Category Archives: Sex Crimes

WA Court of Appeals Upholds “Net Nanny” Sting Operation

Net Nanny' sting nets 21 child predator arrests in Pierce County – KIRO 7 News Seattle

Photo courtesy of Kiro News 7.

In State v. Stott, the WA Court of Appeals held that a “Net Nanny” police sting operation was not outrageous government conduct, even though the police used deception, because the defendant clearly pursued the “victim.”

For those who don’t know, “Net Nanny” sting operations infiltrate online communities where child exploitation activities often take place. Undercover officers pose as minors and engage with individuals involved in soliciting children for sexual purposes. Through careful investigation and monitoring, law enforcement agencies are able to gather evidence and identify perpetrators.


Mr. Stott allegedly communicated with an undercover Washington State Patrol (WSP) officer who was posing as a fictional 13-year-old girl (“Kaci”). Mr. Stott was now targetted in an online sting operation aimed to find and arrest adults seeking sex with children. Stott was apprehended by police upon leaving his home to meet up with “Kaci.” He was charged with numerous sex offenses.

Stott moved to dismiss the charges against him. He claimed he was denied due process as a result of outrageous government conduct stemming from the sting operation. The trial court, after applying the five-factor test outlined in State v. Lively, denied the motion. Stott was convicted following a jury trial. He appealed his conviction on grounds that the trial court improperly denied his motion to dismiss.


The WA Court of Appeals (COA) began by saying outrageous government conduct happens when the actions of law enforcement officers are so outrageous that due process principles would absolutely bar the government from invoking judicial processes to obtain a conviction. For the police conduct to violate due process, the conduct must shock the universal sense of fairness.

Next, the COA re-analyzed the the five-factor test outlined in State v. Lively. The test addresses whether government conduct constitutes a due process violation under the “totality of the circumstances.” Our supreme court in Lively outlined five factors for courts to consider in determining whether outrageous government conduct occurred: The five factors are (1) whether the police conduct instigated a crime or merely infiltrated ongoing criminal activity; (2) whether the defendant’s reluctance to commit a crime was overcome by pleas of sympathy, promises of excessive profits, or persistent solicitation; (3) whether the government controls the criminal activity or simply allows for the criminal activity to occur; (4) whether the police motive was to prevent crime or protect the public; and (5) whether the government conduct itself amounted to criminal activity or conduct ‘repugnant to a sense of justice.’

1. Whether the Police Instigated the Crime

The COA reasoned the State did not instigate the crime, but merely infiltrated potential criminal activity. Here, the initial advertisement did not specifically target Stott. He initiated the exchange by responding to the ad. Stott continued to text “Kaci” after he learned that she was underage. He did not at any time seek to withdraw from the exchange, even when he expressed some concern that he was possibly being set up. Finally, it was Stott who introduced sexually explicit language to the conversation.

2. Overcoming Reluctance by Persistent Solicitation

The COA held the trial court did not abuse its discretion in weighing this Lively factor against Stott. The COA reasoned that other than brief mentions of his fear of being “catfished,” Stott willingly and repeatedly engaged “Kaci” and made no attempts to discontinue the interaction. Stott did not reject “Kaci” after being told that he was interacting with a minor. Moreover, Stott did not make affirmative attempts to end the conversation. Furthermore, Stott took affirmative steps to meet “Kaci” in person. He drove down to Puyallup to meet her and offered to pay for an Uber to bring her to Seattle on multiple occasions.

3. Control of Criminal Activity

This Lively factor asks “whether the government controls the criminal activity or
simply allows for the criminal activity to occur.” Here, the COA held the trial court rightfully concluded that Stott “was in the driver’s seat.” It reasoned Stott told “Kaci” what acts he wanted her to perform and negotiated how much he was willing to pay. Furthermore, Stott brought up the topics of contraceptives, payment, Ubers, and a meeting location.

4. The Government’s Motive 

This Lively factor asks whether the police motive was to prevent crime or protect the
public. Here, the COA reasoned the trial court rightfully found that the “Net Nanny” operation is designed to catch would-be sexual abusers before they have a chance to sexually assault an actual child. Furthermore, Stott’s suggestion that he was not otherwise inclined to engage in sex with a child and only acquired that inclination in response to “Kaci’s” enticements is wholly belied by the evidence that was presented to the trial court.

5. Repugnant to Sense of Justice

The final Lively factor is “whether the government conduct itself amounted to criminal activity or conduct “repugnant to a sense of justice.” On this issue, Stott argued that the government’s conduct was repugnant because “Kaci” used lewd and vulgar language during her communications. In response, however, the COA determined that Stott was just as lewd and vulgar in his language as “Kaci,” and the evidence presented to the court for its consideration on the motion supports that determination.

