A Seattle firefighter was charged Wednesday with second degree identity theft and two cyberstalking cases. He was charged with impersonating a fellow firefighter to use this man’s email login to request a new work assignment and to send threatening messages to Seattle City Councilor Kshama Sawant, King County Prosecutors.
Seattle police say Andrew “Andy” Finseth admitted requesting a password change for another firefighter’s email account and sending six messages from that account so that his agent was involuntarily transferred to another station and out of the chain of command the department will be fined papers say.
The four emails sent to Sawant in December and January express dislike for Sawant’s performance as a councilor. They suggest jumping upside down from a building, warning them to “leave town or something” and saying if she does not voluntarily resign, the prosecution says the decision would be made for her.
“After Sawant received these e-mails, she reported that she took the e-mails seriously as a threat to her. She is afraid and has changed the activities of her daily life since receiving them,” wrote a police officer Seattle on indictments.
Finseth, 42, of Shoreline, was hired by the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) in March 2002. The 33-year-old employee Finseth allegedly wanted to start was hired by city officials in August 2010, according to a Seattle Times database. Both men work in Station 2 on the 2300 block on Fourth Avenue.
Finseth was SFD’s 2018 Firefighter of the Year, according to a video and blog post from the department.
A voice message left on Finseth’s phone was not returned immediately on Wednesday. It is not yet clear from the court files which lawyer is representing him.
Second degree identity theft is a Class C crime, while the two cyberstalking charges are gross offenses.
Finseth was arrested in an alley east of Station 2 and sent to King County Jail on Friday before being released on personal approval the following day, according to prison and court records. He is being summoned to appear on his trial on March 3rd.
A fire department spokesman said Friday that Finseth had been put on paid administrative leave pending the resolution of the legal process and an internal investigation.
Prosecutors have requested that Finseth be ordered not to contact Sawant or his fellow firefighter and not to leave the state without permission from a judge, the indictments say.
The charges against Finseth state that he and the other firefighter have a “history of negative interactions,” including allegations that Finseth made derogatory statements about the other man’s religion when they drove to a cry for help in 2019. SFD conducted an internal investigation at the time, but the results were inconclusive; During the investigation, the other firefighter revealed that he and Finseth had been involved in a physical battle several years earlier.
A firefighter in charge of personnel operations received an email on December 19 from the 33-year-old firefighter’s city account requesting transfer to another unit, and the captain started processing the application, according to the Charges against Finseth. A few days later, the captain and firefighter in Station 2 were working together, and the captain mentioned the transfer request, which the firefighter charged with not sending.
The firefighter then located the deleted email requesting the transfer and two emails sent to Sawant on December 17th and 19th, which he also declined. The firefighter changed his password after a second referral request, but another email was sent to Sawant from his account on Jan. 4.
A fourth email was sent to Sawant on January 18, according to the charges.
During the police investigation, detectives found that on each of the days the emails were sent from his colleague’s account, Finseth was using IP addresses traced back to Finseth’s Shoreline residence and Everett Church, which he has been since Attended at least 2005, was off duty fees. Investigators found that his fire department colleague was on duty on all but one of these days.
According to police, “Finseth reported that he had no intention of harming Sawant and did not want her to be harmed,” but sent Sawant emails knowing that his associate lived in her district.