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Molesters: 1 gets prison, 1 gets treatment

Two child molesters received dramatically different sentences during back-to-back hearings in Island County Superior Court last Thursday.

A jury convicted Christopher Mazdra, a 27-year-old Coupeville resident, of three counts of a rape of a child in the third degree following a trial in February. He had sex with a 14-year-old girl when he was 24 years old.

Raymond Snyder, a 57-year-old Camano Island resident, pleaded guilty to first-degree child molestation and first-degree incest. He sexually molested and raped his daughter over a four-year period, beginning when she was just six years old, according to court documents.

In both cases, the defense attorneys requested that their clients be sentenced under the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative, or SSOSA. The program allows a sex offender to receive a lighter sentence, or escape prison altogether, if he or she completes a special treatment program.

In both cases, the prosecution argued against the SSOSA, instead urging the judge to send the offenders to prison.

After listening to lengthy arguments and pleas, Judge Vickie Churchill sentenced Mazdra under the SSOSA program, which means he will have to undergo treatment and abide by stringent conditions for five years.

On the other hand, she sentenced Snyder to a prison term of five years and seven months to life. He has to serve at least the minimum sentence of five years and seven months, but could possibly be held in prison for the rest of his life if the Department of Corrections finds it necessary.

Churchill noted that Snyder had also molested another daughter many years ago, but never saw any consequences for his actions.

“When we turned the rock over, we saw a lot of nasty things come out,” she said. “It’s just that so many people didn’t turn the rock over.”

Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme tried the case against Mazdra. At the hearing Thursday, Ohme said Mazdra not only had sex with the victim in the case, but admitted to having sex with other underaged girls. He trolled for his victims at the Oak Harbor library and bus stops.

“He knew all along what he was doing was illegal,” Ohme said, “and he knew all along what he was doing was wrong.”

Mazdra was also convicted of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. The victim was a 13-year-old handicapped girl.

Ohme noted that it’s very unusual for a sex offender to receive a SSOSA after being convicted in a trial. He said the victim had to take the stand and undergo vigorous and painful cross-examination. He said the victim wants Mazdra to receive the toughest sentence possible.

Mazdra’s attorney, Craig Platt of Coupeville, explained that it wasn’t Mazdra’s fault that the case went to trial, but it was an unfortunate legal maneuver by his former attorney.

Platt described Mazdra as a developmentally and physically disabled man who would benefit with the treatment and structure provided by the SSOSA program. He said the young man would be extremely motivated to comply with the program.

“I’ve never seen anyone more afraid to go to prison than Mr. Mazdra,” he said, noting that Mazdra already had been assaulted in Island County jail.

Mazdra’s mother described her son’s difficult life. He was born early and weighed only 2 1/2 pounds. He had multiple birth defects and suffered from attention deficit disorder in school.

She said her son has a mental age of 14 years old, which she said is why he befriended teenaged girls.

“Chris would never intentionally harm anyone,” she said. “If I thought he had forced himself, I would be the first to say, ‘lock him up and throw away the keys’.”

Platt read a statement written by his client in which he apologized profusely. “I promise to be good, follow my treatment and never get into any trouble again,” he said.

In sentencing Mazdra under SSOSA, Churchill explained that she felt the young man and the community would benefit if he received treatment. She sentenced him to nine months in jail, with credit for time served. He’s been in jail since last August.

“We often forget that people who are put in prison eventually get out,” she said.

After Churchill sentenced him, the teenaged victim bolted from the courtroom and loudly sobbed in the hallway.

Under the SSOSA program, Mazdra must attend weekly treatment from a certified sex-offender treatment provider; obtain and maintain employment; avoid places where he may encounter potential victims; and avoid alcohol and pornography. He will be supervised by the Department of Corrections.

The Island County Sheriff’s Office classified Mazdra as a Level 3 sex offender this week, which means officials consider him a high-risk to re-offend. If he does re-offend or violate the conditions of his SSOSA, Mazdra will likely face many years in prison.

In contrast to Mazdra, Snyder was a rocket scientist working for Boeing and a father of eight children, according to attorney Charles Markwell.

Deputy Prosecutor Margot Carter argued that Snyder wasn’t amenable to treatment under the SSOSA program because he is arrogant about his intelligence and will see treatment as a game. She said the pre-sentence investigation revealed that his crimes were more serious than previously realized.

“This is a very extreme violation of this young girl,” she said. “There was a lot of grooming that went on.”

Carter pointed out that Snyder wasn’t honest in polygraph exams and also violated court orders by asking his son to talk his wife and daughter into dropping the charges.

One of Snyder’s adult daughters spoke in court, urging the judge to send her father to prison.

Markwell, on the other hand, said Snyder has mental problems and would benefit greatly from treatment.

“He can be fixed,” he said, “and he wants to be fixed.”

Snyder gave a long and rambling speech in which he asked for treatment, but seemed to minimize his crimes. He said his “biggest problem” was arrogance.

“I was less honorable than an otherwise Christian man should have been...” he said, as if he was talking about shoplifting. “For this simple crime there is perhaps a simple cure — therapy.”

After sentencing him to prison, Churchill advised Snyder to seek therapy in prison.

“It’s not the end for you,” she said. “You can change, if you want to change, you certainly can.”

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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