(Cass County, ND) -- The Cass County Sheriff's Office is sharing documents related to an internal investigation targeting "inappropriate" photo and text messages sent to a deputy in September of 2021.
According to documents released by the sheriff's office, the investigation focused on text messages sent by Sheriff's Lieutenant Tommy Ray to an unnamed male deputy. Ray texted a frontal nude photo of himself to the colleague. The photo was sent on a county owned phone.
An investigation was conducted by both the Cass County Sheriff's Office and the Office of Professional Standards. The investigation concluded Ray sent a photo of his genitals to the Deputy accidentally, and had intended to send the photo to his wife. Ray says he accidentally attached the photo to someone he had contacted recently, and that happened to be the unnamed deputy he had texted three days prior. The investigation also reveals Ray had sent photos to his wife using the county issued phone "approximately three other times."
The investigations determined Ray did not violate any state or federal laws with his actions, but did violate county policies because the "inappropriate nude photograph" was sent using a county government owned cell phone. Ray received a written reprimand as punishment for sending the photo on county owned technology. The reprimand also states if Ray continued with similar policy violations, a "significantly stronger disciplinary response" would be required.
The documents also show the unnamed deputy expressed concerns about the investigation and its results. North Dakota State's Attorney Birch Burdick and Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner spoke with the unnamed deputy about concerns he still had following the investigation. The deputy voiced several concerns; including the amount of time it took to conduct the investigation. The deputy also expressed fears the investigation would get "swept under the rug" and would impact future promotions. He also told Sheriff Jahner and Burdick he believes if a female colleague had received the image, the investigation would have been conducted differently and faster. The deputy asserted the investigation was not conducted seriously.
Sheriff Jahner addressed many of the concerns voiced by the unnamed deputy in a document released by the sheriff's office. Sheriff Jahner wrote, "I do not feel this situation was swept under the rug as suggested," and says he stands by the investigative process. Jahner says the investigation could not prove Ray intentionally sent the photo to the unnamed deputy, and concluded the incident was isolated. Jahner contends Ray "used very bad judgment and made a very bad decision by using his department-issued cell phone in this manner," and that he is "extremely disappointed" with Ray's behavior.