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Central Point may have destroyed evidence, Moulin alleges

Lawyers representing Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force founder Josh Moulin allege there’s “increasing evidence” that the city of Central Point failed to preserve electronic records surrounding the investigation that prompted Moulin’s abrupt departure in 2012 and charges of computer crime that were later dropped.

Moulin, a former Central Point police lieutenant, filed a $2 million lawsuit against his former employer in the spring of 2017. Since then, Moulin’s legal team has amassed about 6,700 documents through subpoenas issued in their civil suit, according to documents filed Saturday in U.S. District Court by lawyer Colin Hunter with the Portland-based Angeli Law Group.

Moulin founded the multi-agency digital forensics task force in 2007, which is now located at Medford police headquarters, but the task force no longer has the nine-county reach it had leading up to Moulin’s forced departure in 2012. At its peak, the computer lab in Central Point handled hundreds of electronic crime investigations across Southern Oregon.

In May of 2012, the city placed Moulin on leave and later charged him with felony computer crime and misdemeanor official misconduct for a reason that took six years for the city to reveal: In late 2018, the city of Central Point alleged that Moulin changed public meeting records with the intent of granting himself privileges not actually authorized at the meeting.

Moulin’s lawsuit acknowledged that he made a change to the minutes, which his criminal defense lawyer, Kristen Winemiller of Portland, described in a 2017 interview as a “mundane, innocent act.”

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Kelly Ravassipour dismissed the criminal case against Moulin in 2015 with a ruling that stated digital forensics investigators mishandled digital evidence. For instance, while searching Moulin’s work-issued Apple MacBook laptop, “trained forensics examiners blatantly disregarded all protocols and training and went on a fishing expedition in a forensically unsound manner,” Ravassipour said.

Moulin’s lawsuit in 2017 alleged that the criminal investigation was “unfounded,” “malicious” and “politically motivated.”

Of the 6,700 documents Moulin’s legal team has obtained from subpoenas to agencies involved in the criminal investigation of Moulin, including the Oregon Department of Justice and Oregon State Police, they’ve obtained only 22 documents from the city of Central Point.

Hunter, Moulin’s lawyer, alleged that the city searched only five email accounts back to January 2014, despite the fact that the criminal investigation surrounded events that occurred in 2012.

The city’s lawyer, Steve Kraemer, stated in October that after Moulin had his criminal case expunged in court records, the city removed documents surrounding the criminal investigation, according to email correspondence that Hunter filed in court records.

“We have confirmed the material that was subject to the order sealing the documents was removed from the city’s computer system,” Kraemer wrote to Hunter Oct. 23.

The city has previously denied comment on the lawsuit citing the court order sealing the criminal case.

Hunter alleges that they searched only the name “Moulin” in that search, which he says, based on other documentation they’ve obtained, “undoubtedly resulted in the city missing relevant documents that either do not mention Mr. Moulin by name ... or that only refer to him by his first name.” In December, they requested an expanded search of terms that include “the investigation” and “the MacBook.”

Hunter sought an expanded list of search terms listing 18 email accounts at the city and 21 search terms. Those terms relate to Moulin’s being placed on administrative leave, Oregon Law Enforcement Advisory Board meetings, the personal GoDaddy account that Moulin alleges city staff attempted to hack to take over the task force website while he was on leave, the David Grubbs murder investigation, and, curiously, a reference to hidden cameras.

In December, Moulin’s email search request included the terms “Hidden w/3 camera,” “clock w/3 camera” and “covert w/3 camera.”

Central Point police Chief Kris Allison stated in an earlier court filing that sometime after the city placed Moulin on administrative leave, “new information came to light that was referred to the appropriate authorities,” but she never specified further.

Kraemer denied the request for an expanded search Jan. 8, according to another email Hunter filed.

“Our position as it relates to any search prior to January 1, 2014 remains unchanged,” Kraemer wrote.

Hunter claims that the denial is despite current and former city staff testimony in depositions last month that they were instructed to retain records related to the investigation.

“Absent any explanation from the city, and considering these witness’ testimony, the increasingly likely conclusion is that the city improperly deleted some or all of the material Mr. Moulin seeks,” Hunter wrote. “Either the city permanently deleted all copies of relevant witness’ email from 2012 to 2014 — raising serious questions of spoilation — or the city still has those email files, meaning they should be located and searched.”

The city, meanwhile, is asking the court to narrow the questions allowed before Moulin’s legal team questions 11 city staff members in the malicious prosecution lawsuit, according to a Thursday court filing.

Regarding employment disputes, Kraemer states that Moulin didn’t send the city notice that he planned to sue related to his employment at the time he was placed on leave in May or at the time he formally resigned in July or within the time permitted by the statute of limitations, according to a filing Thursday in the case. Further, Kraemer states that Moulin had been pursuing other work opportunities prior to his being placed on leave in May 2012.

“As defendants (Central Point) have learned during discovery, plaintiff (Moulin) was looking for other work, outside of law enforcement, before he was placed on administrative leave,” Kraemer wrote.

Kraemer cited a recent settlement with the state of Oregon for $40,000 with Moulin, and Kraemer noted that Oregon State Police and the Oregon Department of Justice were the ones who prosecuted Moulin.

Despite the settlement, Kraemer noted that if Oregon State Police Lieutenant Darren Lux and Oregon Department of Justice lawyer Darrin Tweedt’s conduct in Moulin’s lawsuit were true, Lux would have been put on a Brady list and would have lost his police certification, and Tweedt would have been disciplined by the Oregon State Bar, “and neither occurred.”

“This is a malicious prosecution action, in a case in which, by plaintiff’s (Moulin’s) own admissions ... the investigation and prosecution was conducted by the OSP and DOJ,” Kraemer writes.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Josh Moulin, then a Central Point police sergeant, sits at the Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task force headquarters in this 2010 Mail Tribune file photo. Moulin's legal team recently alleged that the city of Central Point possibly destroyed evidence in his malicious prosecution lawsuit.