Judge rules audio recording can be heard in trial of Forks man

Richard Aaron Dickinson charged with rape, kidnapping

Richard Dickinson

Richard Dickinson

PORT TOWNSEND — A Jefferson County judge has ruled an audio recording will be admissible in an upcoming trial of Forks man that involves allegations of kidnapping and rape.

Superior Court Judge Keith Harper said Friday a jury will be able to listen to portions of a 3 1/2-hour tape, but he warned county prosecutor James Kennedy and defense attorney Kelly McNertney Eckert that many statements include hearsay.

Richard Aaron Dickinson, 34, of Forks faces six counts of amended charges filed March 4 that include first-degree kidnapping, first-degree rape, second-degree rape with forcible compulsion and second-degree assault with intent to commit a felony.

He also faces a third or subsequent violation of a no-contact order with sexual motivation in addition to harassment with threats to kill.

All of the charges have a domestic violence component, according to charging papers.

Three are Class A felonies punishable by a maximum of life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine. If convicted, they would all count as strikes under the state’s three-strikes law that would require life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Dickinson, who has maintained not guilty pleas throughout the four amended charges, remained at the Jefferson County Jail on Friday in lieu of $300,000 bail.

A two-week trial is scheduled to begin March 30.

Dickinson also has two separate cases with a total of four pending felony charges and a gross misdemeanor in Clallam County, where the alleged incident originated last March.

McNertney Eckert sought to exclude the audio recording, which contains interactions between the alleged victim and Dickinson on March 7 or March 8 last year.

“As acknowledged in the prosecutor’s argument in support of this motion, the state of Washington’s privacy act generally forbids an individual from recording another without that person’s knowledge,” McNertney Eckert wrote in a trial brief filed March 4.

The attorney argued none of Dickinson’s statements “truly fit the description of that of a hostage holder as the parties in the audio tape had been in contact so many numerous times prior, had a domestic relationship which had gone on and off for many years, and … had interactive conversation regarding numerous personal issues and various accusations made by each party.”

Charging documents said the woman told law enforcement officers Dickinson abducted her on the west end of Clallam County and took her to the west end of Jefferson County, where he allegedly sexually assaulted her.

The woman told police Dickinson forcefully removed her from her car and forced her into his truck before he drove to an abandoned home. She said Dickinson took her to a secluded area and sexually assaulted her, according to court documents.

There were three no-contact orders protecting the woman from Dickinson at the time, court records said.

As Harper allowed the audio recording, he told attorneys they would have to agree on which statements could be presented.

“Virtually all of [the alleged victim’s] statements would fall under hearsay,” Harper said. “There were very few factual assertions made that would have anything to do with this case.”

In her trial brief, McNertney Eckert argued the conversation went into a number of topics that were irrelevant and “arguably inadmissible under Rape Shield law.”

“The problem with cutting out and only allowing the jury to hear the tiny portions of this lengthy conversation which could be argued to be threats of kidnapping as discussed above is that the defense would then be unable to present to the jury the entire context of those phrases and why they do not support factual conclusions of Mr. Dickinson’s mental state at the time those phrases were made,” McNertney Eckert said.

“The alleged victim will likely be present to testify and directly express to the jury, in her own words and expression, what she experienced on the day in question, and properly be available for cross-examination regarding relevant issues.

“The jury will be able to fairly judge that and reach a more just and balanced conclusion than if they are asked to listen to this lengthy recording (whether or not portions have been chopped throughout) and attempt to determine the allegations of Mr. Dickinson’s mental state based on the cumulative and potentially misleading evidence.”

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].