Ex-Washington state sheriff’s deputy accused of using position to threaten, sexually assault women

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BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — A sheriff’s deputy in Washington state has been fired and is facing charges, accused of abusing his position as a law enforcement officer to threaten, blackmail and sexually assault two women.

Former Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Austin Case was arrested last week and charged with extortion, burglary, third-degree rape, indecent liberties by forcible compulsion and two counts of unlawful imprisonment, The Bellingham Herald reported Thursday.

Jail and court records show Case, who was fired from his job last week, was booked and released from the Whatcom County Jail on $250,000 bond. The newspaper has reached out to Case’s defense attorney for comment.

The 23-year-old Ferndale man was hired in January by the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and was in his 15-month probationary period in late June when the sheriff’s office was notified about social media conversations that caused concerns, court documents said.

A sheriff’s office internal affairs investigation began and Case was placed on paid administrative leave.

During an interview for the internal affairs investigation, a woman accused Case of rape and assault with sexual motivation, according to court records. The sheriff’s office on July 10 contacted the Mount Vernon Police Department and requested that a criminal investigation against Case be opened. The Skagit and Island County Multiple Agency Response Team (SMART), which investigates police shootings and other use of force incidents, is leading the investigation.

As of Wednesday, the investigation was ongoing, SMART spokesperson and Mount Vernon Police Lt. Mike Moore said. He said additional people have contacted the tip line, but said further details of the investigation aren’t being released at this time.

According to court documents, one woman said she met Case on Snapchat and told him she had been arrested for DUI and was on probation. When Case learned she had been at a bar in violation of her probation, he ordered her to his house under threat of arrest, the court documents said.

The woman told investigators she “felt trapped” and compelled to sleep with Case for fear that if she did not, “he could call the cops on her and that she would go to jail,” court documents said.

A second woman who met Case on Instagram said he forced his way into her home after the two met for dinner, made unwanted advances and then lifted his shirt to reveal a gun in his waistband, according to court documents. That woman was able to get away.

Case declined to speak with investigators after his arrest last week, according to the documents.

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