Frame grab from a Nancy Grace show showing Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist on the show. Robinson, Sean - Tacoma
Frame grab from a Nancy Grace show showing Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist on the show. Robinson, Sean - Tacoma

Crime

New bar complaints attack Lindquist’s publicity-seeking

June 25, 2016 4:00 PM

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist never tires of media attention — and now his preoccupation threatens to mire county taxpayers in continued and potentially costly defense of his actions.

Three new complaints filed with the Washington State Bar Association over the past two months accuse Lindquist of violating rules of professional conduct governing prosecutors and their dealings with the media.

Lindquist declined a request to be interviewed about the complaints; he forwarded media inquiries to surrogates, including prosecutor’s spokesman John Nourse and attorney Steve Fogg, who is defending one of the complaints. Fogg called them “baseless” and politically motivated. Formal answers to the complaints, submitted to the bar association, use similar language while denying any wrongdoing by the prosecutor and his staff members.

The complaints share a theme. They question the ethics of Lindquist’s publicity-seeking.

One, filed by local defense attorney John Cain, accuses the prosecutor of risking the integrity of a murder trial by angling for national media coverage at a critical moment.

The widely covered trial involved Skylar Nemetz, a young soldier ultimately convicted of manslaughter for his role in the fatal 2014 shooting of his wife, Danielle. Days before the verdict, Lindquist told a national TV audience that Nemetz’s actions added up to murder. Jurors were on recess, free to watch TV, surf their mobile phones and catch Lindquist’s guest appearance on the “Nancy Grace” legal talk show, broadcast on the HLN (Headline News) network.

Cain’s complaint cites rules governing prosecutors, noting their legal and professional responsibilities require a higher standard of conduct.

“A lawyer holding public office assumes legal responsibilities that go beyond those of other citizens,” the complaint states.

The complaint contends that Lindquist should know better because he already faces an active bar complaint, filed in 2015, that accuses him of crossing ethical lines with his public statements.

“The brazenness of the Nancy Grace interview in the middle of a hugely publicized trial proves fair trials and justice in Pierce County are at continued risk as long as these prosecutors are allowed to practice law,” Cain’s bar complaint states.

Lindquist’s formal answer to the complaint says he did nothing wrong by appearing on the show and that his statements did not violate ethical rules.

Records also expose an awkward moment when a CBS news reporter criticized Lindquist to his face, telling him his TV appearance risked a mistrial. The prosecutor’s reported retort: “You’re just jealous of Nancy Grace.”

Interviews and public records recently obtained by The News Tribune reveal the backstory behind the complaint, and the intensity of Lindquist’s approach to media outreach, despite staff misgivings. In addition, the records reveal internal dissent and a high-ranking staffer’s suggestion that a viable candidate should run against him when he seeks re-election in 2018.

The records also expose an awkward moment when a CBS news reporter criticized Lindquist to his face, telling him his TV appearance risked a mistrial.

The prosecutor’s retort: “You’re just jealous of Nancy Grace.”

Related stories from The News Tribune

The same records shed light on a seemingly low-level personnel move: the sudden firing of Heather Songer, a 29-year-old staff member assigned to handle media relations for Lindquist, and his apparent displeasure when such efforts failed to meet his expectations.

A year of bad news

The year 2015 was a rough ride for Lindquist.

Starting in March, news stories linked his name and his office to prosecutorial vindictiveness and misconduct, multiple whistleblower complaints filed by his own staffers, a lengthy bar complaint, an adverse ruling from the Washington State Supreme Court regarding text messages on his phone and an active recall campaign.

Throughout the run of stories, Songer, hired by Lindquist in 2013, served as media go-between; Lindquist increasingly chose to issue brief statements via email.

In September 2015, Songer responded to inquiries from the CBS program, “48 Hours,” known for gavel-to-gavel treatment of sensational trials.

Producers had shown mild interest in the trial of William Grisso, charged with first-degree murder: Charging papers said the Lakebay man shot his girlfriend to death and dumped her body in Mason County. He later was convicted and sentenced to 31 years in prison.

 

 

William Grisso enters Pierce County Superior Court on July 10, 2015, to be arraignment on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend, Nancy Gardner-Edwards. Grisso pleaded not guilty.

