Oops ... police hit the wrong house in porn raid
Irate couple hire lawyer; sheriff says 'things happen'

Associated Press | October 5, 2006

SPOKANE -- For a 67-year-old homeowner and his wife, wrongly subjected to a shattering pornography search, saying, "Oops, wrong number" is not enough.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich apologized Tuesday for the blunder, which he said resulted when Detective Timothy Hines tried to nail whoever was responsible for obscene calls to at least 20 women enrolled at Whitworth College.

Hines wrote down the wrong figures for a telephone number associated with the calls, and he obtained a search warrant for a house in Spokane, miles from the correct location in suburban Spokane Valley, Knezovich said.

The irate homeowner told The Spokesman-Review, which did not identify him at his request, that deputies dumped out drawers, went through his wallet and checkbook, seized computers, CDs, floppy disks, VHS tapes and other material and refused to clean up the mess in the raid Sept. 27.

A half-dozen sheriff's vehicles converged on the house, and after taking photos outside, Hines told officers within hearing of the neighbors, "Now let's go inside and get some porn," the owner said.

Inside, the man said, a female deputy "giggled" about remarks at his expense.

"It's like the gang that can't do it right," he said. "They shoot themselves in the foot, and then they all come to make peace.

"What would you do if somebody came to your door and ripped your whole house apart, turned everything upside down and said you are a porno freak?"

Among the confiscated items were copies of "The Lion King" and "Snow White," found in a bedroom where the couple's granddaughter stays when she comes to visit, the man said.

The victim said he had hired a lawyer. He did not say whether he planned to sue but told the newspaper, "I'm not going to be treated like this and dragged around."

Hines realized his mistake Monday when he checked the accuracy of the phone number with a telephone company, sheriff's Capt. Bruce Mathews said. 

By then the target of the search -- a 42-year-old man who used parts of his name to contrive aliases -- was gone.

However, he was finally taken into custody on Wednesday.

The suspect was described as being "very cooperative, very embarrassed and very contrite" when he was arrested for investigation of telephone harassment, sheriff's Sgt. R. David Reagan wrote in a news release.

Following the arrest, investigators learned he "began calling Whitworth students after calling phone sex lines became prohibitively expensive," Reagan wrote.

Knezovich, the sheriff, said he plans to adopt a more structured system for checking facts in search warrants, adding that Hines probably would not be disciplined.

"I could see it if it was a blatant lack of diligence," he said, "but sometimes things like that happen.

"A number can get transposed."

Knezovich said supervisors who review search warrant applications will now be required to compare the information with supporting documents which, in turn, must be attached to the applications.

He said he accepted responsibility for procedural problems in the foul-up but warned that if the homeowner's assertions of rudeness and humiliation by deputies are substantiated, they could face penalties ranging from verbal warnings to written reprimands for unprofessional conduct.