Tuesday, October 7, 2003
Jury rejects plea to keep rapist locked away
He's set free, not declared a sexually violent offender
A jury for the first time has rejected the request of King County prosecutors to send a convicted rapist who had already served his prison sentence to an indefinite stay at a locked commitment center.
The decision by the jury meant that Curtis Thompson, convicted of committing four Seattle rapes in 1985, walked out of the King County Courthouse a free man. For the first time in more than 17 years, he is living outside custody -- in his mother's home near Sand Point.
Prosecutors asked that he be declared a sexually violent offender, which meant that he would be sent to the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island.
While waiting for a hearing and a jury to decide on the prosecutors' request, Thompson spent another year behind bars.
Until Friday's decision, a jury had never turned prosecutors down when they wanted a sex offender committed.
"The jury determined he's not a threat, and that's all I'm going to say. I'm happy he's home," Thompson's mother said yesterday at the home she now shares with her 44-year-old son. She declined to give her name.
Other people in the quiet neighborhood are uneasy about having Thompson, labeled a Level 3 sex offender, in their midst. Level 3 offenders are deemed the most likely to commit more crimes.
"It's causing a lot of fear and unease," said Matt Delcomyn, 39, who bought a house one year ago across the street from where Thompson now lives.
"I know he's done his time, but he's got another decade or so to prove himself to society, and I don't want to wait around to find out," he said.
Thompson registered with the King County Sheriff's office yesterday, listing his address in the 5500 block of 39th Avenue Northeast.
"Certainly he is a risk to reoffend, but that doesn't mean he will," said Detective Robert Shilling of the Seattle Police Department's special assault unit. Shilling notified neighbors Friday of Thompson's presence and held a community meeting about his release on Sunday.
Thompson had been held at the Special Commitment Center since his May 2002 release from prison.
For three weeks, jurors heard testimony in the hearing, in which prosecutors had to prove Thompson was more likely than not to commit another sexually related offense if he were not locked up. The jury took about half a day to reach its unprecedented decision.
Richard Warner, a public defender who represented Thompson, called the decision "courageous" while co-counsel Anita Paulsen said the jurors -- who asked questions of the witnesses during the hearing -- had obviously satisfied their own concerns about Thompson's release.
"These are people who live in King County who, just like all of us, are going to live in neigh- borhoods where he is going to be," Paulsen said.
Thompson's religious studies while in custody, his minimal number of infractions in prison and his work ethic there, as well as never having any problems with female kitchen staff or female officers, likely weighed in his favor, Paulsen said.
County officials believe Thompson belongs in the state center.
"We file civil commitment cases when we believe there is a high risk of reoffense, and this is ultimately a question that goes before a jury," said Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the county prosecutor's office.
Thompson was convicted of four rapes that occurred between April and July of 1985. He also was convicted of assault in an attempted rape and of burglary. In most of the incidents, Thompson threatened his victims with a knife or a gun and bound their feet and hands. He did not know any of the victims.
In all the incidents, Thompson broke into the women's homes and woke them up before raping them. In one incident, he cut a woman's arm from elbow to wrist, raped her with a broomstick and punched the woman's teenage daughter in the face when she came home.
Psychological reports from 1998 and 2002 found Thompson had a moderate to high risk of reoffending. Those reports cited a "deep-seated and currently suppressed anger and hostility toward women in general, which has gone untreated" and "concerns that the increasing tendency towards violence already noted by the prior record would only escalate."
Thompson did not undergo a psychological treatment program from the state while incarcerated, though he had frequent counseling sessions with fellow Jehovah's Witnesses.
His attorneys said he sought treatment in 1995, but was told he had to wait until 1998 -- or three years before his release date -- to receive it.
"He asked and asked for treatment, and when he didn't get it, he found his own way," Paulsen said.
County prosecutors argued that Thompson has a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes him likely to commit acts of sexual violence against strangers, according to court filings. A psychologist who interviewed Thompson in May 2002 concluded he was a sexual sadist.
Before the jury read its verdict Friday, Thompson had written a letter to the court, apologizing to his victims and their families and thanking the jury for hearing his case.
He wrote the letter assuming that he would be committed, his attorneys said. Thompson's release has encouraged others at the center who see their situation as hopeless, Paulsen said.
P-I reporter Chris McGann contributed to this report. P-I reporter Wyatt Buchanan can be reached at 206-448-8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org