Public defender employee charged with witness tampering

SPOKANE, Wash. - An employee in the Spokane County public defender's office has her own legal problems to deal with after being charged with a pair of felonies for witness tampering.

The paralegal allegedly used her professional privileges to visit and help the father of her children.

Josie Booth is one of two public defender employees currently under investigation by the Spokane Police Department. Booth was charged by prosecutors on Thursday and instead of getting hauled to jail like many of her office's clients, Booth will be allowed to make a scheduled appearance in court.

Public Defender witness tampering

In her role as a paralegal, Booth helps public defenders prepare their clients' cases for trial. That means visiting inmates at the jail, interviewing them and getting their signatures on legal paperwork.

Early in December, the jail staff noticed an inmate was making a lot of free phone calls to Booth's desk in the public defender's office.

That inmate is Francisco Ayala, one of several people charged with an October kidnapping and assault. Booth, however, is not assigned to Ayala's case, so the jail started recording the phone calls and felt Booth may be having inappropriate conversations with the inmate.

It turns out Ayala is the father of two of Booth's children and now she's suspected of using her position with the public defender's office to visit Ayala in jail and influence the way he's being treated by the criminal justice system.

In court documents, detectives also accuse Booth of trying to get another jail inmate to withhold damaging information from investigators about Ayala's alleged involvement in the kidnapping.

On Friday Chief Public Defender John Rodgers said Booth has been an exemplary employee and wants to see more evidence against her before changing her employment status.