Harassment charges dropped against Army officer

June 8, 2012 - 8:05 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — A Washington state prosecutor dropped all charges Friday against an Army lieutenant colonel who had been accused of threatening to kill his superior officer, his estranged wife and a woman he had dated.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said his office dropped the three felony harassment charges filed in March against Lt. Col. Robert E. Underwood because of evidence suggesting the woman he had dated, who reported the threats to authorities, might have made it all up.

The woman had told police that Underwood, 46, threatened to kill her after she confronted him about a naked photograph of his daughter on his laptop computer. She also reported that he claimed to have paid a hit man $150,000 to kill his wife and his superior officer.

A search of Underwood's computer turned up no such photo of his daughter, Lindquist said, and messages the woman left on Underwood's phone suggested she had a motive to fabricate the allegations.

In the messages, the woman said "she was going to get him," Underwood's lawyer, Philip Thornton, said Friday.

"He's very unhappy with the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office and with the Steilacoom Police Department for failing to investigate these allegations before charges were filed," Thornton said.

Lindquist said he initially believed his office could prove the three harassment charges, and dropped them after learning of the evidence impeaching the woman's credibility.

"We only proceed forward on cases where it's just to proceed and where we believe we can prove the case," Lindquist said.

Police in Steilacoom, a suburb of Tacoma, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.

Thornton said Underwood has been confined to certain areas of Joint Base Lewis-McChord since charges were filed. The Army had given no indication as of Friday afternoon about whether it might lift those restrictions, or whether it might conduct any further investigation of Underwood, Thornton said.

Underwood was commissioned into the Army as a lieutenant in 1992, and was the ROTC instructor at Eastern Washington University from February 2005 to December 2007. Previously based in Naples, Italy, he arrived at Lewis-McChord in January, after serving a year in Afghanistan. He also served a stint in Iraq, from March 2004 to February 2005, and spent four months in Bosnia in 1998.

Underwood is assigned to the 191st infantry brigade, a training support brigade.

Underwood met the woman who reported the alleged threats at the Dallas airport, before a flight to Seattle. They had gone out a few times, but Underwood did not consider the woman his girlfriend, Thornton said.