Adam Lynn alynn@thenewstribune.com

The story was a love triangle, tabloid-friendly; plus, Lindquist intended to make a guest-star appearance in court and argue portions of the case himself, providing an opportunity for more favorable coverage.

A CBS producer, Greg Fisher, turned his eye elsewhere:

We are not so interested in that trial, but there is another one in which we are. Can I call you next week?

— Email from Fisher, Sept. 17, 2015

The other trial involved Nemetz, the 21-year-old Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier charged with first-degree murder. The victim: his 19-year-old wife, Danielle, shot in the back of the head as she sat at her computer in the couple’s Lakewood apartment in October 2014.

The defendant said it was an accident; prosecutors disagreed, alleging Nemetz shot his wife in a fit of jealousy.

In December 2014, Lindquist had appeared on the “Nancy Grace” legal talk show to discuss the case. The program and its host have a reputation for scoffing at defendants and suspects.

In December 2014, Lindquist had appeared on the “Nancy Grace” legal talk show to discuss the case. The show and its host have a reputation for scoffing at defendants and suspects.

During his appearance, Lindquist suggested Nemetz shot his wife intentionally.

I think the motive of jealousy makes it more clear that this was intentional. … the fact that he may have imagined she was doing something, cheating on him, to me that just gives him motive to murder her. I don’t think there’s a jury out there that will say, maybe she was cheating and therefore this is manslaughter. On the contrary, they will say that’s motive for murder.

Lindquist on “Nancy Grace,” Dec. 3, 2014 (Transcript)

After the appearance, one of Grace’s producers sent a note to the prosecutor’s office, thanking the staff for assisting, and adding, “Nancy loved Mark!”

The trial

Ten months had passed since that broadcast; the Nemetz trial was approaching. The assigned prosecutors were Greg Greer, a 21-year veteran of the office who headed the prosecutor’s gang team, and Jared Ausserer, chief of the prosecutor’s homicide team. Tacoma defense attorney Michael Stewart, who had been professionally friendly with Lindquist in the past, represented Nemetz.

As the attorneys wrangled over pretrial motions, Songer started arranging logistics for the “48 Hours” crew. Records show scores of emails from September 2015 through March 2016. She met with producers and discussed details. She asked which wardrobe colors were best for video interviews of prosecutors. When asked, she suggested hotels.

“How’s the Silver Cloud Inn for us to stay in … or do you recommend somewhere else?” a producer asked in November.

Songer said the Silver Cloud was nice — right on the water — but the Hotel Murano was closer to the courtroom action.

“Tx — we’ll stay at the Murano!” a producer replied.

“Great choice. It’s beautiful,” Songer said. “You’ll have to let me know what you think.”

“Many thanks again for all your assistance with this shoot!” the producer said.

While planning for the CBS crew, Songer fielded questions from other news outlets regarding Lindquist’s continuing troubles: the damaging findings of a whistleblower investigation of his office, an ethics probe, continuing fights over his text messages and a clash with county leaders over perceived conflicts of interest regarding the text-message case.

Songer also worked with Los Angeles Times reporter Maria La Ganga, who was planning a feature story focused on Lindquist; the two had chatted in the past. Songer sent 247 pages of news releases as background material.

Agreement to TV embargo

As December approached, Songer circled back to “48 Hours” producers, arranging in-person interviews with Greer and Ausserer, who were gearing up for the Nemetz trial.

The idea was to conduct the interviews under an embargo: a signed agreement not to broadcast anything before a verdict. Greer insisted on it, according to an email from Ausserer to Songer.

48 Hours said they would have some written agreement not to air any interview until after a verdict to ensure we do not violate any RPCs (Rules of Professional Conduct). Can you confirm this? Greer is reluctant to speak about the case unless and until they agree.

— Ausserer to Songer, Nov. 30, 2015

The agreement was confirmed. Songer scheduled interviews for Dec. 1.

On Dec. 2, Stewart, the attorney defending Nemetz, spoke to CBS producers at his law office. A national broadcast outlet would be covering the trial, and prosecutors already were aware of it. Ultimately, he agreed to speak with the producers, but not until the trial concluded.

He fired off an email to Greer and Ausserer.

I had the pleasure of a surprise visit this afternoon from Greg Fisher and Erin Moriarty of 48 Hours. I declined to be interviewed. They left an impression with me however that you have not declined to be interviewed.”

