State patrol says crime lab manager falsified work

SEATTLE (AP) - The manager of the state crime lab in Cheney resigned last week as authorities determined he lied about performing work in several cases, the Washington State Patrol said Tuesday.

Kevin Fortney headed the Cheney lab for about a decade. His subordinates prompted the investigation by reporting their concerns to Fortney's boss, the commander of the patrol's Crime Laboratory Division, the patrol said in a news release.

It wasn't immediately clear how to contact Fortney. A phone number listed for a Kevin Fortney rang unanswered Tuesday.

Fortney was previously mentioned in a 2004 Seattle Post-Intelligencer story about ethical problems at the patrol's crime labs: In late 2000, he was suspended for two days after admitting he cruised Internet porn sites at work, disciplinary records showed.

The patrol documented at least five cases - mostly arson investigations - in which Fortney reported in a computer system that he had completed work when other records proved he was lying, said patrol spokesman Bob Calkins.

The cases were assigned to Fortney when he worked as a front-line crime lab scientist before he became the manager, and included work that, for example, might have proved whether an accelerant was used to start a fire, Calkins said.

The patrol said it found no evidence that anyone was falsely convicted as a result, but an internal management audit of the Cheney operation is underway, and the Crime Lab Division has requested a full evidence audit as well.

"We continue to have confidence in the work of our front-line scientists and supervisors in Cheney, and at our other labs throughout the state," said Crime Laboratory Division Cmdr. James Tarver. "These allegations involved a single laboratory manager, and do not appear to reflect upon any of our other personnel."

The Cheney lab is one of five major crime labs the patrol operates around the state. It mostly handles cases from Eastern Washington.

Calkins declined to identify the cases involved or say where they originated. The patrol wants to notify police and prosecutors who handled them first, he said.

The patrol alerted the Washington State Forensic Investigations Council, state prosecutors, and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, Laboratory Accreditation Board.
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