Proposed special sentence for South Whidbey child molester draws opposition

The perpetrator pleaded guilty in Island County Superior Court Jan. 3

A 12-year-old victim of sexual assault was ostracized and bullied relentlessly at South Whidbey Middle School after news of what happened to her spread on social media and her fellow students blamed her for being “promiscuous,” according to a statement her parents provided to a court.

Overwhelmed and without friends, the girl began to fail classes and eventually dropped out. She developed emotional problems, including suicidal ideation, and isolated herself in in a world of depression. Like many victims of sexual abuse, she lashed out at those around her.

Her parents have gotten her help, including long-term hospitalization, but they fear for her future.

The perpetrator, who was 17 years old at the time of the crimes, pleaded guilty in Island County Superior Court Jan. 3 to child molestation in the second degree and communication with a minor for immoral purposes. The standard sentencing range for the crimes is 31 to 41 months in prison.

Under the terms of the plea bargain, the prosecutor will recommend to the judge that the defendant, who is now 19 years old, be sentenced under a special program for sexual offenders that promotes therapy over incarceration.

The Record generally doesn’t use juvenile defendant’s names in non-homicide cases.

Under the proposed Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative, the prosecutor will recommend that the judge impose a sentence of 41 months but suspend it. As a condition of the suspended sentence, the prosecutor recommends a three-month jail term and 41 months of community custody with the condition that the young man engage in and complete sexual deviancy treatment.

A certified sex offender treatment provider evaluated the young man and found that he presents a low risk of future sexual misconduct, that he is highly amenable to treatment and that he is a strong candidate for community-based treatment.

The victim and her parents, however, oppose the special sentence. A victim impact statement describes the man as a predator who groomed and molested the pre-teen girl and irreparably injured an entire family.

In an unusual move, the Department of Corrections is also recommending against the special sentence and is urging the judge to send the man to prison for two years and seven months. The recommendation is based on a Department of Corrections officer’s pre-sentence investigation report, which is a requirement before sentencing in sex crimes.

In the report, the officer wrote that the man’s actions meet the statutory definition of predatory because he admitted to molesting the girl on multiple occasions and his text messages show that he offered “the possibility of a platonic relationship in passing, but mostly acknowledge their age gap, then always refer to sex and sexual interactions.” The officer opines that the man could still present a danger to other young girls, though the certified sex offender treatment provider found that the risk of his reoffending is low.

During an assessment, the man “endorsed a number of attitudes/beliefs that condone sexual abuse,” the report states. He agreed with such statements as “some kids like sex with adults because it makes them feel wanted and loved” and “some people turn to children for sex because they were deprived of sex from adult women,” according to the report.

In addition, the report points out that state law requires the judge to “give great weight” to the victim’s opinion before imposing a Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative.

The report states that the young man admitted his actions and said he wanted to deal with the charges in the “least conflicting way possible.”

“I know I messed up,” he reportedly told the Department of Corrections. “I’m open to going to treatment. I’m not trying to fight it.”

The report indicates that he has strong support from his family, graduated from high school and has a healthy relationship with a woman his age.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 4 before Judge Carolyn Cliff.