Rape allegations prompt talk of tighter security at Fort Worden State Park
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By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“We are looking at a lot of logistical items and determining what issues we will be facing and the level of service we will need to provide,” said Port Townsend Police Chief Conner Daily.
“We need to discuss what the state will provide and what the expectations are for the police department.”
One of the three cases, in which a Port Hadlock man was accused of second-degree rape on June 27, has been dismissed because of insufficient evidence, said Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans.
In another, a Redmond man has been charged with second-degree rape after an alleged July 28 incident during the Acoustic Blues Festival.
A third report of an alleged rape during Jazz Port Townsend is under investigation.
Among changes in security that are being considered is the way calls are dispatched, Daily said.
The city police department answers calls to Fort Worden that are dispatched through the State Patrol, a process that could be made more efficient, he said.
The Port Townsend Police Department does not bill the state park for service calls at present, Daily said.
Daily and Port Townsend Police Sgt. Mike Evans discussed security measures with Fort Worden Manager Brian Hageman in a preliminary session on Monday.
Daily said he would like to schedule a joint meeting among representatives of JeffCom 911, the city of Port Townsend and the Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority within the next few weeks.
The PDA is scheduled to take over management of a portion of the park — including most of the buildings — on May 1.
A charge of second-degree rape against Donald F. Zergman of Port Hadlock following a June 27 rape report was dismissed Wednesday.
Zergman pleaded not guilty on July 5 after the complaint by a 17-year-old that he had allegedly assaulted her near a battery adjacent to the Fort Worden Lighthouse.
The case against Zergman was dismissed after a series of text messages on Zergman's phone raised the issue as to whether the contact was consensual, Rosekrans said.
“There were some issues with the witness and I thought that we'd have trouble proving the case,” Rosekrans said.
Zergman was no longer in custody when the charges were dropped.
James Gravelis, 19, of Redmond, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree rape and faces a Dec. 16 trial after a complaint about a July 28 incident in which he allegedly forced himself on a 16-year-old resident of West Virginia.
Gravelis was arrested July 29.
He has posted $10,000 bail and been released from the Jefferson County jail.
A third report, that of a 14-year-old girl who told her mother she had been raped during Jazz Port Townsend, is under investigation, said Port Townsend Police Department spokesman Luke Bogues.
The alleged assualt occurred a week prior to the Gravelis arrest, Bogues said.
Daily said that he didn't think there was any connection among the three incidents.
Two of the alleged assaults were during Centrum festivals.
Centrum Executive Director Robert Birman has established a four-member committee to study current security procedures and issue a report.
The committee — which includes Centrum employees Martha Worthley, Gigi Callaizakis and Hali Ransom along with board member Terry Bergeson — is expected to issue its report in September, Birman said.
Hageman said that the rules imposed by Centrum that require constant monitoring and check-ins will protect most participants but that vigilance is still needed.
“The blues has a history of combining music, sex and drugs so it's wise for people to not walk around by themselves and stay in groups,” Hageman said.
“With 434 acres here, you need to make smart decisions and make sure that you are surrounded by other people at all times,” he added.
Hagemen said that once the PDA takes over “we will need to see how the two agencies can work together in order to increase safety.”
The Park Service currently has three full-time ranger on-site positions, one of them seasonal, with plans to reconfigure the other two so they do not live on the campus, according to the PDA plan.
The homes currently occupied by the rangers will be used as revenue-generating rentals for the PDA and the rangers will be required to find off-premises housing, the plan states.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: August 22. 2013 7:24PM