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The Wenatchee "sex rings"

Part 3: 1997 to 2003

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Developments: 1997 to the 2003:

Professors of the University of Washington attempted to persuade Barry Scheck, the founder of the Innocence Project, to come to Seattle to speak. He agreed, but only if the professors would consider starting a similar project on the west coast. The result was The Innocence Project Northwest, a group of volunteer University of Washington law students, investigators and Seattle lawyers. This group attacked the Wenatchee fiasco and were largely responsible for the freeing of many of the unjustly convicted. 1

1997 was a year of relative inactivity. However, the unfolding of the Wenatchee debacle went into high gear in early 1998:
bullet1998-FEB: Vicki Wallen, head of the Washington State Office of Family and Children's Ombudsman issued a statement stating that Detective Perez' dual role as senior investigator and foster parent was "detrimental to the girls' best interest...and clearly affected perceptions of the girls' credibility."
bullet1998-FEB: Two reporters, Mike Barber and Andrew Schneider, culminated a 6 month investigation by writing a series of 5 major articles in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. They had interviewed 237 people and reviewed over 23,000 documents. They uncovered additional irregularities in the Wenatchee investigation. Once this series was published, the full range of the horrors at Wenatchee became public knowledge. 2
bullet1998-MAR-5: Janet Reno, U.S. Attorney General announced that she was reviewing her earlier decision to not conduct a federal investigation. 
bullet1998-MAR-9: Washington State ACLU sent a letter to Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Secretary Lyle Quasim, asking that they investigate its treatment of children in state custody. They asked that the adoption of 17 children be terminated. Kathleen Taylor, ACLU Executive Director wrote:

"Given the wide-ranging violations of basic fairness in the conduct of the Wenatchee investigations, we are concerned that parental rights may have been terminated by the state based on coerced confessions, false information or inadequate facts."

bullet1998-MAR: From MAR-11 to 19, the State Court of Appeals had a hearing into the interviewing techniques used in Wenatchee. The court needed the information in order to rule on an appeal by Harold and Idella Everett. The hearing uncovered another series of horrors  involving improper interview techniques, suppression of medical evidence that would prove that M.E. had never been sexually abused, etc.
bullet1998-MAR-18: Juana Vasquex was awarded $1.57 million. She had been fired from the post of CWS supervisor after having supported Paul Glassen's handling of  A.R.'s recantation.
bullet1998-MAR-18: Gary Locke, Governor of Washington State augmented the staff of the Washington State Office of Family and Children's Ombudsman by four investigators, to handle the study of state governmental activities in the Wenatchee area. Unfortunately, their activities are limited by state legislation. They can only review the actions of state social workers, and they are only permitted to issue recommendations for action. He also asked the DSHS to take no more adoption actions.
bullet1998-APR-6: Pastor Robert Roberson, Connie Roberson, and others have brought a civil lawsuit asking for about $100 million in damages against Detective against Perez and various city, state and county officials, agencies, and contracting therapists. Selection of the jury started on APR-6. They lost the lawsuit.
bullet1998-OCT-16: The Robertsons and other plaintiffs filed a motion seeking a new civil trial. On NOV-17, their motion was denied.
bullet1999: Two plaintiffs settled their complaints with the city out of court. 
bullet1999-AUG-30: The Wenatchee World newspaper announced that Paul Glassen, the social worker who fled to Canada, had received a letter from the city which cleared him of any criminal activity. The letter was part of the settlement between himself and the city that also included $295,000 and $2,500 in mediation costs.
bullet1999-OCT-13: Paul Glassen was scheduled to go to trial against the state of Washington on this date.
bulletEnd of 1999 status report: 
bulletAll of the Wenatchee "sex-ring" convictions which have been reviewed by higher courts have been reversed. 
bulletOn DEC-29, the State of Washington agreed to pay $850,000 to Pastor Robert Robertson and several others who had been accused with him. 3
bulletDoris Green rejected a plea bargain in November. By DEC-10, the prosecution decided to not retry her.
bulletHenry Cunningham was released after the Court of Appeals overturned his conviction. He had been represented at his first trial by a public defender who never investigated his case. Cunningham is suing the city of Wenatchee and the State for $10 million.
bulletThe Washington Court of Appeals ruled that Manuel Hidalgo Rodriguez will have a new trial. 
bulletA number of people have entered an Alford plea after having been convicted. Cherie Town became the fifth person convicted of a Wenatchee sex abuse case to enter an Alford plea while in prison. She was released from prison on DEC-2.
bulletDetective Perez is no longer a police officer. He was excused from testifying in a civil rights lawsuit against the state of Washington in 1999-OCT. "A psychologist testified that Perez suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress related to the case and could have a mental breakdown on the witness stand." 4  In mid-2000, he was injured during a horseback riding accident.
bulletThe state Office of Children and Family's Ombudsman, reviewed the state's role in the investigations and recommended that the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) establish conflict-of-interest rules for foster care placement. This had not been done, as of DEC-18.
bullet2000-JAN-14: "M.E." has been returned to her family. She is now 17 years of age. She had spent time in nearly a dozen foster homes, hospitals, and treatment centers. (One source says 20). It is hard to believe, but the state placed her back in Perez's home for a weekend in 1999-OCT. M.E.'s oldest sibling, "Richard, 19, who always insisted on his parents' innocence, grew to maturity while they were in prison, after being adopted out to a Wisconsin family." Another sibling, "Donna lives in a Spokane mental health treatment center." Another sibling "now 14, was adopted in the Wenatchee area, while his twin ran away from a foster home last November and has yet to be located." 4 M.E. will likely "be a witness in civil lawsuits filed against Perez, the city of Wenatchee and the state over the handling of the investigations."
bullet2000-MAY-1: Only five individuals remain in prison: Leo Catchaway, Ralph Gausvik, Sid Holt, Michael Rose, and Meredith Town. Four of them have appeals pending. The city of Wenatchee's liability insurance premium has more than doubled. Some property owners are fighting annexation into the city because they fear a massive payments will be needed to pay legal settlements.
bullet2000-AUG-3: Sarah Doggett (referred to as S.D. above) is now 21 years of age and has initiated a lawsuit against Bob Perez. The trial was originally scheduled for 2000-AUG but has been postponed several months because of injuries that Perez suffered in a horseback riding accident.
bullet2000-AUG-13: Randall Reed, who spent five years in prison, claims that he was wrongfully convicted. He is suing the city of Wenatchee and the state for $2 million.
bullet2000-DEC-7: Mike Rose, the last remaining Wenatchee alleged sex ring prisoner was released from prison. He has always maintained his innocence.
bullet2000-DEC-20: Bob Devereaux's civil-rights lawsuit will again be heard by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Harold and Idella Everett have had their parental rights restored for four of their five children.
bulletEnd of 2000 status report:  43 people were arrested. 18 were incarcerated. All have been released.

