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County jail commander charged with harassment | Crime

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County jail commander charged with harassment
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Asotin County Jail Commander Jon Singleton was charged late Thursday in Asotin County District Court with a single count of Harassment, which is a gross misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of up to 364 days in jail.  Singleton, 47, was placed on paid administrative leave after he allegedly made threats against Prosecutor Ben Nichols in September.  Arraignment was scheduled for January 9th at 1:30 p.m., according to Dan Sytman with the Washington Attorney General's Office, which is handling the case after the Washington State Patrol earlier this month wrapped up its investigation.

According to witness reports, Singleton was agitated and allegedly made threats toward Nichols in three locations within the courthouse – the prosecutor's office, the Superior Courtroom and the sheriff's office.  Nichols was not present during the alleged threats on September 24th, and Singleton has not been arrested at any time during the investigation.

According to investigative reports, one witness in the Superior Courtroom stated that the "court room door flew open and Captain Singleton stormed in slightly bent forward in an angry manner, stood at the back of the court room, he was frowning, his lips were pursed and very tight.  He stood at the back by the door of the court room for a few moments with his fists clenched, looked over to the prosecutor's table and glared, then spun around and threw the door open pretty hard and stormed out."  Later in the afternoon, the witness heard Singleton "come flying past the front desk and yelled 'where is that f***ing monkey that's running this clown show?'  The witness came out of her office to see what was wrong and "he was yelling that 'he doesn't have enough staff to put up with this sh*t.'  He appeared to be in a rage at that time and left me nervous and afraid for my own safety, especially since he carries a firearm and it did not appear that he could be reasoned with."

Another witness who was in the courtroom stated that Singleton looked "very agitated" and after he talked with a jail transport employee, "Singleton spun around to leave and said 'I'm going to kill that little bastard,'" and left the courtroom in a hurry.  The witness left the courtroom and called Sheriff's Detective Jackie Nichols to tell her what took place.  When Prosecutor Nichols came out of the courtroom, she informed him as well.  "A little while later Sheriff Bancroft came to the courtroom and I told him what I heard too," according to the witness, who also stated that the experience "was pretty frightening because he was so angry and I didn't know what he would do.  I would expect this from a defendant not a jail commander."

Meanwhile, Detective Nichols' statement said that Singleton entered the sheriff's office after the alleged incidents upstairs in the courtroom and prosecutor's office.  He came in through the back door in a very fast manner and his facial expression made it appear he was very angry.  Singleton allegedly yelled, 'I am going to kill that little bastard!' according to the statement.  "Sheriff Bancroft asked him who he meant.  Capt. Singleton sounded extremely angry.  Singleton yelled, 'Nichols!'  Capt. Singleton was yelling about having to transport people from the jail when he was short-staffed," according to her statement, which also said "Capt. Singleton continued to yell about having to book people in and do multiple tasks.  Capt. Singleton yelled, 'We had to book in a 500 pound monkey this morning!'  Capt. Singleton then stormed past my office.  I could see his face was red and he was angry.  Capt. Singleton yelled, 'I'm going to kill him, somebody better get to him before I do!'"  Nichols also stated that "Captain Singleton's words and actions put me in genuine fear that he intended to harm/kill my husband.  I have heard Capt. Singleton blowing off steam before, but this situation was markedly different as he appeared to be in an uncontrollable rage."

Asotin Police Chief Bill Derbonne says he made the initial contact to the Washington State Patrol after he believed that Sheriff Ken Bancroft was not going to follow through on an investigation into the alleged threats.  In his statement, Derbonne said "Sheriff and non Sheriff employee's expressed concern for safety and Sheriff Bancroft took no action except said, 'I don't hear any shots.' Sheriff Bancroft also told them not to cooperate with me in the investigation and not to provide me any statements.  I was told this by Captain Hally, Detective Nichols and Under-Sheriff Coppess."  Derbonne stated that he was also told that Sheriff Bancroft made statements to others that he "was trespassed from entering the sheriff's office except from the public area."  Derbonne told Big Country News Connection today that this was not the first time he has been trespassed from the sheriff's office.  He was also banned within the last three year due to him filing a complaint against one of the sheriff's deputies.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Bancroft made an official complaint against Derbonne to Asotin Mayor Vikki Bonfield on October 19th.  In the complaint, the sheriff stated while investigating the allegations that Captain Singleton threatened the prosecuting attorney was within Derbonne's right because the alleged crime took place within the Asotin city limits, a statement made to Big Country News was "out of line."  According to the complaint, "Chief Derbonne was attributed as stating that I, 'refused to investigate' the situation involving Captain Singleton.  I do not know upon what he based the comment because he did not contact me at any time about the investigation."  Sheriff Bancroft stated that Derbonne's comment was "unacceptable and unprofessional to the highest degree" and that "his alleged remark does not engender confidence in the law enforcement profession when the head of one police agency verbally attacks the head of another agency."

Derbonne told Big Country News Connection today that "his own command staff said he was going to sweep it and take no action" on the alleged incident.  He says the violation took place in front of Bancroft, and the fact that Captain Singleton was at work the following day was indicative to him that "he was not going to take any action."  Derbonne says the Asotin County Sheriff's Office's own policy manual should have resulted in immediate action taken against Singleton.

Sheriff Bancroft says he will have no comment regarding this matter "until the situation is resolved in the courts."

Mia Carlson, news director for KZBG in Lewiston wrote this report.

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