— Stewart email, Dec. 2, 2015

Stewart added a reminder regarding rules of professional conduct. He urged both attorneys to read them.

Ausserer replied within an hour, locking in a promise.

We are familiar with the RPC’s. … None of our statements to CBS will be disseminated prior to verdict and have no likelihood of prejudicing the trial.

– Ausserer email, Dec. 2, 2015

None of our statements to CBS will be disseminated prior to verdict and have no likelihood of prejudicing the trial.

Email from Deputy Prosecutor Jared Ausser, 12-2-15

Meanwhile, Songer continued to work with the CBS team, records show. She coordinated plans for placement of TV cameras, cc’ing courthouse personnel. She clarified courtroom rules approved by Superior Court Judge Jack Nevin, who was overseeing the Nemetz trial. She handled inquiries from local TV outlets that were interested in the case.

Greer, looped in on the continuing correspondence involving the TV production, tried to avoid it, and deflected inquiries to Songer.

She is Mark’s PR person, and she has been communicating with CBS persons regarding this case. I want to stay out of issues like these so I can focus on the actual presentation of the case.

— Greer email, Jan. 11, 2016

Media coverage at the prosecutor’s office was a badge of informal honor, worth light-hearted in-house recognition for a so-called “Hollywood Star” award.

An email from Deputy Prosecutor Brent Hyer asked Songer for candidates.

Hyer: Which DPA has the most media coverage this year (excluding Mark)?

Songer: Jared and Greg would make good recipients because 48 Hours is here filming their trial.

Hyer: I’m assuming Mark will want to look at it, and then it can be finalized for the certificates.

— email exchange, Feb. 2, 2016

The money shot

Meanwhile, the Nemetz trial unfolded. Multiple news outlets converged, fixing on the defendant’s testimony under questioning from Stewart and hard-nosed cross-examination from Greer.

Leaking tears, Nemetz said shooting his wife was an accident, “my stupid mistake.”

The moment appeared on multiple local news broadcasts and caught the attention of Nancy Grace’s producers, who saw a chance for a quick hit and another interview with Lindquist.

 

 

Skylar Nemetz weeps while explaining to defense attorney Michael Stewart his claim that he accidentally killed his wife Danielle in Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma on Feb. 11, 2016, during Nemetz’s trial for the charge of first-degree murder.

Drew Perine dperine@thenewstribune.com

They turned Nemetz’s tears into Grace’s money shot, spooled and mocked on national TV as she spoke with Lindquist during a Feb. 16 broadcast on the HLN channel.

Lindquist’s spur-of-the-moment second appearance on the show forms the basis of the bar complaint against him. The complaint contends he violated the rules of professional conduct by appearing when jurors could have seen and heard him say Nemetz’s actions added up to murder.

The rule states, in part, that prosecutors should “refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.”

Lindquist made the decision to appear again on the show after a request from one of Grace’s producers. Greer and Ausserer advised against it, The News Tribune has learned. Friday, in response to an emailed question, Ausserer said he declined to appear on the show, but did not advise Lindquist either way. Greer declined to comment for this story.

Songer handled the emails from producer Mike Duffy on the morning of the broadcast.

“I just want to know if this is a go for sure,” Duffy wrote.

He threw in a set of six questions about Nemetz, adding, “If there’s anything you can’t answer, just let me know and Nancy totally understands.”

One of the questions: “How do all the statements Nemetz gave police add up against him?”

Songer soon replied. The interview was on, but Lindquist couldn’t address the “add-up” question.

“Yes, this is a go,” she said. “What time do we need to call in and on what number?”

Lindquist made the decision to appear again on the show following a request from one of Grace’s producers. Greer and Ausserer advised against it, The News Tribune has learned.

Ausserer sat in on the interview, according to the bar complaint.

The broadcast was typical fare for Grace, a former prosecutor; derision is her calling card.

As she interviewed Lindquist and other guests, she ran and reran the clip of Nemetz crying on the stand, rubbed her knuckles in her eyes and said, “Wah, wah.”

She never asked the “add-up” question about Nemetz; she didn’t have to. Lindquist used the phrase while answering himself rhetorically.