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bullet2001-FEB-25: Sarah Marie Doggett, now 22, settled a lawsuit out of court against the city of Wenatchee and the state of Washington. She was awarded $52,500. The city and the state admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement. She claimed that a state CPS worker forcibly removed her from a California home in 1995-JAN without a proper court order, and flew her back to Wenatchee. She was tied to a gurney and transpolrted to a mental hospital in Idaho. She was heavily drugged and pressured to accuse her parents of sexually abuse. State and city officials deny the accusations. Her parents, Mark and Carol Doggett filed a civil rights claim in June.
bullet2001-MAY-18: Rev. "Roby" Robertson sued the county because of inadequate protection provided to him while he was in jail. He stated that he was beaten and humiliated by a jail employee and by other inmates when he was incarcerated for eight months, waiting for his trial. Details of the settlement were not disclosed. His separate lawsuit against the city and county for negligent investigation is scheduled for July. 
bullet2001-JUL-5: Pentecostal minister Roby Roberson and his wife Connie; Honnah Sims, a former Sunday-school teacher at Roberson's East Wenatchee church; and parishioner Donna Rodriguez have launched a lawsuit against the City of Wenatchee, former police Detective Robert Perez, former Douglas County Police Chief Ken Badgley, Douglas County Sheriff Dan LaRoche; and county detectives Robbin Wagg and Dave Helvey. Pretrial motions began on JUL-5. Their case was initially rejected by the court. In late 2002, the case was reinstated.
bullet2001-JUL-31: Jury finds city and county negligent: A jury found the city of Wenatchee and Douglas County negligent in their treatment of Honnah and Johathan Sims, another couple and two other plaintiffs. They recommended a civil award of $3 million to the Sims.

