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Controversy Surrounds Letourneau Tape

A Washington DOC investigator allegedly left his job at the state women's prison in Purdy with a souvenir: a tape recording of Mary K. Letourneau talking on the phone with her attorney.

After starting a new job at the state Attorney General's office in 1998, the investigator played the tape to entertain co-workers, sources inside the AG's office told the Seattle Times.

Robert McGuire, who was a DOC "Intelligence and Investigations Officer" at the state reformatory before assuming the same position at the Purdy prison, denies ever having the tape. But two co-workers say they heard it, and a third says she turned down an offer to hear it.

"He was right over there, playing it loud, and they were making jokes," said Steve Schrum, an auditor who says he heard the tape twice.

On the tape, the witness say, Letourneau complained to her lawyer about a comment her estranged husband made on a TV talk show. She asked why she couldn't get visitation rights to see her children, and her lawyer told her a convicted child molester loses that option.

Joseph Gragnelli, a fellow investigator, says he reported the tape-playing incident to his boss, Curtis Edwards, in late June 1998. However, according to Gragnelli, three months passed and Edwards did nothing about it. He then told Scott Blonien, head of the AG's criminal division, who subsequently ordered an internal investigation.

Some AG employees praised Gragnelli for reporting the incident. But Terry Tate, a former Yakima police officer, called him a "snitch" in a manner that Gragnelli says was angry and threatening. Tate concedes making the comment, but says it wasn't a threat.

McGuire refused to do a follow up interview with the investigator Blonien assigned. He called Blonien an "idiot" for sending him a "counseling memo" in December 1998. The memo said it couldn't be proved that McGuire had the tape but that McGuire acted "below the professional standards" of the AG's office when he discussed the contents of Letourneau's conversations with co-workers.

Some of those co-workers think McGuire got off too lightly, with only a minor reprimand from Attorney General Christine Gregoire. But Gregoire, whose husband works with McGuire, said the disciplinary letter was sufficient punishment because it will follow McGuire if he tries to get another job.

It is interesting to note that the Times only managed to stumble onto the story nearly two years after the fact while investigating the AG's office for a related story. In a huge stack of documents the Times obtained under the state public disclosure law, there was an oblique mention of the Letourneau incident.

Source: The Seattle Times

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