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The Wenatchee "sex rings"

Part 4: 2004 to now

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2004-APR: Overview of the trail of devastation:

Martin Salazar wrote an article in the Wenatchee World which was published on 2004-APR-11, ten years and ten days after the first arrest on 1994-APR-1. It is titled: "The ghost won't lie still: Ten years after first arrest, 'sex-ring' episode still haunts the community." 1

He writes that for some people, the Wenatchee sex abuse hoax is still active:

bulletDoris Green clings to the portraits of her four children which were taken each year before their lives were ripped apart by allegations of child sexual abuse. She was released from jail after police officer David Schreiber testified that her confession was made under duress. She was never able to regain custody of her children
bulletBob Perez still believes that he was a dedicated police officer who went to hell and back to save children from abuse by sexual predators.
bulletCherie Town hopes that eventually her three grown children will want to see her again. She is developmentally disabled and has seen her daughter only once since her release from jail; she hasn't seen either of her two sons. Referring to divine intervention, she said: "I just have to keep praying that some day he'll bring them back."

Forty three individuals were charged; they were mostly poor, illiterate and/or developmentally disabled. Twenty nine were convicted. Many were released after the Washington Court of Appeals concluded that the children's testimony was based on implanted, false memories. A judge from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that authorities had manufactured evidence and had framed at least one defendant. Only one person was still in jail.

Various lawsuits have been filed by the accused and their children against local agencies. More than seven million dollars in civil settlements and jury verdicts have been awarded.

Salazar wrote:

"Most officials involved in the cases refuse to discuss the matter publicly today. Those that do maintain that the investigations and prosecutions were handled properly, and that convictions and confessions were properly attained. Critics contend that most of the alleged abuse never happened and that a complete system failure in Wenatchee led to some of the worst miscarriages of justice ever seen. For the moment, history seems to be siding with the critics, thanks to all the successful appeals."

Kathryn Lyon said: "There was just sort of a blind trust of the government doing the right thing." Lyon was a former public defender and wrote the book "Witch Hunt," 2 which described the events in Wenatchee.

Whitman County Superior Court Judge Wallis Friel, said:

"There's got to be vigilance among the judiciary, prosecutors and defense attorneys to make sure these cases are properly investigated...There were cases where the attorneys simply didn't ask the appropriate questions....I don't think anybody was restored to their former position after five years in jail, but I think the litigation served its purpose and righted some wrongs."

Chelan County Prosecutor Gary Riesen said: "It went through the court in a proper way...I don't think myself or my staff did anything inappropriate in these cases."

Robert "Roby" Roberson, a Pentecostal pastor who was charged after he came to the defense of some of his parishioners, said: "Nobody has been held accountable for what they did. Why can't they just admit that they messed up? Here it is 10 years later, and the victims are still having to fight for any kind of closure in their lives."

Salazar wrote: Detective "Bob Perez, the lead investigator during the cases, is still fighting multiple lawsuits in courthouses throughout the state. The suits accuse him of fabricating evidence and of violating the civil rights of defendants and their children."

In 1999, the Washington state legislature passed what has been called the "Perez Bill." It prohibits parents, guardians and foster parents who are police officers from investigating the sexual abuse cases involving children under their care.

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Sponsored link:

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2004-AUG: City ordered to pay sanctions:

The appeals court in Spokane upheld a 2003-JAN lower court ruling by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Donohue's. The appeals court unanimously affirmed the fine of $718,000 levied on the city of Wenatchee because its lawyer withheld information from victims who had sued the city after they were acquitted. Tyler Firkins, a lawyer representing several victimized families said: "This is a stunning defeat for lawyers who might want to play discovery games; you will pay a heavy price. The court wanted to send a $718,000 message." Meanwhile, an estimated $125,000 in interest may have accumulated. 3

The Wenatchee World newspaper commented:

"We would not presume to give the city's attorneys advice, but should say that local citizens must be growing weary of the repeated disgrace brought by the mistakes of its government, and by attempts to cover up those mistakes. The acts that brought this fine are particularly galling. Prior to a previous trial, the city was ordered to hand over the personnel records of Detective Bob Perez, the chief investigator whose conduct is the focus of the lawsuits. It delivered most of the records, but overlooked a few, which coincidentally contained the information most likely to damage the city's case. Withheld were medical files that may have indicated Perez suffered from mental disabilities, and pre-employment screening files that included a polygraph test. Spokane Superior Court Judge Michael Donohue, who assessed the fine last year, said he thought the city withheld the information deliberately, and that it would have had a significant impact on the trial's outcome."

"So, while the city was on trial for abusing the justice system, it was abusing the justice system. The appeals court agreed that the city's protestations to the contrary were 'without merit.' The city's offense voided the result of a 13-week trial. Whatever your opinion of the merits of the multiple sex-ring lawsuits still pending against this city, it is difficult to argue that this kind of action does not deserve sanction." 4,5

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2004-AUG-12: Wenatchee city council authorizes appeal to state high court:

City council members voted unanimously to authorize its insurance company, the Association of Washington Cities, to appeal the state Court of Appeals decision.

Mayor Dennis Johnson said that the insurance company had tried to settle out of court, but:

"we've never been able to reach a settlement that is reasonable. I do think a settlement would be best for all parties, though."

Pastor Roby Roberson disagreed. He said:

"They have never tried to do that. Not ever. Not once. I'm convinced that the mayor, the City Council and the insurance company are more than satisfied to keep taking their licks, to take this thing to trial -- win, lose or draw....It's just remarkable to me that the city of Wenatchee is willing to keep dragging this out because all it's doing is hurting the community." 6

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2006-2007 activity:

Honnah Sims, a former Sunday School teacher at East Wenatchee Pentecostal Church, reached a $350,000 settlement during 2006.

Donna Rodriguez, a former parishioner at the church, signed a $300,000 settlement in 2006-APR.

After 11 years of litigation, Robert "Roby" Robertson, pastor of the church, settled a court fight for $700,000 in 2007-DEC.

The city's insurance company, the Association of Washington Cities Risk Management Services, paid almost all of these settlements. City officials claim that they had never paid more than $25,000 to settle the lawsuits.

As usual, it is the innocent who suffer. In this case, the Association will probably increase future insurance rates for all Washington cities in order to recoup their losses. 7

None of the convicted remain in prison.

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References:

  1. Martin Salazar, "The ghost won't lie still: Ten years after first arrest, 'sex-ring' episode still haunts the community," Wenatchee World, 2004-APR-11.
  2. Kathryn Lyon, "Witch Hunt: A True Story of Social Hysteria and Abused Justice," Avon, (1998). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  3. Editorial Board, "Time to Pay Up, Wenatchee," Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 2004-AUG-6.
  4. Editorial, "The stain we cannot erase," Wenatchee World, 2004-AUG-8
  5. Opinion Information Sheet, docket 21777-9-III, 2004-AUG-03, Court of Appeals, Division III, State of Washington, at: http://www.courts.wa.gov/
  6. "City will appeal sex-abuse decision to state high court," Wenatchee World, 2004-AUG-13.
  7. "Wenatchee settles sex-case settlement with former pastor," Associated Press, 2007-DEC-26, at: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/

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Copyright 1996 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2007-DEC-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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