LINDQUIST: And that’s the whole question. Was this an accident? Was it intentional? And that’s why the defendant’s experience with firearms is critical to the case. But it’s not just that physical evidence, it’s the behavior afterwards.

GRACE: Right.

LINDQUIST: The defendant never called 911. He never called for help. He seemed more focused on cleaning up the scene, disposing of the liquor bottles …

GRACE: Oh!

LINDQUIST: … than getting help. And it’s his actions combined with his statements…

GRACE: Behavioral evidence.

LINDQUIST: … and his experience with firearms that add up to murder, rather than accident.

— Bar complaint excerpt of Feb. 16, 2016, “Nancy Grace” transcript

Within hours, clips of the show appeared on Facebook, posted and shared by Danielle Nemetz’s supporters and family members.

Stewart, aware of the broadcast (he had refused an interview), was floored and infuriated.

He was defending a client charged with first-degree murder in the heat of local, national and social media coverage. Attorneys for both sides had logged hundreds of hours on the trial. The families of the defendant and the victim had spent months in an emotional wringer. The jury was on recess, free to go home at night, watch TV and phone-surf.

In Stewart’s view, Lindquist had risked all that labor and the integrity of the process in exchange for a few minutes of face time on a tabloid TV talk show.

Almost three months earlier, Stewart had warned deputy prosecutors about media statements to “48 Hours” and the rules of professional conduct. Ausserer had assured him prosecutors knew the rules.

None of our statements to CBS will be disseminated prior to verdict and have no likelihood of prejudicing the trial.

Technically, the prosecutors kept their word. Greer and Ausserer’s statements to CBS weren’t disseminated. It was Lindquist who talked to Grace, and she didn’t work for CBS.

Stewart didn’t care about the distinctions. The next day, he zinged an email to Ausserer, Greer and Judge Nevin.

Nancy Grace conducted a show on our case/trial. A member of the prosecutor’s office participated. It was aired on live national television during a time when jurors were released and available to potentially watch TV.

— Stewart email, Feb. 17, 2016

He shared the Facebook links to clips of the show, and said the lawyers could talk Monday.

Nevin answered via email:

“I am aware of the telecast you reference,” he wrote — Nevin had seen it while working out at the gym.

Internal dissent

 
Greg Greer (above), a 21-year veteran of the office who headed the prosecutor’s gang team, and Jared Ausserer, chief of the prosecutor’s homicide team, headed the team prosecuting Skylar Nemetz. Drew Perine dperine@thenewstribune.com

Three days after the broadcast, on a Friday afternoon, Mary Robnett, a former chief criminal deputy prosecutor in Lindquist’s administration, emailed Greer, who already knew a mistrial motion was coming.

The two were old friends; Robnett had taken a job with the state attorney general’s office in 2012, after a disagreement with Lindquist. She had been following the Nemetz trial and knew about the “Nancy Grace” appearance.

Robnett: I saw you on Nancy Grace.

Greer: I had nothing to do with that, considering we’re still in trial. I did see it, however. That woman’s crazy.

Robnett: Not as crazy as her guests.

— Email exchange, Feb. 19, 2016

The boss had created new complications in an already difficult trial. Prosecutors were hoping for a murder conviction. Stewart was fighting for acquittal or at least a lower-level charge of manslaughter, which would mean a shorter sentence.

On Monday, Feb. 22, Stewart argued his mistrial motion. In a legal brief, he quoted the rules of professional conduct, writing that the primary purpose of Lindquist’s TV appearance was “increasing public condemnation of the accused.”

In open court, he called it “a first-rate hatchet job with the participation of our elected prosecutor.”

Greer, playing defense, had little choice but to plead ignorance.

“These were decisions (Lindquist) made,” Greer said. “They were made independent of Mr. Ausserer and I. Should this case be dismissed? No, of course not.”

When Greer spoke, he didn’t know his trial partner, Ausserer, had been sitting with Lindquist during the Nancy Grace interview, according to the bar complaint.

When Greer spoke, he didn’t know his trial partner, Ausserer, had been sitting with Lindquist during the “Nancy Grace” interview.

Greer informed the court that he and Ausserer were not involved in Lindquist’s decision to appear on the Nancy Grace show. Unbeknownst to DPA Greer at the time, this was not true as to DPA Ausserer. In fact, DPA Ausserer accompanied Lindquist while Lindquist was being interviewed by Nancy Grace. DPA Ausserer, who is familiar with the facts of the Nemetz case, sat with Prosecutor Lindquist and provided information to Lindquist in preparation for the interview.

