Computer expert rebuts mayor's contention that images were not deliberately downloaded
November 09 2005 12:00 AM ET
documents from a gay Web site that are on Spokane,
Wash., mayor James E. West's City Hall computer were
put there deliberately, a computer expert said. The
affidavit from Josiah P. Roloff, of Global CompuSearch
LLC, rebutted West's contention that much of the
material was automatically placed on his computer while he
surfed Web sites such as Gay.com.
In an affidavit filed Friday in Spokane County
superior court, Roloff said an index of West's
computer files provided to The Spokesman-Review
newspaper included a history file showing 56 visits to
the Gay.com site. "The history file shows heavy usage
and visits to the Gay.com site by the computer user,"
Roloff's affidavit said, including some visits requiring the
user to enter a user name and password. The
Gay.com site requires that personal profiles be "consciously
selected" by the computer user, Roloff said. "The Gay.com
site will not display personal profiles and the images
included on the profiles absent the computer user's
affirmative choice to view a certain profile,"
according to the affidavit.
Roloff is working with lawyers for The
Spokesman-Review newspaper, which since May 6 has been
seeking access to the records on West's
taxpayer-provided computer as part of its
investigation into whether he abused his office by offering
young gay men public appointments and jobs in exchange
Roloff's affidavit appeared to conflict with
assertions by West's lawyers and a city attorney that
approximately 1,800 photos and documents, many of
young gay men, were inadvertently downloaded to West's computer.
West faces a December 6 recall battle over abuse
of office allegations. West, a longtime Republican
state senator and opponent of gay rights, has
acknowledged that he was a closeted homosexual but has
denied breaking any laws. In a high-profile public
records battle, he is trying to keep the public from
seeing some of the files on his laptop computer, saying
in a sworn affidavit that they contain material that would
be "highly offensive" to citizens.
After hearing oral arguments on October 12,
Adams County superior court judge Richard Miller is
expected to rule later this month whether West's
computer files should be released.
Lawyers for West said Friday that the mayor has
already admitted he visited Gay.com. "This appears to
be part of an ongoing effort by T
he Spokesman-Review to keep the West story
alive until the recall election occurs," West's lawyers
said. The lawyers also wondered whether Roloff's
company was the "forensic entity" the newspaper hired
to identify West's activities on the gay Web site.
"This raises the issue as to Mr. Roloff's disinterest and
objectivity," said lawyers Bill Etter, Susan Troppmann, and
Carl Oreskovich in a written statement.
Newspaper attorney Duane Swinton said Roloff was
not the computer expert the newspaper hired to pose as
a teenage boy during online chats that eventually
snared West. Roloff based his affidavit on his familiarity
from other computer forensic cases with Gay.com, the source
of many of the disputed files on West's computer.
He disputed the conclusions in a September 22
letter from a city lawyer to Spokesman-Review
attorney Duane Swinton about how the images got on
West's city computer.
In that letter Milton Rowland said he'd
discussed West's computer with the city's information
systems director and that the documents "were almost
certainly placed on Mayor West's computer without his
knowledge, and likely without his having even visited
all the Web pages represented."
That's not accurate, Roloff said in his
affidavit. If images from Gay.com are contained in
West's Internet cache file, this means the computer user
"affirmatively viewed the images by clicking on profiles
displayed by Gay.com," he said.
Troppmann told Judge Miller that West didn't
deliberately download material from gay Web sites to
his city computer. "These are Internet cache
files—information on your computer you don't put
there," Troppmann said at the October 12 hearing in
Ritzville. "There are hundreds of people's identities
at stake here—some of them are local." (AP)