Deputy on paid leave after Valley incident

SNOQUALMIE - A 49-year-old deputy in the King County Sheriff's Office is on paid administrative leave after being charged with first-degree trespass following an incident last month involving his estranged wife.

According to charging papers filed Jan. 28 by the King County Prosecutor's Office, James Covey, a 26-year veteran deputy, is accused of breaking into the Snoqualmie home where his wife of 18 months was staying following the couple's May 2003 separation.

In the days preceding the Jan. 14 incident, Covey had been in contact with his wife asking her to sign paperwork related to the couple's divorce and the deputy's desire to expedite the sale their former residence, charging papers state. On Jan. 13 the couple agreed to meet at a bank the following day to sign the paperwork.

After consulting a lawyer, who advised against signing the papers, the wife called her husband to cancel the appointment. According to charging papers, on Jan. 14 she received two calls from Covey requesting she contact him to discuss the paperwork. The calls went unreturned.

At about 11 a.m. on Jan. 14, Covey arrived at his wife's house, which is owned by her ex-husband, and started to pound on the front door, charging papers state. Concerned about a confrontation, the wife decided to act as if she were not home. While hiding in an bedroom, the wife could hear the defendant continue to pound on the door while yelling for her to sign the paperwork. The woman eventually heard the knocking stop and the husband's vehicle drive away.

A few moments later, according to charging papers, the phone rang and the wife listened as Covey left a message stating that he wanted to talk with her.

Concerned that her husband might return, the wife double-checked that the doors and windows of the house were locked, according to charging papers. When Covey returned, the wife again hid in the bedroom.

Upon his return Covey began yelling that he knew his wife was in the house. Covey eventually slid open a window and crawled into the living room. The wife repeatedly told Covey to leave the home, charging papers state, but he refused.

The wife, feeling that the situation was escalating out of control, grabbed her phone and ran into the bathroom, as the defendant chased after her, charging papers state. While dialing 911, Covey reportedly told his estranged wife to hang up the phone several times and at one point grabbed her arm.

After getting through to 911 at about 12:25 p.m., the operator asked to speak to Covey and on several occasions asked him to wait outside in his vehicle until the authorities arrived. Covey did not comply, according to charging papers. Covey did remain at the residence until the authorities showed.

King County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart said now that criminal charges have been filed, an internal investigation will begin, and those findings will determine the fate of Covey's career in the department.

A guilty verdict in the trespass misdemeanor case would not automatically find Covey losing his job because the deputy would not lose his gun-carrying privileges, Urquhart said. In such investigations, he added, an innocent verdict has been given while the internal investigation proved the deputy was not fit for duty, and vice versa.

Covey, who is assigned to the King County Sheriff's Precinct No. 2 in Kenmore, was not on duty when the incident occurred.

Arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 5.

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