WENATCHEE — East Wenatchee police officer Josh Virnig pleaded guilty Thursday to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in connection with an incident at the Mill Bay Casino in which he took a woman’s wallet from her purse.
Chelan County District Court Judge Kyle Mott issued Virnig a 12-month deferred sentence that includes a year of supervised probation, $393 in court costs and requires an alcohol assessment and treatment recommendations.
He’s not to frequent bars or drink alcohol, can’t have any criminal law violations and isn’t allowed to return to the casino for a year. If he complies with the conditions, the plea will be vacated and changed to a not guilty plea.
“I think this is a fair resolution and not one of preferential treatment,” Mott said.
Security footage from the July 26 incident shows Virnig approach a woman from behind near a row of gaming tables, take a wallet out of her purse and attempt to open it. Another woman noticed Virnig immediately, took the wallet back and pushed Virnig away.
The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office was later called to the casino to help security remove Virnig’s friend. During their response, deputies learned that Virnig had briefly taken a woman’s wallet. They spoke with him in Chelan and cited him for third-degree theft.
Virnig was placed on administrative leave by the East Wenatchee Police Department shortly after. He remains on leave, Virnig’s attorney, Brandon Redal, said. The department is conducting its own internal investigation. Virnig’s future with the department is unclear.
Redal described the act as a misguided joke by Virnig, saying he mistook the woman for someone else he’d met earlier, and that Virnig never intended to steal the wallet.
“Josh was never dishonest,” Redal said. “What Josh did was dumb. Josh was never dishonest.”
Chelan County Prosecutor Doug Shae said he believed Virnig drank too much alcohol and behaved inappropriately.
“When that happens, they have to be held accountable,” Shae said, adding he thought the sentence was fair.
Redal took issue with the sheriff’s office report, in particular, language that described Virnig as having fled when he was contacted by casino security and that he tried to mislead deputies.
“It’s clear from the video he stayed for 15 or 16 minutes after the incident,” Redal said. “So that part was never true.”
The sheriff’s report says that Virnig told deputies the victim knew his friend, but the victim told deputies otherwise. Redal said Virnig thought he knew the victim.
“It just serves to make Josh look like he wasn’t truthful,” Redal said of the report.
He added that they accepted the deal because prosecutors were threatening to pursue felony charges, which had potential to end Virnig’s law enforcement career.
“No one disagrees that what he did was inappropriate,” Redal said, “... but at the end of the day I really don’t believe what he did ever rose to the level of a crime.”