County employee admits theft only to be set free

County employee admits theft only to be set free »Play Video
(Action News photo)

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Wash. -- Dennis Huston was released from jail despite all the reasons cited that he could be a flight risk.

Huston accused of stealing more than a million dollars from taxpayers, but charges were never officially filed. Despite police saying Huston admitted to the crime. Many thought that's all the evidence they would need. But as of Tuesday afternoon, Huston is out of jail, and facing no charges. Cars crowded the Huston home as KEPR rang the doorbell.

>>Click here to read a statement from the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office

KEPR reporter Melanie Tubbs asked, "Is Dennis Huston here?"
They replied, "Are you the news? You can go away"

For now, he seeks safety here in his Pasco home. We talked to one neighbor who's lived here for 30 years, just 4 doors down and was very vocal about the latest developments.

"I don't understand really because if I get a DUI, I go to jail."

Last week, Huston was booked on suspicion of money laundering, theft and drug charges. The case is being handled by state prosecutors who had until Tuesday afternoon to file charges or let him go. And let him go they did.

In a statement by Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant, he says the Attorney General's Office cited "The voluminous amount of evidence that must be reviewed...If charges were filed prematurely...this could compromise successful prosecution." It's little comfort to Huston's neighbor.

Rose said, "He's not being held accountable."

Sant spent the day in Olympia helping to get the charges completed.
I reached him by phone.

KEPR asked, "Huston lives about a quarter mile or so from the airport.. Are you worried about him as a flight risk?"
"That's certainly a concern. He does have strong family ties to the area but we anticipate getting a full review complete as soon as possible," says Sant.

He says the decision to release him was made to assure that when the trial begins, the state won't have to worry about taking time for evidence review and running into breaking laws of a speedy trial.
"Didn't they do an audit? What other evidence do they need?" Rose asks.

To get a conviction, they'll need plenty. And as KEPR reported Monday, Huston is no stranger to stealing money from taxpayers. He took more than 140,000 money from the U.S. Government back in the late 80's and was sentenced to four years in prison.

Huston quickly turned up in Franklin County and the amount missing this time -- is expected to top a million dollars. Yet he's out of these jailbird stripes and free to walk the streets again. This unexpected delay also means that eight of Huston's fellow employees will remain on paid leave until the investigation is finished.

The prosecutor's office wants to make it clear, you shouldn't jump to any conclusions about those workers and only calls this a "necessary step" for the investigation.