Last fall, the state Supreme Court unanimously upheld a state Court of Appeals decision that law-enforcement agencies could be held financially liable for faulty child-abuse investigations.
bullet2001-SEP-23: It has been two years since multiple charges of child rape and molestation were dropped against Doris Green, and her parental rights were restored. But her children are still not with her. Her children, aged 19, 18, 16, and 12 have now filed a claim against Chelan County, the city of Wenatchee and the state Department of Children and Family Services. A lawsuit is expected to follow. They were removed from their mother's home on 1994-SEP-15. They have been warehoused in an average of four different foster homes each. 5
bullet2002-OCT-31: On Halloween, a judge reinstated the lawsuit brought in 2001-JUL which charged negligent investigation into the 1994-5 child sex-ring cases. The lawsuit had been filed by "Roby" and Connie Robertson, Honnah and Jonathan Sims, and Donna Rodriguez. Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael E. Donohue ruled that the city's defense lawyers had misled the plaintiffs and the court by wrongly withholding personnel files of former Wenatchee police sex-crimes investigator Bob Perez in pretrial discovery. Auburn attorney Robert Van Siclen told the court that reports in the files "made reference to the fact that ... Detective Perez was under a serious mental disability at the time and prior to the time he started his investigation of my client Pastor Roberson." Judge Donohue ruled that the lawyers for the city had "blindsided and misled the plaintiffs" and also the court. He said that Wenatchee was liable for all legal fees incurred by the plaintiffs in pursuing the case. 6,7

There are allegations that Parez was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time. Van Siclen said after the hearing: "These are smoking gun documents that are clearly material to our presentation of the cases in court. We were sandbagged." The city is considering appealing the judge's decision.
bullet2003-JAN-9: The Wenatchee World newspaper estimates that "Penalties against the city for withholding evidence in the suit and a related civil action would top $733,000. Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Donohue granted the new trial in a suit brought by Pastor Robert 'Roby' Roberson...In the first trial...in 1998... a jury found defendants had not violated the civil rights of Roberson and other plaintiffs." The city's insurance policy is capped at two million dollars. Since the city still has their own legal bills to pay, part of any future award might have to come out of the city's own coffers. 8
bullet2003-OCT-3: Appeals court dismisses lawsuit: The $10 million lawsuit initiated by Henry Cunningham in the year 2000 was dismissed. Perez claimed that, as a police officer, he had qualified immunity from being sued. 9

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Summary of cases, as of 2003-OCT:

2003-OCT-3: The Wenatchee World summarized the current status of those involved in the 1994-95 investigations into sex rings in the city:

bullet43 arrests of people living in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee - many of them developmentally disabled, illiterate and/or poor
bullet26 felony convictions.
bullet18 people have had their convictions overturned on appeal or accepted plea bargains to lesser charges while their cases were on appeal.
bullet4 served out their sentences and were released.
bullet3 received suspended sentences.
bullet1 is still in prison.

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References used:

  1. Stephen Maher, "Tipping the Wenatchee scales," Wenatchee World, 2000-AUG-13.
  2. Andrew Schneider & Mike Barber, "Children sacrificed for the case," Seattle Post Intelligencer, 1998-FEB-23 and subsequent issues. Available at: http://www.seattle-pi.com/powertoharm/history.html
  3. FMS Foundation newsletter, 2000-JAN-4
  4. "The Aftermath,"  Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1998-FEB at: http://www.seattle-pi.com/powertoharm/
  5. FMS Foundation newsletter, 2001-NOV/DEC, Vol. 10, #6
  6. M. Barber, ""Suit against Wenatchee in sex cases reinstated," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2002-NOV-1.
  7. L. Smith, "Judge reinstates 'sex ring' lawsuit; Donohue: 'City's defense lawyers misled the plaintiffs and the court'," Wenatchee World, 2002-NOV-1.
  8. L. Smith, "Sex-abuse case plaintiffs win new trial: Penalties against city for withholding evidence to grow to more than $733,000," Wenatchee World, 2003-JAN-9.
  9. John Wiley, "Appeals court rules in favor of Perez," Associated Press, 2003-OCT-3.
  10. "The power to harm: A record of abuses in Wenatchee," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1998-FEB at: http://www.seattle-pi.com/powertoharm
  11. Paul Craig Roberts, "Prosecutorial Abuse: The Wenatchee Witch Hunt Unravels Further," at: http://www.vdare.com/roberts/

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Copyright © 1996 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2007-DEC-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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