide if criminal charges were warranted and handle any potential prosecution.