Todd Chism to return to work Monday
SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane firefighter Lt. Todd Chism will return to work at the Spokane Fire Department on Monday, May 5. Fire Chief Bobby Williams recommended that Chism be reinstated immediately, and Mayor Mary Verner agreed.
The City's internal investigation of Chism, which reviewed matters related to City policies and procedures, has been closed.
"We are pleased to have Todd coming back to work, and we are hopeful that he and his family will now be able to recover from this ordeal," says Fire Chief Bobby Williams.
After being cleared Tuesday on child porn charges, Spokane firefighter Todd Chism spoke publicly Thursday about the anguishing experience he and his family continue to endure.
Both Chism and his lawyer Carl Oreskovich criticized the Washington State Patrol for the way they conducted their investigation.
Chism began by saying "There is no way to adequately describe what the past three months have been like for my family and myself."
He acknowledged an understanding and apprecation of the Washington State Patrol's duties, especially those of the Task Force for Missing and Exploited Children. Nonetheless, Chism said the authorities used their powers irresponsibly and made him out to be a criminal.
"I watched my entire life dissolve before my eyes," he said.
Chism said that because of the lack of proper investigation by the Washington State Patrol his reputation has been severly damaged.
"Words cannot describe how much I have suffered, how much my family has suffered... and unfortunately will continue to... The devastating affect of what the WSP has done to me will never go away for my family and me."Chism expressed gratitude to his wife and children for, in his words, "believing in me, and for never questioning the man that I am."
He ended his statement encouraging citizens to demand that authorities be accountable for their actions so something like this will not happen to another innocent person.
"Every person is innocent unless and until proven guilty."
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Chism's lawyer spent a significant amount of time disputing comments made by Washington State Patrol Captain Jeff DeVere on Tuesday, specifically his claims that the investigation was done in "good faith."
"We don't accept that," said Oreskovich.
The attorney also pointed out that the WSP never made an apology saying, "There was no apology forthcoming by the State Patrol, it just was what it was."
Oreskovich said the only information linking Chism to possession of child pornography was that his card had been used to pay for access to a suspect website. Additionally, he said that as a result of prior investigation, the WSP was well aware of the likelihood that this access was fraudulent in nature.
Oresekovich implored citizens to stand up, saying they should be outraged by this abuse of power.
Chism is now awaiting the completion of one more administrative investigation, and his return to work.
Late Thursday Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schafer recommended to Mayor Mary Verner that Chism be taken off administrative leave and be allowed to return to work as early as Monday.
The Washington State Patrol issued a statement Tuesday evening regarding their investigation which found no evidence that Spokane firefighter Todd Chism ever downloaded child pornography on his home or work computers.
The 41-year-old Spokane City Fire Lieutenant was arrested January 29th for possession of child pornography. Washington State Patrol detectives made the arrest and searched the Chisms' Stevens County home, seizing their computer among other evidence.
Tuesday The Washington State Patrol said they were unable to identify where the child porn purchased with Chism's credit card was downloaded to and who downloaded it.
They also acknowledged that child pornography cases are not "black and white," and believe they conducted the investigation properly characterizing it as "an unfortunate chain of events."
The Stevens County prosectors also announced they found "no evidence" to base charges against Chism, believing he was the victim of idenity theft. It turns out Chism's credit card number had been stolen and used fraudulently
Even though Chism has been exonerated he remains on paid adminstrative leave. The City of Spokane says it will conduct an internal investigation, to see if he violated any city policies.
Pete and Darla Blankevoort, long-time friends of the Chism family, said Wednesday they were happy Todd's name was cleared adding that it was a long time coming.
They think Todd was treated unfairly by the WSP during the investigation, and say it was unbelievable how this case unfolded, especially to a man with as great of character as Todd chism.
"I don't know how you repair the damage that's been done to a name like that. Human nature being as it is, people, people always look for the bad stuff and it's a shame. We're sure going to beat the drum for him and tell everyone we know and come into contact with what a good guy he is and his family," said Pete Blankvoort.
Another supporter Chris Hoch said he watched the Chism family go through this and couldn't't imagine what it would be like to be their family. Over the past few months Hoch has written letters to Governor Christine Gregoire and one WSP lieutenant on behalf of Todd Chism.
"The State Patrol's Criminal Investigation Division also opened an Identity Theft case, in which Mr. Chism and his wife were listed as victims. Detectives were unable determine the identity of the person who downloaded child pornography using the Chism's credit card.
This investigation was conducted in good faith, with the intent of protecting children exploited in the production of child pornography. The purpose of any investigation is to determine the facts. In this case, the critical fact needed was whether or not there was child pornography on Mr. Chism's computers. All computers and digital media taken from the Chism home and workplace were thoroughly reviewed, and no child pornography was found.
Internet technology changes on an almost daily basis. Identity thieves and child pornographers are expert at adapting and changing their methods in order to avoid detection, as they apparently did in this case. One of the lessons learned here is the complexity of investigations involving potential identity theft and computers."
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