A therapist who was caught in a compromising position at Deception Pass Bridge with a teenage patient pleaded to a misdemeanor charge as part of a plea bargain.
Jamie M. Wright, a former drug-and-alcohol counselor, was accused of carrying on a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy and exchanging sex-related texts and photos with him , allegedly beginning when he was just 15 years old, according to court documents.
While the incident at the bridge occurred when the boy was at the age of consent, the fact that she had been his counselor made the case potentially criminal, according to Island County Chief Criminal Prosecutor Eric Ohme.
Wright, a 35-year-old Marysville resident, was originally charged last August with two counts of felony communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.
Ohme said it would have been risky to take the case to trial. There was a good chance, he said, that evidence obtained from the police stop at the bridge would have been inadmissible; as a result, the texts and photos would also be inadmissible as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”
One of the concerns is that Wright was detained longer than is allowed in a “Terry stop,” a brief detention by police based on suspicion of a crime but lacking the probable cause for an arrest.
Ohme said he doesn’t fault the deputies involved in the stop. The detention took longer than normal because deputies had trouble identifying the boy and contacting his mother; they also had trouble with cell-phone service at the bridge.
“They did the right thing,” Ohme said. “The circumstances were against them.”
Ohme said the alleged victim was not cooperative so he could have been left without any evidence if he had gone to trial.
Under the plea bargain, Wright pleaded guilty to a single count of indecent exposure last month. She also stipulated to unprofessional conduct, which should aid the state Department of Health in its licensing-related investigation, Ohme said. She agreed to a psychological evaluation and to complete any recommended counseling.
In addition, she agreed to refrain from any one-on-one contact with minors as a therapist.
Wright received a 90-day jail sentence with 90 days suspended for 12 months. She was ordered to pay a $250 fine and complete 50 hours of community service.
According to the police report, Deputy Robert Mirabal with the Island County Sheriff’s Office was patrolling North Whidbey early in the morning of Feb. 20, 2016, when he saw a car parked in the parking lot next to Deception Pass Bridge. He investigated since cars aren’t allowed to park in the lot at night.
He shined his light into the car and saw a woman straddling a young man in the front passenger seat; they were both clothed but the woman had her boots off.
Mirabal asked for their IDs and detained them. He called the boy’s mother, who identified Wright as her son’s former counselor at Catholic Community Services Recovery Center in Skagit County.
Mirabal seized cell phones from the boy and Wright. While turning off the boy’s phone, he saw an image that appeared to be Wright, partially clothed and in a provocative pose, according to the report by Detective Chris Peabody.
Detectives analyzed the cell phones as well as the teenager’s Facebook page and found more images and messages that indicated Wright had a sexual relationship with the teenager, the report states. Peabody notes that Wright was in a position of authority over the victim, especially since treatment impacted his probation status.
Wright was employed by Catholic Community Services Recovery Center from 2008 until Feb. 23 of 2016.