Jury awards fired prosecutor $3 million


A former deputy prosecutor won a $3 million jury award Friday in a wrongful termination suit against the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office.

Barbara Corey rose to the top of her profession during her 24 years as a prosecutor, playing a part in high-profile criminal cases, including the prosecution of Spokane serial killer Robert Lee Yates. But Corey was fired in January 2004, and later, her attorneys successfully argued, wrongly painted as a thief of public funds.

In court, Corey’s attorneys argued that Pierce County Prosecutor Gerald Horne pushed an investigation into the alleged thefts after rumors surfaced that Corey sought to challenge him in an upcoming election. Horne continued to speak publicly about the case even after investigators reported that the accusations against Corey were entirely unfounded.

Jurors agreed with Corey’s attorneys, finding that Horne’s actions were “malicious and defamatory,” said Jack Connelly, an attorney representing Corey in the four-week trial.

“They found there was no law enforcement purpose to what he was doing,” Connelly said. “He fabricated an investigation against her.”

Prosecutors are largely immune from civil suit. But, Connelly said, Friday’s decision shows that they can be sued successfully if they are acting outside the scope of their official duties.

An attorney representing Pierce County told The News Tribune that the county plans to appeal the jury’s decision.