By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES –– Three people who staged a kidnapping in Sequim on April 13 that sparked national outrage were released on their own recognizance after their arraignments on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges were delayed a week by uncertainty over the penalty.
Cousins Jason and Jesse Holden, both 25, and Shellie Baskins, 34, had their first appearance in Clallam County District Court on Thursday.
The 25-year-old Holden cousins generated national controversy when they plucked Baskins' son from a bench in the park while wearing ski masks.
They then put the boy in a van and sped off while angered parents at the park chased after them.
One of those parents was Kassandra Groff, who phoned 9-1-1 after the kidnapping.
“You guys are real pieces of shit,” Groff yelled at the trio in the corridor of the courthouse's second floor after their court appearance.
The three were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday, but discrepancies over the maximum penalty attached to the municipal crime led District Court Judge Rick Porter to delay the hearings until next Thursday.
City Attorney Craig Ritchie initially said the trio would not face charges, saying, “Scaring the hell out of people is not a crime,” but then reversed field and filed charges in District Court on May 30.
Porter said the chapter of the city's code that makes disorderly conduct a crime refers to state guidelines for the same crime — except that the state has no such crime, Porter said.
The state lists malicious mischief and disturbing the peace as crimes but not disorderly conduct.
Under state law, a misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail, Porter said, but city prosecutor Christopher Shea said Sequim's code could carry a one-year prison term.
Shea and the attorneys for the Holdens and Baskins agreed to review the penalty over the next week.
After they were released, the three criticized the city for waiting almost two months to file charges.
“Do they even know what they're charging us with?” Baskins said.
They said after the video appeared on international news outlets that they were trying to make a movie to raise awareness about kidnapping.
The Holdens apologized on national television, saying their intention was to raise awareness and not to perform a prank.
“It was a traumatic thing they put me and my son through,” Theresa Hedgecock, another parent who was in the park that day, said Thursday.
“I think the maximum penalty should definitely be implemented.”
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.