A former King County sheriff’s deputy was charged today with first-degree theft and with violating the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (heroin possession) for allegedly stealing drugs that had been seized during undercover investigations.
The charges against Mitchell Wright, 33, carry a so-called “aggravating factor” accusing him of committing the crimes while using his position of trust as a law enforcement officer, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. As a result, he could face a longer sentence if convicted.
Wright is scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 4.
A judge yesterday ordered Wright held in lieu of $250,000 bail.
Wright resigned from the Sheriff’s Office on July 9 after he became the subject of an ongoing internal investigation into his unauthorized use of federal criminal-justice databases, Sheriff John Urquhart said during an interview Tuesday with The Times. Though that investigation is still open, Urquhart said that if the policy violation were sustained, it would have led to Wright’s firing.
Wright was placed on administrative leave on July 3, and two deputies went to his house that day to retrieve the patrol car that had been assigned to him, according to the probable-cause statement outlining the police case against him.
The deputies found three plastic bags of heroin in the trunk with evidence tags indicating the drugs had been seized during two federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, the statement says. Wright was assigned to a DEA narcotics task force from 2009 to February of this year.
The discovery of the heroin prompted a second internal investigation that uncovered Wright’s alleged criminal conduct, the statement says. Drugs seized during investigations that don’t result in federal prosecutions are turned over to individual officers, who are then required to enter the drugs into their own agency’s evidence system, the statement says.
Wright, who was working undercover, is accused of failing to enter drugs released to him by the DEA into evidence with the Sheriff’s Office, the statement says. The street value of the drugs Wright allegedly stole is estimated at between $36,500 and $52,490.
Wright was named the 2006 Deputy of the Year for helping reduce auto thefts in Shoreline and for “exposing several drug houses,” according to a May 2007 letter signed by then-Sheriff Sue Rahr.