Yakima County commissioners settled a civil claim alleging that a Yakima police officer attempted to obtain favorable treatment for family friends from her sister-in-law, a deputy county prosecutor.
Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve a $20,000 payment to the family of one of six Davis High School soccer players accused of burglarizing homes in 2018. The family said former police Officer Lyn Thorn and her sister-in-law, Deputy Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney Heather Thorn, deprived the player of his right to due process by shielding two co-defendants from prosecution.
Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Brusic said the county admitted to no wrongdoing. The county suit focused on Heather Thorn’s role in the matter.
The settlement came the same day as the dismissal of a public records lawsuit filed by the mother of the soccer player for information on the case, including text messages on Lyn Thorn’s personal cellphone that were subsequently deleted.
Earlier, Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Andy Miller cleared Lyn Thorn of criminal charges for deleting the messages, noting that while it was acknowledged that the messages were deleted, Thorn did not do it with criminal intent.
Miller was asked to review the Washington State Patrol’s investigation into the matter to avoid conflicts of interest with Yakima County prosecutors.
An attorney for Lyn Thorn said she is “very relieved” to have the matter resolved.
“She did not commit any crime, and she was above board with everything,” said Greg Scott, who represented Lyn Thorn.
Lyn Thorn was working as a school resource officer at Davis in December 2018 when she received a tip that Davis soccer players were involved in two home burglaries in Gleed and West Valley. While Yakima County sheriff’s deputies were working the case at first, Thorn got involved in the investigation, she told State Patrol investigators, because she received the tip and that she had a rapport with the suspects because of her work at the school.
But the soccer player alleged in his claim that two of the six suspects were friends of Lyn Thorn’s son, and that she was seeking to protect them. Lyn Thorn, in text messages included in the public records lawsuit, told one of the suspects that she would try to get him a diversion agreement, which would result in the charges being dropped.
Heather Thorn was assigned to the juvenile division at the prosecutor’s office at the time, and was handling the burglary case. Lyn Thorn sent her messages on her department-issued laptop that she was involved in the investigation because the suspects were Davis students and had confessed to her.
The claim also said that Lyn and Heather Thorn exchanged messages on their phones about the case and defendants. Lyn Thorn also sent Heather Thorn a message through her department laptop that one of the boys’ defense attorneys was seeking their text messages as part of the evidence-gathering process before trial, according to court documents.
Shortly afterward, Heather Thorn performed a factory reset on her phone, permanently destroying the messages on it, the claim said. In an affidavit, Heather Thorn said she did the reset because of problems she had with the phone.
Heather Thorn, the claim said, offered Lyn Thorn’s friends a diversion agreement, but that offer was withdrawn after Yakima County Juvenile Court staff questioned why the other defendants were not getting diversions. Heather Thorn then offered to drop the charges against the pair if they testified against the others, which they accepted, the claim said.
Ultimately, charges were dropped against all six, court documents said.
Before the juvenile case was resolved, Heather Thorn was transferred from juvenile court to the felony division, where she handles preliminary appearances, fugitive warrants and sex offenders who fail to register.
Brusic said the transfer was a routine career progression in the prosecutor’s office and was planned in advance. He said, though that Thorn did not continue with the burglary case because of potential conflicts of interest.
Likewise, Brusic asked the Benton County prosecutor’s office to review the investigation into criminal charges to avoid an ethical conflict. Brusic said his office had no involvement in that investigation.
Miller, in his letter to the State Patrol, said it was not disputed that Lyn Thorn deleted messages, but he said that she did not demonstrate criminal intent in the matter. He noted that the two who received diversion offers had cooperated more fully than the others, and that it was not a motive for Thorn to delete the text messages.
Likewise, Miller noted that the evidence suggests the deleted messages contained routine discussions on the case, while some of the messages that were preserved were “more problematic” and were brought up in Lyn Thorn’s deposition.
“If Ms. Thorn had the intent to delete or conceal cellphone records, the ones that were not preserved would hardly be the ones to delete or conceal.”
Lyn Thorn resigned from the YPD in June 2019 and first went to work for a medical company and now works in private security in the Seattle area, Scott said. He said her decision to leave the YPD was not a result of the case.