— Bar complaint excerpt

In the end, Stewart’s mistrial motion failed. Nevin ruled there was no proof jurors had seen the “Nancy Grace” broadcast.

The trial went forward, with closing arguments set for the next day, but Lindquist had triggered a chain reaction. A story published in The News Tribune on Feb. 23 described the “Nancy Grace” controversy, the mistrial motion and Nevin’s ruling. Other news outlets soon picked it up. A pair of Fox News legal commentators weighed in, saying his appearance on “Nancy Grace” was “not smart.”

Lindquist defended his decision to appear on national TV while the jury was in recess, telling a reporter it was part of his office’s effort to “communicate with the public about what we do and why.”

The bar complaint contends that Lindquist violated ethical rules. Lindquist’s formal answer to the complaint, signed by Deputy Prosecutor Denise Greer, who is married to Greg Greer, contends Lindquist did nothing wrong, because he was entitled to cite information available in court records.

Months later, Stewart remains appalled by Lindquist’s action. The purpose of the Grace show is to “bash defendants,” he said, arguing that was Lindquist’s purpose.

“The right to a fair trial by an impartial jury in the face of governmental prosecution is bedrock to our democracy,” Stewart said in statement sent to The News Tribune. “The integrity of our system of justice may not be important to a politician seeking free publicity, but it is fundamental to the people.”

‘You’re just jealous of Nancy Grace’

On the morning of closing arguments, rather than ceding the spotlight, Lindquist doubled down. He asked Songer to introduce him to Erin Moriarty, the lead reporter for “48 Hours.”

If Lindquist expected a friendly meeting, he was mistaken. The encounter, described in an email written by Greer to Robnett, led to a heated exchange between Lindquist and Moriarty outside the courtroom.

I’m sure Mark thought (Moriarty would) be happy to meet him and would treat him as the significant authority figure and celebrity he thinks he is. However, she immediately told him she was “disappointed” that he went on the Nancy Grace show while our trial was ongoing.

Mark then told her that’s the best time to talk publicly about the case because it’s when the public is most interested in the case.

Erin then got very mad, and they went to the hallway, out of the courtroom where the contact began, so she didn’t make a scene. Once outside, she got in his face and said, “Do you even know what the issue with speaking publicly during a trial is?”

She said it was unethical to speak as he did and that his conduct could very well have compromised the defendant’s right to a fair trial and that at a minimum there is that appearance.

She told him very strongly that we (all of the attorneys) had worked very hard for weeks and had put on many witnesses who came from a long distance (from other states) to testify, and had witnesses testify via Skype from Afghanistan and Germany.

She told him the testimony had been very difficult for the witnesses. She told him the victim’s family had flown out and been staying in a hotel for weeks while observing the trial, and that they did not have much money to do so. She told him the defendant’s family also came from out of state to watch the trial and had also spent a lot of money to be here.

She said because of his selfish need for publicity, all of this effort and expense could have been for nothing and that the case in theory could have been dismissed.

Mark then got mad and said he disagreed with her and walked off and told Heather to come with him. He then told Heather that we would not be talking to Erin or the 48 Hours show people anymore because they were defense oriented and the show was not any good.

— Greer email, March 7, 2016

The News Tribune checked Greer’s account with Moriarty, who verified some but not all details of the encounter. (“I wish I had been that eloquent,” she said.) She denies that she was “very mad,” and said she did not discuss expenses paid by witnesses. She said Greer wasn't in the hallway to hear the rest of the conversation.

Moriarty added that Lindquist told her, “You’re just jealous of Nancy Grace.”

Songer’s face “was pure white” during the conversation, Moriarty recalled.

I was just taken aback that (Lindquist) would go on the show. It was just so negative. They (the jurors) were home at the time, at a time when you might forget the judge’s reminder not to watch any of the news. So I was just horrified, but more as a citizen and someone who was educated as a lawyer.

Erin Moriarty, reporter, “48 Hours”

Moriarty regrets the exchange with Lindquist. She said she found it hard to believe he would appear on Grace’s show during the trial, in spite of the specific agreements “48 Hours” had made to protect the integrity of the process and hold off on broadcasting anything before the verdict. In her years of covering cases, she had never seen a prosecutor take such a risk, she said.

