Port Angeles man gets 280 months for child rape, molestation

Steven Chester Pope is sentenced to more than 23 years in prison and lifelong community custody.

PORT ANGELES — Steven Chester Pope was sentenced Monday to more than 23 years in state prison for multiple counts of child rape and molestation.

The 58-year-old Port Angeles man pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree child rape and single counts of second- and third-degree child molestation for crimes that occurred over seven years.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour sentenced Pope to 280 months — the top end of the standard range — and a life of community custody.

The sentence is equal to 23 years and four months.

“The court sees this as clearly a case where there is an ongoing pattern of sexual abuse that occurred over a long period of time toward children clearly under 18,” Coughenour said.

“This is a case where I think the high end of the range is what should be imposed based on the long sexual abuse of two young children.”

Each count contained a special allegation for an ongoing pattern of sexual abuse.

With the enhancement, the standard sentencing range was 210 months to 280 months.

“You destroyed their adolescence,” Coughenour said.

Coughenour signed post-conviction orders preventing Pope from having any contact with the victims for the rest of his life.

Pope sat quietly with his head facing down for most of the sentencing hearing.

He said he read victim impact statements prior to the hearing.

“It’s something I regret, and I’m struggling to even begin to forgive myself for something like that,” Pope said.

“I never meant to hurt anyone, and I apologize for that,” Pope said.

The victims are now young adults.

One victim read a statement in court with a dog by her side.

“I don’t want an apology because he’s sorry he got caught,” the woman said.

“I don’t want to hear that he’s a changed man. I want to be able to sleep at night knowing that he can never hurt another child as long as he lives. Thank God.”

The second victim prepared a statement that was read in court by Healthy Families of Clallam County Executive Director and victims’ advocate Becca Korby.

“You are a rapist and molester of children,” Korby said, facing Pope.

“You are less than any man … should be.”

The first victim, who was abused by Pope between the ages of 8 and 15, said her now-fiance helped give her the courage to confront her abuser.

“For the first time in seven years, I said no,” she said.

“I said don’t touch me. I said never again. I was terrified. I honestly thought he may kill me.”

The second victim said she would overcome the horrors of her childhood and has new dreams for the future.

“Normally, when I’m never going to see someone again, I say goodbye,” Korby said while reading the woman’s statement.

“You don’t deserve even that.”

On April 7, the victims agreed to let police listen to a phone conversation in which Pope admitted to years of sexual abuse. Port Angeles police arrested Pope later that day.

Pope also confessed to the crimes in an interview with police, according to the arrest narrative.

“But in that confession, he blamed it on the children,” Clallam County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin said.

“He never, never once, accepted responsibility.”

Superior Court Judge Christopher Melly released Pope on his personal recognizance April 8 and ordered him to have no contact with the victims.

Pope was arrested June 15 for attempting to contact the victims through a third party, court papers said.

Defense attorney Lawrence Freedman acknowledged that Pope’s actions have had a devastating impact on the victims.

Freedman requested a downward departure from the standard sentencing range based on certain events in Pope’s life.

He cited a pre-sentencing investigation that showed that Pope was raped by adolescent girls when he was 6 years old, that he was abused by his father and that he sustained a significant head injury as a younger man.

The head injury, Freedman said, “does give some reason to what I call a disconnect between what he thought and what occurred.”

“I’m asking the court to take into consideration the fact that Mr. Pope has had, not his own fault, considerable medical problems that have fundamentally affected his ability to perceive things as they actually were and to deal with them as a responsible adult,” Freedman said.

Dr. Michael McBride, who evaluated Pope, concluded in his report that mitigating factors in Pope’s life “could never justify his illegal and egregious behavior nor the sexual abuse of [the victims].”

Devlin recommended a 240-month prison sentence for Pope.

“Yes, he’s had a tragic life,” Devlin said in her rebuttal argument.

“However, I bet you probably 10 people in this courtroom have had a tragic life. … Again, he’s not accepting responsibility,” Devlin said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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