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Originally published Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 10:11 AM

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SPD lieutenant faces new charge in domestic-violence case

A newly filed criminal complaint alleges Donnie R. Lowe violated a court order to stay away from his wife.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A Seattle police lieutenant awaiting trial in a domestic-violence case was charged Thursday with violating a court order to stay away from his wife, adding a new allegation in a case that initially garnered attention because he was given a key role in the city's police-reform plan.

In a complaint filed in Seattle Municipal Court, Donnie R. Lowe, 45, was accused of knowingly violating a no-contact order issued after his arrest in June for allegedly assaulting his wife.

Lowe's wife was believed to be a passenger in a car when Seattle police stopped him Aug. 14 for allegedly talking on his cellphone while driving, according to sources familiar with the case. But Lowe was not immediately arrested because police were not able to verify the court order as a result of a computer problem, the sources said.

Lowe told police the woman was a relative, one of the sources said.

His wife, Nanette Lowe, told The Seattle Times in August, "That was not me in the car." She said the passenger was her 16-year-old niece, insisting she was at work at the time.

But an investigation by the King County Sheriff's Office, which was asked by Seattle police to handle the case to avoid a conflict of interest, uncovered conflicting evidence, according to a source.

The source said the woman in the car was described as wearing a multicolored dress that matched the description of a dress that Nanette Lowe was seen wearing in a video image captured when she entered work Aug. 14. A King County employee, she arrived at work about a half-hour after the traffic stop, the source said.

Attorneys representing Donnie Lowe could not be reached Thursday. Lowe has yet to enter a plea to the new charge, a misdemeanor.

The new charge further clouded Lowe's career in the Police Department, in which his bachelor's degree in business and master's in public administration helped him land a position on the police-reform effort but whose troubling history of bad judgment and misconduct raised questions about his selection.

After his June arrest, he was removed as a team leader in the much-touted "20/20" plan to overhaul the Police Department after a Department of Justice investigation that found officers had used excessive force and displayed evidence of biased policing.

Unveiled in March, the plan called for 20 initiatives over 20 months, with Lowe put in charge of a group assigned to deal with leadership aspects of the plan.

Since then, the city and Justice Department reached a comprehensive settlement agreement in July in which a court-appointed monitor will oversee broad reforms in police practices.

Lowe, a 20-year veteran who earned more than $148,000 last year, is to go on trial Sept. 25 on a misdemeanor charge of domestic-violence assault alleged to have occurred June 2. He has pleaded not guilty.

Lowe allegedly pushed his wife against a wall and slapped her face during an argument over their son, a judge said during a June court hearing in which he issued the no-contact order.

The order was later modified to allow Lowe to see her in some matters involving their children and carry on email discussions about finances, according to court records.

In the June 2 incident, Lowe's wife phoned 911 to report he had assaulted her, according to a police report. But she refused medical treatment, wouldn't give a statement and told an officer, "I don't want him to go to jail," the report said.

John Henry Browne, whose law office is representing Lowe, has said Lowe's wife told authorities she doesn't want her husband to be prosecuted and didn't want a no-contact order.

If Lowe is convicted in that case or the new one, the maximum jail term for each is one year.

Lowe was relieved of duty and placed on paid leave after his June arrest. He faces potential internal discipline up to dismissal from the force.

He previously was disciplined after he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2008. He pleaded guilty to an amended charge of reckless driving, later dismissed when he met court conditions. The department then suspended him for four days without pay after an internal investigation.

His arrest in that case attracted attention because Lowe was allowed to supervise a Seattle police security detail at President Obama's January 2009 inauguration, even though the arrest had taken place Nov. 23, 2008.

Lowe also received internal reprimands for inappropriate physical treatment of his handcuffed son while he was in police custody in a holding cell in 2006, and over an improper effort to retrieve from a man nude photographs of a female acquaintance in 2002.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com

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