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Sequim youth found guilty of child molestation

by Amanda Winters
Sequim Gazette


Nearly two years after he was arrested on suspicion of child rape and incest, a Sequim teen was found guilty of lesser charges and sentenced to be held in juvenile detention until his 21st birthday.

The boy, who will be 18 later this month, was arrested in January 2009 and charged with one count of first-degree incest and two counts of first-degree child rape. On Nov. 17 he was found guilty of the amended charges of first-degree child molestation and indecent exposure.

The boy will not be named by the Sequim Gazette because he was prosecuted as a juvenile. Additionally, victims of sex crimes are not identified by the Sequim Gazette.

Guilty of lesser charges

Judge S. Brooke Taylor found the juvenile guilty of first-degree child molestation for having sexual contact with a neighbor boy, who was 7 years old at the time. The victim’s family was present for the stipulated trial, where the judge heard previously agreed upon evidence, and cried when the juvenile was found guilty.

The indecent exposure conviction stemmed from a 2008 incident where the defendant inappropriately touched himself in front of a 7-year-old female relative. The juvenile was 16.

“We’ve been at this for over 22 months,” Taylor said before pronouncing the defendant guilty.

Taylor said the case took so long because of the seriousness of the charges and the complex legal issues involving juvenile defendants and young witnesses.

Clallam County Deputy Prosecutor Tracey Lassus originally pushed for the defendant, along with his younger brother who is charged with similar crimes, to be tried as adults.

Later the victims were found to be incompetent as witnesses and they could not testify during the trial.

Taylor said the defendant’s admission of the crimes to investigators, along with the spontaneous description of the event by his female relative and the emotional disclosure the neighbor made to his stepmother, was enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant’s guilt.

Emotional pleas at sentencing

During the juvenile’s sentencing, the male victim’s family read statements, including a letter written by the victim himself.

“What you did to me was wrong,” the letter read. “I’m scared of you. I’m glad you’re in jail.”

The victim’s grandmother emotionally pleaded with the court to impose a 10-year sentence.

She said her grandson, now a 9-year-old, lives in fear of going outside to play and has to pass by where the molestation occurred every day.

“I find you not only molested my grandson’s body but his mind and soul,” she said.

Lassus told the court she thought the juvenile needed intensive mental health treatment along with sex offender treatment, in custody.

“We need to intervene now,” she said, adding the adult justice system doesn’t have the same level of services as the juvenile system.

“This is our chance to give him his future.”

Lassus requested a 250-week sentence with credit for 94 weeks served.

The juvenile’s grandmother told the court she has seen a significant change in him since he was arrested.
“I feel he has servedenough time already for his offense,” she said, offering for him to live with her.

Public Defender Suzanne Hayden agreed with the grandmother and asked the court to release him to his grandmother.

The 22 months he already served in custody were twice the maximum sentencing range for the charges, Hayden  said.

The juvenile put his head in his hands and sobbed during Hayden’s statement.

When it was his turn to address the court he stood, took a deep breath, and apologized to everyone affected by what happened.

“I want to change,” he said between sobs. “I can change.”

Taylor ultimately determined the boy would be held in juvenile detention while receiving intensive mental health and sex offender treatment, until he turns 21.

“I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that we can provide you what you need so you can come out whole,” he said.

 

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