PORT ANGELES — The state Court of Appeals could use a recent Port Angeles case to decide the definition of an “established” relationship as it relates to sex-offender laws in the state of Washington, a Port Angeles attorney has predicted.
Stan Myers represented Jason P. Spaulding, a 44-year-old Port Angeles man sentenced Tuesday to 5½ years after pleading guilty to indecent liberties with forcible compulsion.
Spaulding, avoiding a trial on a charge of second-degree rape of a 19-year-old woman after the woman was attacked at his Old Mill Road home Aug. 8, also was charged with fourth-degree assault of the woman’s friend.
Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brent Basden rejected the recommendation of Myers and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Steve Johnson that Spaulding should serve nine months under the state Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative (SSOSA) program.
Myers will file a notice of appeal later this week to the state Court of Appeals, he said, adding that an appelate court attorney will handle the case.
He is challenging Basden’s ruling that Spaulding and the woman had an “existing” relationship, not the “established” relationship required for SSOSA treatment that Myers said they had under the law.
The program gives lesser sentences to perpetrators who are amenable to treatment and who have “established” relationships with their victims.
Spaulding first communicated with her on Facebook messenger Aug. 1, messaged her until Aug. 4, met her the morning of Aug. 8, and assaulted her the afternoon of Aug. 8 at his home before she ran shirtless from the house, according to the probable cause statement.
“On the day of the crime, their relationship consisted, in large part, of him buying the victim gifts, promising her housing and engaging in sexualized behavior leading up to the crime,” Basden said.
“Inherent in the concept of an ‘established relationship’ is the passage of time,” he said. “The court finds that an established relationship is not created by a few phone calls and social media contacts over a few days, followed by in-person contact for a few hours prior to the commission of the crime.”
Basden said Spaulding’s inconsistent responses to a SSOSA evaluator also indicated Spaulding is not amenable to treatment and thus would be a risk to the community.
Basden said Spaulding minimized his behavior toward the woman, did not admit penile penetration despite physical evidence and admitted the woman “mumbled no” during the assault “but felt justified in continuing his behavior.”
Myers said in an interview that case law is “scant” on defining an established relationship.
Offenders are eligible for SSOSA treatment if “the offender had an established relationship with, or connection to, the victim such that the sole connection with the victim was not the commission of the crime,” according to state law.
“The only connection with [the victim] was not solely the commission of the crime,” Myers said.
“That’s the statutory language there, too.
“They had hung out, she was planning to be his roommate.”
Myers also said the evaluator, Michael Comte, a certified sex offender treatment provider, concluded Spaulding had a “fair prognosis” for treatment, according to Comte’s report.
“Although [Spaulding] does not believe he has a sexual problem, in my opinion it will not be difficult for a sex offender treatment provider to convince him otherwise,” Comte said in the report.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.