“If there was one juror who would have seen it, there could have been a complete mistrial,” said Moriarty, who has a law degree. “I was just taken aback that (Lindquist) would go on the show. It was just so negative.

“They (the jurors) were home at the time, at a time when you might forget the judge’s reminder not to watch any of the news. So I was just horrified, but more as a citizen and someone who was educated as a lawyer.”

Not familiar with the format

After the encounter with Moriarty, Lindquist spoke to Matt Misterek, editorial page editor of The News Tribune, who was preparing an editorial about the “Nancy Grace” appearance.

Lindquist said he wasn’t familiar with the format of Grace’s show.

A year earlier, Lindquist had appeared by phone on the show and discussed the Nemetz case in a live taping along with three other panelists as Grace bounced rapid-fire questions. Songer and another assistant, Kelly Kelstrup, had vetted the questions with Lindquist beforehand, according to email records.

Afterward, Kelstrup had asked for information about the panelists. Lindquist sent a note to Greer, thanking him for assistance with answers.

A producer of the show called the appearance a success, telling Kelstrup via email that “Nancy loved Mark!”

Songer had emailed the show’s producers, asking for an online link, “for us to watch.”

Fourteen months later, Lindquist ran through the same ritual with the same host, the same format and the same vetting, discussing the same case — except this time, the jury was in recess, and his lead prosecutors had advised against it.

Fourteen months later, Lindquist ran through the same ritual with the same host and the same format, discussing the same case — except this time, the jury was in recess, and his lead prosecutors had advised against it.

The bar complaint, picking up on Lindquist’s statement that he wasn’t familiar with the format of Grace’s show, calls it “untrue,” and another violation of the rules of professional conduct, which require lawyers to be honest.

Lindquist’s formal answer to the complaint states that he doesn’t watch the Nancy Grace show, “just as he does not routinely watch television news (or television in general), even though he is frequently interviewed on such programs.”

The complaint adds that Ausserer violated rules by not correcting the record when Greer told Judge Nevin in open court that he and Ausserer had no involvement in the broadcast.

Lindquist’s answer to the bar complaint states that Ausserer wasn’t obligated to correct the record in court, because he didn’t make the decision to appear on the show and sat in on Lindquist’s interview at his boss’s request, serving as “a factual resource.”

The verdict

The Nemetz jury stayed out for six days. The verdict came Thursday, March 3: guilty of first-degree manslaughter. Greer and Ausserer had expected it, according to internal records.

Behind the scenes, Greer and Robnett emailed back and forth.

Robnett: Now you can start working on the post-trial Nancy Grace motions.

Greer: I’ll let the person who decided he needed to go on that show handle that one.

— Email exchange, March 3, 2016

The conversation turned to sentencing math, then recent staffing changes and reassignments ordered by Lindquist. Greer, a member of the leadership team, confided he’d removed himself from management.

Robnett spoke of her own departure in 2012.

“It’s been good for me ever since I left.”

“I am glad you (and many others) were able to escape,” Greer replied.

Robnett said other prosecutors needed to stand up.

“Not happening in Lindquist’s reign,” Greer said. “There needs to be a viable candidate in 2018 and everyone needs to get behind him/her.”

The email exchange continued into the evening. Greer poured out his frustration.

Robnett: People who are prosecutors/cops need to tell truth. Period. Even if it is inconvenient. Even if he makes things uncomfortable. DPAs who don’t tell the truth have no place in a prosecutor’s office.

Greer: I agree. ... He spins things and gets everyone he can to join in his version of events, and then he and Dawn (Chief of Staff Dawn Farina) calculate to destroy the person. ... There has to be a way to get the truth out there and not suffer consequences and to be able to support someone else and not suffer consequences. I just haven’t come up with the way yet.

He spins things and gets everyone he can to join in his version of events, and then he and Dawn (Chief of Staff Dawn Farina) calculate to destroy the person.

