Centralia ATM explosion suspect released after judge dismisses case

Written by Emily Fitzgerald / [email protected]

The day after the jury trial of the Olympia man accused of blowing up a Central Bank ATM machine that was supposed to begin, a Lewis County judge dismissed the case due to mismanagement of evidence.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Andrew Toynbee dismissed all charges against Ryan Thomas Mulder, 38, on Tuesday with bias, meaning the case cannot be retried in the same court.

Mulder was arrested January 4 as one of two suspects in the December 19, 2021 explosion at First Security Bank, located at 604 South Tower Ave.

He was accused of working with an unknown person to draw acetylene gas into the machine with a hose and ignite it, causing an estimated $25,000 in damage, in an attempt to steal the money inside.

Mulder was due to face trial on one count of unlawful possession or control of an explosive device, unlawful placing of a Class II explosive, first degree malicious mischief and first degree robbery on May 2. But the trial was suspended. April 28 after Mulder’s attorney, Brett M. Woody, of Olympia-based Eloquence Law, PLLC, filed a motion to dismiss Mulder’s case with bias.

In his argument, Woody accused Lewis County District Attorney Jonathan Mayer of failing to send all of the evidence the attorney general had in connection with the case.

Woody’s office received evidence from the attorney general’s office sometime after January 20, but Woody told Mayer by phone on April 6 that he believed he was missing some evidence from Mayer’s office, according to Woody’s written request. Woody specifically referred to a screenshot image he had seen but had no video logically related to the image. Meyer reportedly responded by saying, “You have what we have,” and Woody told the Central Police Department, which was the agency leading the investigation into the accident, “may” have additional evidence to look at,According to Woody’s motion.

A back-and-forth email exchange between lawyers began.

On April 15, Meyer emailed Woody that read, “As we discussed over the phone earlier, we have brought you all the finds we have. I indicated to you that there might be video evidence in Centralia that I would like to request. This request has been made. Please note that we We also discussed that you can go to Centralia to see the evidence collected (with an appointment, of course),”, according to court documents.

Woody told the court on May 3 that he interpreted Mayer’s emails as telling Mayer and Woody to obtain the evidence himself.

“Mr. Meyer is acting as if he alone is the information gatekeeper,” said Woody.

An email exchange was included in Woody’s proposal, and Toynbee told the parties on May 3 that he “cannot appreciate” reading emails from Mayer.

“In no way did I mean to suggest that he had to get it himself,” Meyer said in response.

The comprehensive hearing, which is usually held several weeks before the trial is confirmed, is the legal deadline for all evidence to be presented to both parties prior to trial.

But there were some complications surrounding the comprehensive hearing in the Mulder case: The hearing was initially scheduled for February 24, but was postponed to April 7 and then continued twice, with the hearing eventually taking place on April 21 — just two weeks before it was due. The trial is scheduled to begin.

Typically, the Lewis County District Attorney’s Office sends the Centralia Police Department a subpoena for evidence prior to the comprehensive hearing. But that didn’t happen in this case, according to Centralia Police Chief Stacy Denham.

“This is something the attorney general’s office is looking into what happened there,” Denham told The Chronicle on Wednesday.

Woody filed motions with the court on April 21 to compel Mayer’s office to provide a list of witnesses, Mulder’s criminal history, and all remaining evidence. He submitted a public records request to the station’s police department on the same day.

On April 26, Woody received an email from the Central Police Department notifying him that his records request had been fulfilled.

Woody said in his written argument, “In response to this public records request, the defense attorney received many items of which he was unaware, including not only video evidence, but photographic evidence, written reports, search warrants and reversals of those warrants,” which were Presented on April 28th. “It is not clear at the time of writing whether this is the entirety of evidence held by the Central Police Department in relation to this case.”

The new guide is over 100 pages long, not counting the video guide.

On the day Woody filed for dismissal in Lewis County Superior Court, Meyer reportedly handed him a package containing the new information from the Centralia Police Department.

Mayer said he only became aware of this additional evidence from the Centralia Police Department after Woody submitted his public records request.

The lead investigator investigating the case was involved in a shooting in February and was on an administrative assignment, meaning the officer was banned from the field but has been allowed to perform the administrative aspects of his job since.

As a result, there were some misunderstandings. “It’s sad to say that this was the end result of that,” Denham said on Wednesday.

Meyer told the court Tuesday that he erroneously believed that the lead investigator investigating the December 19 blast was on administrative leave — meaning the officer would not be allowed to perform any of his job responsibilities — and so he met with another Centralia investigator in March. 25 regarding the case.

During that March 25 meeting, Mayer said he asked the investigator to review the evidence the CPD had in connection with the Mulder case.

“I was confident we had it all,” Meyer said on Tuesday, adding later, “I was sad and angry (and) upset when I learned there was more information.”

When asked by Toynbee when he requested evidence from the Central Police Department, Mayer stated that he had never formally requested additional evidence from the Central Police Department.

“Am I happy with how this case has gone? Absolutely not, and I will take some sort of measure to prevent it from happening again, for sure,” Meyer said.

Because Mulder reserved his right to a speedy trial, the state had only two weeks from the May 3 adjudication hearing to bring the case to trial. The parties agreed that there was not enough time to adequately prepare given the amount of unexamined evidence they had received from the Central Police Department, so Mayer made an offer to immediately release Mulder from custody, which would extend the expedited trial deadline by 30 days.

Mulder had been held on $500,000 bail since his initial Jan. 5 hearing due to community safety concerns.

When Toynbee asked him if releasing Mulder would change his attitude regarding the dismissal, Woody said he wouldn’t.

“It’s been biased,” he said, adding later, “I don’t trust him (Meyer) at this point for anything.”

While Woody alleged that Mayer intentionally and maliciously concealed evidence relating to the case, Toynbee ruled that the mismanagement of evidence was not done with “evil intent”.

I find that there is mismanagement. “I don’t find that there was evil intent and frankly I don’t need to,” Toynbee said, adding that the mismanagement of “may exculpate evidence” alone was reason to dismiss the case with bias.

Mulder was released from the Lewis County Jail at 8 a.m. the next morning.

“I know the attorney general told me that they’re looking at some of their policies to make sure that something like this never happens again. We’re a little embarrassed about that, obviously, because it’s clearly not a reflection of that detective, it’s not a reflection of the attorney general’s office and what We normally do, and this organization, so (it’s) very frustrating, very embarrassing, but I guarantee that something like this will never happen again.”

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