ISP report fills in details of claims against Middleton police

Middleton Police Chief Brian Zimmerman says his officers were good at their jobs but certainly violated policy.
Middleton Police Chief Brian Zimmerman says his officers were good at their jobs but certainly violated policy.

Idaho State Police released their investigative report on allegations against two Middleton police officers Wednesday afternoon, providing details of a couple’s claims against the officers.

Sgt. Steve Walker and Officer Robert Kightlinger resigned Monday, the same day the prosecutor reviewing ISP’s findings announced that there was no basis for criminal charges against them. City leaders said the two were good officers but violated city policy.

A Middleton couple filed a tort claim against the city last week, alleging a wide range of criminal and coercive behavior by the officers, primarily after the husband was arrested on a charge of battering the wife in January. The couple’s attorney, Matthew Williams, said at least one of the criminal allegations was sexual in nature, but all such references and other personal information were redacted from the tort claim before the city of Middleton released it to the Statesman.

The ISP documents, also released in response to a public records request, omitted the Middleton couple’s names but included full interviews with the wife, both officers and Middleton Police Chief Brian Zimmerman.

Walker and the wife both told ISP investigators that they had a flirtatious relationship and exchanged numerous texts of a sexual nature before the domestic violence arrest, but the relationship did not become physical until the end of January, when Walker said they had oral sex. They both admitted having sex in mid-February, and Walker said he soon called off the relationship.

The woman told ISP that the sex with Walker was consensual but that she was vulnerable and not in the right state of mind to make that decision.

The wife told ISP that Kightlinger peppered her with sexual questions and acted “territorial” toward her. She said she eventually told Kightlinger to stop talking to her, and he stopped.

Kightlinger told ISP that he exchanged personal messages with the woman, including sexual information, but did not expect it to turn physical. He denied stalking the woman, saying he went to her house once while on duty and six or seven times while off duty.

Kightlinger contended that the woman was pressing the allegations against the officers as part of an effort to get the charges against her husband dropped.

Owyhee County Prosecutor Douglas Emery, who decided no charges would be pursued against the officers, said the woman did not make allegations about the officers until after Walker broke off their sexual relationship.

Neither Walker nor Kightlinger could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Preying on female victims?

The domestic battery was reported Jan. 21, and the husband was investigated and arrested by a third Middleton officer, who is not named in the couple’s tort claim. The husband spent more than 50 days in jail before the felony charge against him was reduced to a misdemeanor and he was sentenced to time served.

The wife said that Kightlinger started coming by her house frequently and that Walker warned her Kightlinger could be inappropriate.

I’m starting to wonder if this is some type of see who can get the victim game. Very very scary!

Woman who says she was victimized by officers, in email to Canyon deputy prosecutor

“Is it customary for police officers to attempt to comfort victims this way? Or just in the Middleton Police Department?” she wrote, noting that she had been approached by two of the town’s five officers. She pushed for her husband’s charge to be reduced to a misdemeanor, and the case was later reassigned to Ada County prosecutors and changed to misdemeanor battery.

In her interview with ISP, the wife said she became disgusted with Middleton police.

Chief Zimmerman, who retired after a long career with Idaho State Police before being named to head the new Middleton department in October 2014, told the Statesman on Wednesday evening that the complainants have alleged his officers kept a list of domestic violence victims with the intention of preying on them sexually.

“There was no such list in existence — never was and never will be,” Zimmerman said. “It’s just ludicrous.”

Prosecutor’s conclusions

The couple’s attorney, Matthew Williams, could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but said Tuesday that the ISP investigation and resulting decision by Emery not to pursue charges “is an example of the hypocrisy in law enforcement today.” The tort claim includes allegations of bribery, conspiracy, intimidation and wiretapping.

According to the ISP investigation, Walker improperly listened to a jailhouse conversation between the jailed husband and a friend.

Documents released by ISP on Wednesday included a full report from Emery on his decision not to prosecute. He said the woman’s claims that she was stalked or the victim of unwelcome sexual advances are unfounded, and the sexual conduct and conversation with the officers was consensual, with no criminal component.

“No rape, no stalking or illegal use of force or influence occurred,” he wrote. “No threat or coercion was used.”