Greg Greer, deputy prosecutor

How can someone with four children and many bills, who in general likes his job and all that he’s accomplished in twenty-one years, give it all up and try to find another job that will equate. It’s just not out there for a 56-year-old homely man! I tried to help out from within (meaning as an Assistant Chief Criminal Deputy), but the reality is I was never involved in anything of any significance. Mark, Dawn, John [Deputy Prosecutor John Sheeran] and certain civil attorneys, depending on the issue, made all the decisions. Lindquist and Dawn control every aspect of this office, and the meetings where my input was given was just perfunctory — they had either already made decisions or would make them after the meeting, on every issue I was involved in.

When Mark spun the Nancy Grace thing in the newspaper, I had had enough and told them I wanted to get out of management and go back to gangs and human trafficking. They were happy to let me go and probably were going to move me anyway because my statement to the court that only Mark can say why he spoke to her, and Jared and I had nothing to do with it, hit him hard.

— Email exchange, March 3, 2016

Greer then described Lindquist’s encounter with Moriarty, noting that prosecutors were told not to speak to the “48 Hours” producers afterward because the show was no good; Greer refused, he said, and continued talking to producers, because he thought they handled coverage fairly.

He added that Lindquist had scolded Ausserer for not telling him the Nancy Grace show “was trash.”

Robnett: Ho. Lee. Shit.

A sentencing and a firing

 
Heather Songer, who handled media relations for Lindquist's office, was fired in March. Courtesy Pierce County Sheriff’s Department

The “48 Hours” team wasn’t finished. Nemetz still had to be sentenced; coverage was mandatory. The hearing was set for March 25. On that day, Nemetz was sentenced to 13  1/2 years in prison. Beforehand, Moriarty and her team scrambled to schedule final interviews with the prosecutors and Stewart.

One other hiccup tangled Moriarty in the prosecutor’s attempts to influence coverage. On March 8 or 9, one of her producers received a phone call from Songer, who wanted to relay information prosecutors had gleaned from listening to Nemetz’s jailhouse phone calls with his mother after the verdict.

Reportedly, Nemetz’s mother said the “48 Hours” team could help the defendant in various ways, such as writing a letter of support to Judge Nevin, helping Nemetz get medications and helping the family secure a book deal. As Moriarty recalls, the message from Songer came off as a warning to the CBS team, and an implied accusation.

Moriarty called Songer back. Over the phone, she denied the allegations. She followed up with sharp emails to Songer and Stewart.

Heather,

I just want to reiterate what I told you over the phone: I have made no promises or representations to Danette Heller, Skylar Nemetz or his attorney Michael Stewart that I would be involved in the case in any way. I have not and would not promise to write a letter to Judge Nevin on Skylar’s behalf, nor have I offered to help Danette with obtaining a book deal or even help Skylar Nemetz with his medication. I have written to Mr. Stewart and reemphasized what I have said from the beginning. I am a reporter and not an advocate for either side of the case. I plan to cover this case as I have always covered cases for 48 Hours: impartially and fairly. Please let me know if anything else comes up like this!!

Thank you so much!!

— Email from Moriarty to Songer, March 9, 2016

Songer told Moriarty she appreciated the call and relayed the message to Ausserer and Greer.

A few days later, Lindquist fired Songer.

Sources who have spoken to Lindquist say he talked of wanting someone who would be more aggressive about media relations.

The News Tribune learned of Songer’s termination from other sources with knowledge of it; she did not volunteer it, nor did she approach The News Tribune to discuss it. Sources who have spoken with her say she was not given a specific reason for her termination.

In May, Songer accepted a temporary position handling media relations for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. The News Tribune recently asked her for comment. She answered with a general statement and declined to answer detailed questions.

In early March, the Prosecutor and Chief of Staff (Dawn Farina) informed me that they were going in a different direction with my position. I continued to work for the Prosecutor's Office until the end of May, when I transferred to the Sheriff's Department. I'm currently working in a temporary role for the Sheriff's Media Relations Office, where I assist the public information officer, coordinate social media and support Crime Stoppers. The experience I gained at the Prosecutor's Office will be invaluable as my career continues to grow.

— Songer statement, June 9, 2016

Moriarty had heard rumors of Songer’s dismissal, but wasn’t sure of them. Told of the decision, she wondered about the reasons.

“Why would she take the heat? She didn’t do anything,” Moriarty said. “I thought she was very professional and protective of Mark Lindquist. She’s just doing her job bringing him to me. I really felt she was great. I was very impressed with her. She was buttoned down.”

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