In State v. Valdiglesias LaValle (10/10/22), the WA Court of Appels overturned a conviction for Solicitation to commit Murder in the First Degree. Here, the defendant’s statement to her son that they would be “together forever” after the son poisoned his father to death was not a solicitation based on monetary value.
Ms. Valdiglesias LaValle was born and raised in Peru. She met Mr. Grady, who is 25 years older than her, through an online dating application. Grady brought Valdiglesias LaValle to Skagit County where they got married in 2008. During their marriage, they had two children, S.G. and J.G. By 2014, Grady and Valdiglesias LaValle no longer resided together. Grady filed for dissolution in 2015. Following the dissolution, Valdiglesias LaValle was initially awarded custody, and Grady was required to pay her child support. However, in 2019, the court awarded Grady full custody, and Valdiglesias LaValle was ordered to pay child support to Grady. Valdiglesias LaValle was granted four-hour unsupervised weekly visitation with her children.
On June 2, 2020, Grady drove 10-year-old S.G. and eight-year-old J.G. to Valdiglesias LaValle’s residence for a four-hour visitation. S.G. went into Valdiglesias LaValle’s bedroom because S.G. heard her and J.G. talking about “bad stuff” and “rat poison.” S.G. decided to record the conversation.
In short, Valdiglesias LaValle’s persuaded S.G. to administer rat poison to Mr. Grady’s drink. In exchange, Valdiglesias LaValle promised they would be “together forever” after the son poisoned his father Mr. Grady.
Shortly after, Mr. Grady picked up S.G. and J.G. S.G. shared the recording with Grady. Eventually, Child Protective Services and the police department were informed. The State charged Valdiglesias LaValle with Solicitation to commit Murder in the First Degree and Solicitation to commit Assault in the First Degree.
Valdiglesias LaValle argued a 3.6 Motion to Suppress the audio recording and a Knapstad Motion to Dismiss. The court denied both motions. At trial, a jury convicted her on both counts. Valdiglesias LaValle appealed her conviction on arguments that contends that her statement to S.G., that they will be “together forever,” is not a “thing of value” as
provided in Washington’s criminal solicitation statute.
COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS
The Court of Appeals began by describing Washington’s criminal solicitation statute:
“A person is guilty of criminal solicitation when, with intent to promote or facilitate the commission of a crime, he or she offers to give or gives money or other thing of value to another to engage in specific conduct which would constitute such crime or which would establish complicity of such other person in its commission or attempted commission had such crime been attempted or committed.”RCW 9A.28.030(1) (emphasis added).
The Court emphasized that the term “thing of value” is not defined in the statute or anywhere in the statute.
Next, the Court reviewed the plain language of the Solicitation statute. It stated that the relevant language at issue is the requirement that a person ‘offers to give . . . money or other thing of value’ to engage in the conduct. “Here, the phrase ‘thing of value’ is immediately preceded by the term ‘money,'” said the Court. “If the statute was meant to reach anything of value — which would be extremely broad — there would be no need to distinguish “money” separately from “other thing of
The Court concluded by saying it is not enough to simply command, encourage, or request another person to engage in specific conduct that would constitute a crime. In light of the above, the term “thing of value” under RCW 9A.28.030(1) contemplates things, tangible or intangible, that have monetary value.
With that, the Court of Appeals reversed Valdiglesias LaValle’s conviction and dismissed the case.
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