Sentence cut because of error

PORT ANGELES — A convicted child rapist’s sentence for dealing in child pornography was reduced from 75 months to 54 months because of an error.

Instead of withdrawing his plea, which was expected, Shawn Michael Dawson agreed in Clallam County Superior Court on Thursday to have his sentence amended.

In May, the state Department of Corrections informed prosecutors and Dawson’s attorney that he was sentenced under the current law instead of the law that applied at the time of the offense.

The state Legislature in 2017 harshened punishments for people convicted of crimes against children, but the law became effective July 23, 2017, and does not apply to Dawson’s case.

That change increased the punishment from a maximum of five years to a maximum of 10 years for second-degree dealing in depictions of minors engaged in explicit conduct, the charge to which Dawson pleaded guilty.

Court records show that although Dawson pleaded guilty to a plea deal, he does not admit to committing the crimes. But on Thursday he apologized.

“I apologize for having to take the time and for the court to have to deal with this,” Dawson said. “I apologize for any people I’ve affected or hurt.”

Dawson is currently serving 26 months after pleading guilty last year to third-degree rape of a 14-year-old boy and communication with a minor for immoral purposes. He had been sentenced previously to 75 months for dealing in depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Dawson was charged with multiple child pornography charges in November 2018 — while he was already serving time for raping a child — after investigators in North Carolina discovered emails between Dawson and a suspect they were investigating.

Those emails show that the two began emailing in February 2016 and that they exchanged photos depicting minors in March 2016, before the law changed and before the rape.

Dawson accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to a single count of dealing in depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and was recommended to serve 60 months in prison.

Superior Court Judge Lauren Erickson rejected the recommendation at the time and sentenced him to 75 months in prison.

Dawson refused to participate in a risk-needs assessment interview for the pre-sentence investigation on the pornography charges, saying “he had signed a plea agreement and the interview won’t change anything,” according to the April 11 Department of Corrections report.

Dawson was viewing child pornography in March 2016 and raped the boy six months later, according to the report.

“It seems very likely that his interest in child pornography was a provocative factor in the rape that occurred six months later,” according to the report.

The report says Dawson does not admit to his offense and that he was not interested in treatment.

“Dawson does not express any empathy for the emotional trauma that he has imposed on his victims,” the report says. “Sexual abuse can result in very deep trauma that can take many years to recover from.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsula dailynews.com.

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