With that, the COA  concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Stott’s motion to dismiss for outrageous government conduct. Accordingly, the COA affirmed Stott’s conviction.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

WA Privacy Act Does Not Suppress or Protect Audio Recordings of Sexual Assault

Recorded conversations: A warning and call for change - Tampa Bay Business & Wealth

In State v. Kamara, the WA Court of Appeals held that the recorded sounds of a sexual assault are not a “private conversation” as defined by the Privacy Act.  Therefore, a recording of such sounds, made without the consent of the defendant, is admissible at trial.


Under Washington’s Privacy Act, it is generally unlawful to record a private conversation without first obtaining consent of all persons engaged in the conversation. And evidence obtained in violation of the privacy act is typically inadmissible at trial.

Mr. Kamara and B.T. met at a mutual friend’s birthday party in July 2019. B.T. had seen Kamara before at various events with members of the Liberian community. B.T. knew Kamara as JR. After the party, Kamara sent B.T. a friend request on Facebook. They began messaging each other on Facebook. Kamara asked B.T. out but she declined because she was in a relationship. Kamara was persistent and asked several more times.

Because Kamara kept pushing, on August 30, 2019, B.T. agreed to meet with him. Once at Kamara’s apartment, Kamara offered B.T. a drink. B.T. declined, but Kamara poured her some wine. They watched a program on TV. After some time, Kamara sat next to B.T. on the couch and then he began putting his hands on her, stroking down her arm, and leaning against her.

B.T. got up to use his bathroom and give herself some time to think. While in the bathroom, B.T. activated a recording app on her phone. At first, she just played with it, recording sounds and then listening. The next time she activated it, she got a notification and switched to a different app on her phone without stopping the recording.

When she returned to the living room, B.T. sat farther away from Kamara on the couch and continued scrolling through her social media to distract herself. Kamara moved closer and began making sexual remarks and advances toward B.T. B.T. told him she had to go, since she had work the next morning, but Kamara insisted she stay until 2:00 a.m. B.T. told Kamara “no” multiple times and told Kamara not to touch her.

B.T. told Kamara she would just nap on the couch until he took her home at 2:00 a.m., but he wanted her to go to his room. Kamara forced B.T. into his bedroom by pulling her off the couch and pushing her back until she was pushed onto his bed. He pinned her arms to the bed and then used his full body weight on her so she couldn’t move. He pulled her pants down and raped her while she cried and repeatedly told him “no, don’t, and I don’t want to do this.” B.T. tried to fight him off, but did not succeed.

Sounds of the ordeal were audio-recorded on B.T.’s phone.

After B.T. continued to cry and beg Kamara to stop, he finally got off of her and walked out of the room. B.T. testified that she felt defeated. When Kamara returned and started touching her again, B.T. didn’t fight, she “just let him do what he had to do.” Kamara then offered to take her home. Once home, B.T. texted her best friend about what had happened.

The next day, B.T.’s friend took her to Auburn Regional Medical Center where B.T. underwent a sexual assault examination. Afterward, she discovered the audio recording on her cell phone. She emailed the recording to police. Kamara was arrested and charged with rape in the second degree.


Before trial, Kamara moved under CrR 3.6 to suppress the audio recording as inadmissible under Washington’s privacy act, RCW 9.73.030. The trial judge found that the contents of the recording do not capture a conversation.

“What is recorded is not an exchange of information,” said the trial judge. “Instead, what it captures is an act of sexual assault.” The entire recording was played for the jury. As a result, the jury found Kamara guilty of rape in the second degree.

Kamara appealed his conviction. He argued that the trial judge erred in admitting the victim’s cell phone audio recording of the rape because it was a private conversation made without his consent and violated the privacy act.


The Court of Appeals began by saying that Washington’s Privacy Act is considered one of the most restrictive in the nation. Under the Privacy Act, it is generally unlawful to record a private conversation without first obtaining consent of all persons engaged in the conversation. Information obtained in violation of the act is inadmissible in any civil or criminal case.

The Court discussed whether a recorded communication is “conversation.” Following that, it discussed whether the communication between Kamara and B.T. was a conversation.

“In determining whether a communication between individuals constitutes a ‘conversation’ under the privacy act, courts use the ordinary meaning of the term: “oral exchange, discourse, or discussion.” State v. David Smith, 85 Wn.2d 840, 846, 540 P.2d 424 (1975). Recordings of sounds that do not constitute a ‘conversation’ do not implicate the privacy act. David Smith, 85 Wn.2d 846. In particular, sounds of an assaultive act are not a conversation protected by the privacy act; a recording of such noise is admissible.” ~WA Court of Appeals.

Based on its review of the recording, the Court of Appeals agree with the trial court’s conclusion that the last nine minutes of the recording do not constitute a conversation, and instead record an assault.

But there is no “exchange of ideas and words” in the last nine minutes of the recording. And unlike in both Smith cases, the recording did not capture brief oral exchanges between B.T. and Kamara.

With that, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the last nine minutes of the recording contains the sounds of a sexual assault being committed. “This portion of the recording is not a private conversation as contemplated by the privacy act,” said the COurt of Appeals. It affirmed Kamara’s conviction and rejected his appeal.

My opinion? Washington courts are very protective of citizens’ privacy. Privacy issues are often implicated when law enforcement uses any form of electronic surveillance. True, Washington’s one-party consent law is among the most restrictive in the nation. Most legal and policy issues in this area involve the non-consensual acquisition of “private” communications. This is a highly sensitive area because it involves both fear of “big brother” and concerns for privacy.

Clearly, however, situations such as this case circumvent the protections of WA’s Privacy Act.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Backlog of WA Rape Kits Eliminated

Oklahoma awarded grant to address rape kit backlog | KOKH

In a press release, State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that the last of more than 10,000 sexual assault kits have been cleared from shelves and sent to labs for testing. This marks a major milestone for the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. Washington’s backlog of rape kits has effectively been eliminated.

According to the press release, clearing the backlog and testing the kits has helped solve at least 21 sexual assault cases. The testing has resulted in more than 2,100 “hits” in the national DNA database, known as CODIS. A hit occurs when a DNA sample matches an individual or another case in the database, which generally consists of offenders.

“Effectively ending our sexual assault kit backlog is a historic step toward justice — but our work on behalf of survivors is not done. Through this collective effort, we ensured that survivors’ voices are heard, reformed a broken system, improved testing times, and solved crimes. This success proves that government can solve big problems when we work together. We are committed to working with our partners in law enforcement to prevent any more backlogs so we have the best chance of solving these serious crimes.” ~WA Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

In short, all 10,134 backlogged sexual assault kits found in the office’s inventory have been tested or submitted to a private lab for testing. The Washington State Patrol is still reviewing approximately 1,000 tested kits, many of which will be added to CODIS. That process should be completed by the end of the year.

Ferguson has worked with local law enforcement to collect DNA samples from registered sex offenders, violent offenders and individuals convicted of serious felonies who failed to comply with a legal obligation to provide their DNA. As a result, more than 2,000 new profiles have been added to the national DNA database.

Forensic genetic genealogy grants from Ferguson’s office have helped solve multiple cold cases across the state. The Attorney General’s Office has also provided more than $177,000 in grants to 53 local law enforcement agencies across the state with funding for refrigeration units to store evidence from sexual assault investigations.

Statute of Limitations

Given Washington’s backlog, a potential defense to sex offense charges is that the filing violates the Statute of limitations (SOL).

The statute of limitations is a statute that sets the maximum amount of time after an incident that the plaintiff has to initiate legal proceedings. Simply put, the statute of limitations sets the time limit that the State has to criminally charge the defendant. In 2019, Washington changed its statute of limitation (SOL) laws for sex offenses. Here’s a quick summary of SOL’s for specific offenses.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Prosecution Is Not Required To Prove Nudity When Seeking Indecent Exposure Charges

What Is Indecent Exposure? | Britton & Time Solicitors

In State v. Thompson, the WA Court of Appeals held that Washington’s Indecent Exposure Statute does not require the prosecution to prove the defendant was actual nude. Furthermore, the statute is not unconstitutionally vague.


Three 12-year-old girls playing in an apartment complex playground saw Mr. Thompson “touching his privates while looking at them” from his own apartment. One of the girls vividly described Thompson’s erect—but clothed—penis, and all three described him masturbating or touching himself over his clothing.

The State charged Thompson with felony indecent exposure under RCW 9A.88.010. Thompson twice moved to dismiss the charges. He argued that nudity is a required element of the crime. The trial court eventually granted the motion. It found that the law was unconstitutionally vague as applied to Thompson, who would not have known that his actions were prohibited.

The State appealled the dismissal of Thompson’s charges.


The WA Court of Appeals addressed whether the Indecent Exposure Statute was constitutionally vague.

“A statute can be challenged as being facially vague or vague as applied,” said the Court. Here, the Indecent Exposure statute in question states the following:

“A person is guilty of indecent exposure if he or she intentionally makes any open and obscene exposure of his or her person or the person of another knowing that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm. The act of breastfeeding or expressing breast milk is not indecent exposure.” ~RCW 9A.88.010(1)

The court reasoned that Thompson’s deconstruction of the phrase “open and obscene exposure of his or her person” fails for two reasons. First, the terms “nudity” or “nude” or “clothed” or “unclothed” do not appear anywhere in the statute. “If the legislature wanted to criminalize nudity, as Thompson claims, it certainly knew how,” said the Court.

Second, our courts consistently have defined the phrase “obscene exposure,” not by breaking down the definition into its constituent parts as Thompson does, but by interpreting the phrase as a whole. “In short, our courts have defined the phrase “obscene exposure,” not as nudity, but as a kind of wrongful exhibition,” said the Court.

The Court further reasoned that as a matter of law, Indecent Exposure requires, not only exhibition of the genitals, but obscenity, i.e., lascivious behavior judged as improper by society.

“It is the exhibition and the behavior which are the gravamen of the crime. There would be no basis to prosecute the athletic, artistic, humorous, or celebratory display of the body, which in most contexts “common decency” requires a person not to display, unless it would also be deemed lascivious (i.e., filled with sexual desire) and improper by the common person.” ~WA Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals concluded that under Thompson’s logic, a barely veiled erect penis used in the most sexualized and unwelcome manner imaginable would not be considered obscene because the genitalia is at least not naked. “Our interpretation of the statute does not allow such absurd results,” said the Court.

With that, the WA Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court erred in dismissing Thompson’s charge at issue as unconstitutionally vague. It reversed and vacated Thompson’s Dismissal Order and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Forensic Genetic Genealogy Is Admissible Evidence At Trial

How DNA was discovered and the cases it has helped solve

In State v. Hartman  the WA Court of Appeals held a defendant has no privacy interest in bodily fluids that he “abandons” at a crime scene. A defendant also lacks standing to challenge a search of the DNA of relatives that were voluntarily uploaded to a public database.


In 1986, MW, a 12-year-old girl, was raped and murdered in a Tacoma park. The killer left semen on MW’s body, but his DNA did not match that of any suspects or anyone in police databases for the next 30 years.

In 2018, police enlisted Parabon Nanolabs, a DNA technology company, to analyze the killer’s DNA and to upload it into GEDmatch, a consumer DNA database, looking for partial familial matches that would help identify the killer. Police did not secure a warrant to analyze the abandoned DNA or to compare it with DNA in the GEDmatch database.

Parabon learned that several of the killer’s cousins had DNA in the GEDmatch database. Parabon used information from the database and public records to construct family trees. Parabon then directed police to try to obtain a DNA sample from Gary Charles Hartman. Police obtained a discarded napkin containing Hartman’s DNA, and it matched the DNA from semen on MW’s body. The State charged Hartman with first degree felony murder.

Before trial, Hartman moved to suppress the DNA evidence, arguing that Parabon’s comparison of the DNA sample from the crime scene to the GEDmatch database was unconstitutional. He also asserted that the DNA later collected from the napkin directly linking him to the murder was inadmissible as fruit of the poisonous tree. Hartman did not argue below that he had any privacy interest in DNA left at the crime scene, nor did he challenge the collection and testing of DNA from the discarded napkin.

The trial court ruled that Hartman did not have legal standing to challenge the comparison of the DNA from the crime scene to DNA in the GEDmatch database because he did not have a privacy interest in his cousins’ DNA in the database. In addition, Hartman’s relatives had voluntarily uploaded their DNA into the GEDmatch database, and the DNA that Hartman left at the crime scene was abandoned and not private. The trial court denied the motion to suppress. After a bench trial on stipulated facts, the trial court convicted Hartman.

Hartman appealed his conviction. He argues that analyzing the DNA sample from the crime scene and comparing it with the GEDmatch database to look for his relatives’ DNA disturbed his private affairs in violation of article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution. Thus, he argues that he had standing to challenge the DNA comparison. In oral argument, he asserted for the first time that he has a privacy interest in the DNA from the semen abandoned at the crime scene.


The Court of Appeals held there is no privacy interest in commonly held DNA that a relative voluntarily uploads to a public database that openly allows law enforcement access.

“Hartman claims a privacy interest in the segments of his DNA that his relatives had in common with him. But all that police learned from the GEDmatch analysis was the killer’s familial relations, which brought them closer to learning the killer’s identity. And identifying unknown family members is the exact reason that users of consumer databases, like Hartman’s relatives, post their genetic material on those databases.” ~WA Court of Appeals.

The Court also ruled there is no privacy interest in DNA that one abandons at a crime scene.

“Voluntary exposure to the public is relevant to our inquiry and can negate an asserted privacy interest.

Consequently, the Court reasoned that Hartman lost any privacy interest in the semen he left behind or the DNA it contained. Therefore, Hartman’s attempt to challenge any DNA analysis of the semen he left behind on MW’s body fails.

With that, the Court of Appeals affirmed Hartman’s convictions.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime involving Search & Seizure. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

How To Handle False Allegations of Sexual Assault

What Is A Malicious Allegation

I’ve successfully obtained dismissals, reductions or jury acquittals on a large number of sexual assault cases in my career. These cases are inherently challenging. They require an immense amount of time, work, energy, investigations and pre-trial litigation. Those suspected of false allegations must have situational awareness of the threats, risks and criminal exposure that these false allegations carry. In this blog, I’ll discuss how best to handle false claims of sexual assault so that you can move forward in a positive trajectory without fear or shame.

False accusations of sexual assault are harrowing, traumatic and frightening. They can have long-lasting effects on your life, even if the allegation is found to be untrue. When handling false allegations of sexual assault, it’s important to remain calm and take steps to protect yourself from further harm.


Your first step after being accused of sexual assault should be to contact a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in handling sexual assault cases. A criminal defense lawyer can advise you on protecting your legal interests and help guide you through handling false accusations. This could include reaching out to law enforcement or the prosecutor’s office in an effort to avoid charges being filed.

Defense attorneys can challenge eyewitness accounts by showing inconsistencies. They can also seek to suppress identification evidence gathered improperly. They can advise you on gathering evidence that could prove your innocence, such as medical records or witness statements. In addition, they will be able to explain what legal processes are involved in handling sexual assault allegations, such as how to handle any required court appearances.

In Washington State, numerous defenses exist to fight back against these charges. Some of these defenses are as follows:

  • Alibi
  • Consent
  • Duress
  • Entrapment
  • Insanity
  • Reasonable Defense of Victim’s Age

Undoubtedly, your defense begins with contacting a criminal defense attorney.


Our friends in law enforcement are placed in very difficult positions when investigating sexual assault charges. They did not witness the events take place. However, they are contacted by the alleged victim, medical professionals and/or sexual assault advocates to proactively investigate these serious criminal charges and incarcerate suspects when necessary or possible.

Know this: police are not your friend, ally, mediator or protector in these situations. On the contrary, police are doing their best to gather as much evidence as possible in support of the pending sexual assault charges.

Therefore, sexual assault suspects should not talk to police unless they have their lawyer present. Some suspects think that they can clear their name by cooperating completely with a police investigation. In many cases, however, they end up giving law enforcement valuable evidence that incriminates them. Typically, a suspect’s voluntary statements to police are admissible at trial. These voluntary statements make it extremely difficult to defend against a sexual assault charge once it is filed.

By not talking to police, suspects force police to build their own case. It also eliminates the possibility that the suspect will say something that inadvertently or coincidentally incriminates them.


Sexual assault suspects should not talk with others who were involved in the incident. This includes the alleged victim and any witnesses. There is very little to be gained by discussing the incident with anyone. Worse, there is a significant risk of saying something that is incriminating. Chances are high that police will interview everyone involved. A poorly-phrased comment can quickly become evidence against the defendant. Additionally, intimidating or tampering with a victim or witness is a crime.


It is essential to keep track of all correspondence related to the case. This includes saving  emails, text messages and letters from police officers, lawyers, prosecutors, and witnesses. This documentation can be used later as evidence in your defense if needed. You should also keep track of any legal advice that you receive from your defense attorney. This information can be used to refute false claims or statements.


If possible, it’s crucial to gather evidence and witnesses who can attest to your innocence. This may include text messages, emails, video evidence, or other documents showing that the incident never occurred or that a witness is not being truthful. You should also speak with anyone who witnessed the alleged incident or who can provide a character reference for you. A criminal defense attorney can greatly assist in collecting this evidence, and so it is best to consult with an attorney before you begin this process.


It is important to seek emotional support during this difficult time. Speak with friends and family about what is going on and ask them for their help. Consider speaking with a therapist or counselor who can provide additional emotional guidance.

False accusations of sexual assault can be challenging to handle, but remember that you are not alone. By following the steps outlined above, you can protect yourself and your legal interests while handling false claims of sexual assault. With the right help and support, you will come out of this experience stronger and more resilient than ever.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a sex offense. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Hands Are Not An “Instrument or Thing” Used to Prove Assault Third Degree

Fold Your Hands — Coffee + Crumbs

In State v. Altman, the WA Court of Appeals reversed the Defendant’s conviction for Assault Third Degree because there was no evidence that the defendant used anything other than his hands to assault the victim.


The victim A.W. alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Mr. Altman. The State charged Altman with second degree assault with sexual motivation, alleging he intentionally assaulted A.W. by strangulation or suffocation. Alternatively, the State charged Altman with third degree assault with sexual motivation for causing bodily harm to A.W. by means of a weapon or other instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm. The State also charged Altman with second degree rape and unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation

During closing arguments, the State argued that Altman’s hands were a “thing” used to
support a lesser alternative charge of third degree assault:

“I submit to you the State is not saying that there was a weapon used in this case. I submit to you that we’re not saying there was an instrument that was used in this case. However, it also says it can be from a thing likely to produce bodily harm. And I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, a thing can be anything.” State Prosecutor.

The jury found Altman not guilty of second degree rape, second degree assault by
strangulation with sexual motivation, and unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation.
However, the jury found Altman guilty of a lesser alternative charge of third degree assault. Mr. Altman appealed on arguments that the evidence was insufficient to show that he assaulted A.W. with an “instrument or thing.”


The Court of Appeals began with a discussion of the elements required to prove Assault Third Degree. In short, a person is guilty if he “causes bodily harm to another person by means of a weapon or other instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm.”

“The issue here is whether a hand meets the statutory requirement of “other instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm,” said the Court. The Court reviewed State v. Marohl, as reliable caselaw precedent. In Marohl, the court suggested that a casino floor could fall within the statute if it was used to smash someone’s head. Also, the Marohl court applied the dictionary definition to “instrument” and “thing,” describing both as:

“Here, in light of Marohl’s definition of “instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm, hands do not qualify. The State relied solely on Altman’s hands to support the lesser alternative charge of third degree assault. Hands are not a “utensil” or “implement.” Nor are hands “an inanimate object.” Instead, hands are an extension of a person.” ~WA Court of Appeals.

The Court further reasoned that there is no other evidence that Altman used anything other than his hands when grabbing and squeezing A.W.’s neck. Therefore, the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support the essential element of “a weapon or other instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm” for third degree assault.

With that, the Court of Appeals reversed and vacated Altman’s conviction for third degree assault with prejudice.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with Assault or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Conviction Reversed Because Prosecutor Failed to Give Race-Neutral Reasons for Striking Jurors.

The Evolving Debate Over Batson's Procedures for Peremptory Challenges -  National Association of Attorneys General

In State v. Tesfasilasye, the WA Supreme Court reversed a sex offense conviction under GR 37 because the prosecutor failed to give race-neutral reasons for striking two minority jurors.

A brief explanation of GR 37 is necessary. When the WA Supreme Court adopted GR 37 in 2018, it became the first court in the nation to adopt a court rule aimed at eliminating both implicit and intentional racial bias in jury selection. The rule expanded the prohibition against using race based peremptory challenges during jury selection. Not only was intentional race discrimination outlawed, but also challenges based on “implicit, institutional, and unconscious” race and ethnic biases were rejected.


The defendant Mr. Tesfasilasye is a Black Eritrean immigrant whose primary language is Tigrigna. Tesfasilasye worked for Solid Ground as a driver for people with disabilities. C.R.R. used Solid Ground’s services. The alleged victim, C.R.R. is visually impaired. She sometimes uses a wheelchair due to balance issues.

The day after Tesfasilasye drove C.R.R. home, C.R.R. reported that Mr. Tesfasilasye assaulted her the day before. The State charged Tesfasilasye with third degree rape. During voir dire, the State brought peremptory challenges against Juror #25, an Asian woman, and Juror #3, a Latino.

The State sought to use a peremptory strike against Juror #25, an Asian woman. Tesfasilasye raised a GR 37 objection. The State denied it was striking Juror #25 because she was an Asian woman. The State called the court’s attention to the fact it was not seeking to strike the other Asian woman in the panel. Instead, the State contended it wanted to strike Juror# 25. The trial court overruled the GR 37 objection and granted the peremptory challenge.

Next, the State sought a peremptory challenge against Juror #3, the Latino. The court granted the peremptory challenge. However, the trial judge’s oral ruling was not based on
whether a reasonable juror could view race as a factor as required by GR 37.

The jury found Tesfasilasye guilty of third degree rape. Tesfasilasye appealed. He alleged that an objective observer could have viewed race as a factor for striking Juror #25 and Juror #3 as prohibited by GR 37. The Court of Appeals affirmed Tesfasilasye’s conviction. The WA Supreme Court granted review.


“Our constitutions require a fair and impartial jury,” wrote Justice Gonzalez. “The parties and the jurors themselves have the right to a trial process free from discrimination.” Next, Justice Gonzalez discussed the nefarious use of peremptory challenges to strike qualified jurors without providing a reason. “These challenges however have a history of being used based largely or entirely on racial stereotypes or generalizations,” he said.

Justice Gonzalez explained how GR 37 was an attempt to address the shortcomings of Batson v. Kentucky. Batson was a landmark case prohibiting the use of peremptory challenges to automatically exclude potential members of the jury because of their race. “The protections under Batson were not robust enough to effectively combat racial discrimination during jury selection,” said Justice Gonzalez. In short, Batson failed to require a trial judge to make rulings without considering systemic and unconscious racial bias.

Justice Gonzalez explained that under GR 37, a peremptory challenge shall be denied if an objective observer could view race or ethnicity as a factor in the use of a peremptory challenge. He described at great length why both Juror #25 and Juror #3 were wrongfully struck by the State and concluded as follows:

“We hold that under these facts, an objective observer could view race as a factor for striking both Juror #25 and Juror #3. Tesfasilasye asks this court to reverse his conviction. The State does not dispute that the remedy for a GR 37 violation is reversal. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeals and remand for a new trial.” Chief Justice Steven Gonzalez, WA Supreme Court.

My opinion? Good decision. The State has another opportunity for trial. Next time, let’s  hope they avoids striking jurors for race-based reasons.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.


At Trial, Police Can’t Comment on a Defendant’s Post-Arrest Silence

Van Dyke trial: Breaking down all 44 witnesses – Chicago Tribune

In State v. Palmer, the WA Court of Appeals held that the defendant’s Fifth Amendment Right Against Self-Incrimination was violated when the detective commented about the defendant’s post-arrest silence.


Palmer and his girlfriend, DD, moved in together in 2013. They lived together with DD’s two biological children from a prior marriage, her son AD, and her daughter PD. Palmer and DD also had a baby together, LP. Sometime in 2014, the family moved to Washington. Palmer served as caregiver to the children and in that role disciplined both PD and AD.

During a family car trip in 2016, Palmer grabbed AD by the neck, leaving a scratch. At
some point after the car trip incident, Palmer told DD that PD had touched his penis. Thereafter, PD disclosed to DD that Palmer had touched her vagina. Approximately four months after PD’s disclosure, DD contacted law enforcement. Law enforcement authorities interviewed the children on two separate occasions. Detective Ramirez participated in PD’s interview during which he learned of the accusations against Palmer.

Eventually, Detective Ramirez took Palmer into custody, read him Miranda rights, and questioned him. Ramirez ended the questioning after Palmer repeatedly refused to admit to any wrongdoing. Ramirez returned the next morning for additional questioning, but Palmer refused to talk. The State charged Palmer with one count of child molestation in the first degree and two counts of assault of a child in the second degree.

At trial, the Prosecutor questioned DSetective Ramirez and asked if he had spoken to Palmer after his initial interview. In the presence of the jury, Ramirez testified that he “went back the next morning, thinking that, you know, a day sitting in the county jail, you know, there’s some time to think, and maybe Mr. Palmer would want to do the right thing here.” Ramirez further testified that he told Palmer, “You’ve had some time to think. Do you want to talk?” and that Palmer responded that he did not want to talk.

The jury convicted Palmer of all charges.

On appeal, Palmer argued his right against self-incrimination was violated when Detective Ramirez discussed Palmer’s decision to remain silent.


The Court began with an engaging discussion of the Fifth Amendment. In short, a defendant’s right against self-incrimination prohibits the State from eliciting comments from witnesses about the defendant’s pre- or post-arrest silence. The State may also not suggest the defendant is guilty because they chose to remain silent, because the assurance of Miranda is that remaining silent will not be penalized.

Here, the State unequivocally elicited a comment from Ramirez about Palmer’s decision
to remain silent.

“Ramirez’s testimony was a comment on Palmer’s right to remain silent. More pointedly, contrary to State v. Easter, the State suggested that Palmer was guilty due to his silence. Indeed, Ramirez testified that Palmer remained silent after being given a chance to “do the right thing” by admitting criminal conduct. This statement presupposed Palmer’s guilt and created an impossible choice: Palmer could either do right by confessing to molesting a child or do wrong by remaining silent.”

“Implicit in the ‘silence equals wrongfulness’ notion is that silence withholds the ‘truth’—that ‘truth’ being one’s criminal conduct, even if there was no criminal conduct. In this context, a defendant cannot maintain their presumption of innocence by remaining silent. A detective’s belief on this front may assist with their investigative duty, but established authority prohibits using a defendant’s right to remain silent to suggest guilt to the jury.” ~WA Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals concluded by saying that alone, this violation may warrant reversal and a new trial. “However, because we reverse on other grounds, we remind the State that it is forbidden from eliciting comments about Palmer’s silence during his new trial.” With that, the Court of Appeals reverse the convictions and remanded to the trial court for a new trial.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Crime Lab Delays Get Criminal Conviction Reversed & Case Dismissed.

What Does It Mean to Have the Right to a Speedy Trial? - Law Office of Michael L. Fell

In State v. Denton, the WA Court of Appeals reversed the defendant’s criminal convictions and dismissed his case because the trial court wrongully granted continuances solely based on routine crime lab delays processing DNA results.


The victim Mrs. Denton divorced the defendant, Bradley Denton, in 2012. The couple later reconciled but Mr. Denton resumed using drugs. Mrs. Denton ended the relationship for good after about a year.

When Mr. Denton persisted in contacting her, Mrs. Denton obtained an order for protection against him. That fall, Mrs. Denton, who had moved to Tumwater, returned to Yakima for a family gathering. Mr. Denton was aware she was in town. On the morning after the family gathering, Mr. Denton arrived uninvited at the home where Mrs. Denton and other family members were staying.

A sexual assault allegedly occurred. Mrs. Denton reported the assault to the Tumwater Police Department. An officer took a recorded statement, arranged for her to undergo a sexual assault examination. Police picked up the clothing had been wearing when assaulted. They referred the matter to the Yakima Police Department.

About a week later, Mr. Denton, who had been arrested for unrelated reasons and was incarcerated in the Yakima County Jail, placed a phone call to Felicia. Mrs. Denton did not accept the first call. However, after speaking with police, she accepted three calls from Mr. Denton.

On October 26, Mr. Denton was charged with assault in violation of a protection order, second degree rape, and two counts of misdemeanor violation of a protection order. All were charged as domestic violence offenses.

Mr. Denton was held in jail for 15 months during the pendency of his case. Over his objections, the trial court granted two continuances. The continuances extended Denton’s trial date four and a half months beyond period provided by CrR 3.3. The judge granted the continuances because the Prosecutor said that a nine-month turnaround by the crime lab was to be expected.

The jury found Mr. Denton guilty of all charges. He appealed his conviction on arguments that the 15-month delay between his arraignment and trial violated his speedy-trial rights under CrR 3.3.


The WA Court of Appeals held that the trial court abused its discretion by granting continuances based on evidence of routine administrative delay by the WA State Patrol Crime Lab.

The Court reasoned that CrR 3.3(b)(1) requires a defendant who is detained in jail to be brought to trial within 60 days of arraignment. Mr. Denton was detained in jail, so the 60-day limit applies, reasoned the Court.

“The purpose underlying CrR 3.3 is to protect a defendant’s constitutional right to
a speedy trial,“ said the Court. “Past experience has shown that unless a strict rule is
applied, the right to a speedy trial as well as the integrity of the judicial process, cannot
be effectively preserved.”

Furthermore, the Court reasoned that the fact that DNA evidence may prove exculpatory is not a basis for continuing the time for trial over a defendant’s objection. It emphasized that the State’s requests for continuances must be supported by a better record.

Finally, the Court reasoned that dismissal is required:

“Presented with a record in which the sole basis for the two continuances was routine crime lab delay, we are left with no choice but to reverse Mr. Denton’s convictions and direct the superior court to dismiss the charges with prejudice. We deplore this outcome given the violent nature of Mr. Denton’s crimes, but it is the strict remedy that drafters of the rule perceived as needed to ensure that criminal cases will be promptly prepared for trial and heard.” ~WA Court of Appeals.

With that, the Court of Appeals reversed Mr. Denton’s conviction and dismissed the case with prejudice. The case emphasized that if a convicted defendant can establish a violation of the constitutional right to a speedy trial, the court must set aside the conviction, vacate the sentence, and dismiss the charging document.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.