Martin Salazar wrote an article in the Wenatchee World which was
published on 2004-APR-11, ten years and ten days after the first arrest on
1994-APR-1. It is titled: "The ghost won't lie still: Ten years after
first arrest, 'sex-ring' episode still haunts the community." 1
Forty three individuals were charged; they were mostly poor, illiterate
and/or developmentally disabled. Twenty nine were convicted. Many were
released after the Washington Court of Appeals concluded that the children's
testimony was based on implanted, false memories. A judge from the 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals found that authorities had manufactured evidence
and had framed at least one defendant. Only one person was still in jail.
Various lawsuits have been filed by the accused and their children
against local agencies. More than seven million dollars in civil settlements
and jury verdicts have been awarded.
"Most officials involved in the cases refuse to discuss
the matter publicly today. Those that do maintain that the investigations
and prosecutions were handled properly, and that convictions and confessions
were properly attained. Critics contend that most of the alleged abuse never
happened and that a complete system failure in Wenatchee led to some of the
worst miscarriages of justice ever seen. For the moment, history seems to be
siding with the critics, thanks to all the successful appeals."
Kathryn Lyon said: "There was just sort of a blind trust of the
government doing the right thing." Lyon was a former public defender and
wrote the book "Witch Hunt," 2 which described the events in Wenatchee.
Whitman County Superior Court Judge Wallis Friel, said:
"There's got to be vigilance among the judiciary, prosecutors and
defense attorneys to make sure these cases are properly investigated...There
were cases where the attorneys simply didn't ask the appropriate
questions....I don't think anybody was restored to their former position
after five years in jail, but I think the litigation served its purpose and
righted some wrongs."
Chelan County Prosecutor Gary Riesen said: "It went through the court in a
proper way...I don't think myself or my staff did anything inappropriate in
Robert "Roby" Roberson, a Pentecostal pastor who was charged after he came to
the defense of some of his parishioners, said: "Nobody has been held
accountable for what they did. Why can't they just admit that they messed up?
Here it is 10 years later, and the victims are still having to fight for any
kind of closure in their lives."
Salazar wrote: Detective "Bob Perez, the lead investigator during the
cases, is still fighting multiple lawsuits in courthouses throughout the state.
The suits accuse him of fabricating evidence and of violating the civil rights
of defendants and their children."
In 1999, the Washington state legislature passed what has been called the "Perez
Bill." It prohibits parents, guardians and foster parents who are police
officers from investigating the sexual abuse cases involving children under
2004-AUG: City ordered to pay sanctions:
The appeals court in Spokane upheld a 2003-JAN lower court ruling by
Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Donohue's. The appeals court
unanimously affirmed the fine of $718,000 levied on the city of Wenatchee
because its lawyer withheld information from victims who had sued the city
after they were acquitted. Tyler Firkins, a lawyer representing several
victimized families said: "This is a stunning defeat for lawyers who
might want to play discovery games; you will pay a heavy price. The court
wanted to send a $718,000 message." Meanwhile, an estimated $125,000 in
interest may have accumulated. 3
The Wenatchee World newspaper commented:
"We would not presume to give the city's attorneys advice, but
should say that local citizens must be growing weary of the repeated
disgrace brought by the mistakes of its government, and by attempts to
cover up those mistakes. The acts that brought this fine are
particularly galling. Prior to a previous trial, the city was ordered to
hand over the personnel records of Detective Bob Perez, the chief
investigator whose conduct is the focus of the lawsuits. It delivered
most of the records, but overlooked a few, which coincidentally
contained the information most likely to damage the city's case.
Withheld were medical files that may have indicated Perez suffered from
mental disabilities, and pre-employment screening files that included a
polygraph test. Spokane Superior Court Judge Michael Donohue, who
assessed the fine last year, said he thought the city withheld the
information deliberately, and that it would have had a significant
impact on the trial's outcome."
"So, while the city was on trial for abusing the justice system, it
was abusing the justice system. The appeals court agreed that the city's
protestations to the contrary were 'without merit.' The city's offense
voided the result of a 13-week trial. Whatever your opinion of the
merits of the multiple sex-ring lawsuits still pending against this
city, it is difficult to argue that this kind of action does not deserve
2004-AUG-12: Wenatchee city council
authorizes appeal to state high court:
City council members voted unanimously to authorize its insurance company, the Association of Washington Cities, to appeal
the state Court of Appeals decision.
Mayor Dennis Johnson said that the insurance company had tried to settle out
of court, but:
"we've never been able to reach a settlement that is reasonable. I do think a settlement would be best for all
Pastor Roby Roberson disagreed. He said:
"They have never tried to do that. Not ever. Not once. I'm convinced
that the mayor, the City Council and the insurance company are more than
satisfied to keep taking their licks, to take this thing to trial -- win,
lose or draw....It's just remarkable to me that the city of Wenatchee is
willing to keep dragging this out because all it's doing is hurting the
Honnah Sims, a former Sunday School teacher at East Wenatchee Pentecostal
Church, reached a $350,000 settlement during 2006.
Donna Rodriguez, a former parishioner at the church, signed a $300,000
settlement in 2006-APR.
After 11 years of litigation, Robert "Roby" Robertson, pastor of the church,
settled a court fight for $700,000 in 2007-DEC.
The city's insurance company, the Association of Washington Cities Risk
Management Services, paid almost all of these settlements. City officials
claim that they had never paid more than $25,000 to settle the lawsuits.
As usual, it is the innocent who suffer. In this case, the Association will
probably increase future insurance rates for all Washington cities in order to
recoup their losses. 7
None of the convicted remain in prison.
Martin Salazar, "The ghost won't lie still: Ten years after first
arrest, 'sex-ring' episode still haunts the community," Wenatchee World,
Kathryn Lyon, "Witch Hunt: A True Story of Social Hysteria and Abused
Justice," Avon, (1998).
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
Editorial Board, "Time to Pay Up, Wenatchee," Seattle
Editorial, "The stain we cannot erase," Wenatchee World,
Opinion Information Sheet, docket 21777-9-III, 2004-AUG-03, Court of
Appeals, Division III, State of Washington, at:
"City will appeal sex-abuse decision to state high court," Wenatchee
"Wenatchee settles sex-case settlement with former pastor," Associated
Press, 2007-DEC-26, at: