By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office says it learned an expert witness it used multiple times was untruthful about her credentials, including on the witness stand in court.
Toni Nelson has worked in Lewis County as a victim’s advocate, and has testified in at three least trials, primarily about delayed reporting in sex crime cases, according to Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer.
Meyer said in the past Nelson had indicated she graduated from a specific college, but he now knows she attended there but left before earning her degree.
Meyer said she also had said she had a nursing degree and was a certified teacher, both of which she admitted to him were not true.
The prosecutor said he was given information tipping him off in early January, did some research and then two weeks ago met with her and asked her specific questions.
“We’re just trying to figure out how widespread this is, ” Meyer said today.
Nelson has worked for the White Pass Community Coalition, the Human Response Network and at one time was associated with Fresh Start, according to Meyer.
The statute of limitations for bringing charges of perjury is three years, and has passed, he said. The last time prosecutors had her testify was 2010, he said.
Meyer said so far they have found Nelson had involvement in approximately five dozen cases with the prosecutors office.
He said now he’s primarily working to contact and make sure victims and defendants are notified.
“She’s had training, but the problem is, once you’re not truthful on the stand, that taints everything you say,” Meyer said.
Centralia attorney Shane O’Rourke is representing Nelson, but indicated he’s restrained from saying specifically when or why he is hired in any client’s case.
“My function is to represent somebody who is presently having significant allegations brought,” O’Rourke said this afternoon.
O’Rourke said he understands how the prosecutor’s office, if they believe they have something like they say they do, would need to look back over cases to try to determine if it could have drastic consequences.
“I can’t talk about any of the particulars at this point,” he said. “There may come a time when I can not be vague.”
He said he’s known Nelson as a professional acquaintance for about eight years, as an individual working in social services, someone known for things such as getting up at 2 o’clock in the morning to give people rides to shelters.
“I think you’d be hard pressed to find many people who have anything negative to say about her involvement,” he said. “And people would attest to the fact that this is a person who has dedicated a huge chunk of her life and career and doing what she could to help other people.”