Investigator Finds Firefighter’s Arrest Flawed

SPOKANE – The release of previously sealed court documents shows that a local computer expert found a Spokane firefighter shouldn’t have been arrested on child pornography charges.

In a 26-page report unsealed by a Stevens County court Tuesday, Global Compusearch president Marcus Lawson says he found that Spokane Fire Department Lieutenant Todd Chism did not do anything wrong and was a victim of both credit card identity theft and a Washington State Patrol investigation that was flawed from the beginning.

Chism was arrested in late January after State Patrol investigators searched his Nine Mile Falls home on suspicion that he had purchased child pornography. However the report prepared by Lawson and paid for by Chism says that State Troopers did not have sufficient probable cause to search his home.

When investigators learned a Bank of America credit card had been used to buy child pornography over the Internet they back tracked the credit card to Chism’s address. However the report criticizes detectives for not asking Bank of America if the account had ever been compromised, which if they had they would have found out that it had been several months previously.

Global Compusearch’s report also condemns the Washington State Patrol for taking Chism into custody even before they had a chance to search his computers for evidence. Chism’s arrest that day is what triggered the release of his name and what Chism and his wife describe as his public humiliation.

The report indicates that Global Compusearch forensically scanned two hard drives taken from Chism’s home and, according to Lawson, the search failed to turn up any signs of child pornography.

In a sworn affidavit Lawson concluded that “the failure to follow normal investigative procedures for cases such as this and the investigator’s failure to properly articulate the facts in the submitted affidavit led to the mistaken search on Mister Chism’s home and business  … as well as his mistaken arrest.”

Meanwhile, the WSP sergeant who was in charge of the investigation in Chism has been transferred to a new unit. Sergeant John Sager, who works out of western Washington, says he wanted the reassignment.