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Originally published October 4, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 5, 2006 at 3:40 PM

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Spokane sheriff acknowledges porn search was at wrong house

For a 67-year-old homeowner and his wife, wrongly subjected to a shattering pornography search, saying, "Oops, wrong number" is not enough.

The Associated Press

SPOKANE – A man sought in a pornography raid at what turned out to be the wrong house is now in custody, and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie D. Knezovich says the conduct of deputies in the search will be reviewed.

A "very cooperative, very embarrassed and very contrite" Robert M. Sherman, 42, was arrested today for investigation of telephone harassment involving about 30 obscene calls — mostly voicemail messages — to women studying at Whitworth College, sheriff's Sgt. R. David Reagan wrote in a news release.

Following the arrest, investigators learned "that Sherman began calling Whitworth students after calling phone sex lines became prohibitively expensive," Reagan wrote.

In a news conference earlier in the day, Knezovich said he would look into complaints by a 67-year-old man whose house was wrongly raided on Sept. 27 after Detective Timothy D. Hines was one digit off when he sought the location of a telephone number to which the obscene calls had been traced.

Computers, CDs, floppy disks, VHS tapes and other items taken from the house were returned after the blunder was discovered Monday when more obscene calls were reported.

"This is very serious," Knezovich said. "People can get hurt if this happens."

Knezovich said supervisors who review search warrant applications will now be required to compare the information with supporting documents which, in turn, must now be attached to the applications.

He said he accepted responsibility for procedural problems in the foul-up but warned that if the homeowner's assertions of rudeness and humiliation by deputies are substantiated, they could face penalties ranging from verbal warnings to written reprimands for unprofessional conduct.

The homeowner said that Hines humiliated him in front of neighbors by telling deputies to take photos outside the house and then "go inside and find some porn."

Inside, the man said, a female deputy "giggled" about remarks at his expense.

"If that happened, I will deal with that," Knezovich said. "That's not professional, and I will deal with that aspect."

The sheriff said he also was concerned about the owner's assertion that Hines told him he could prevent news coverage if he confessed.

"You don't make a statement that you can't back up because, if you do, you lose your credibility," Knezovich said.

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