Thursday, June 19, 2008

Remembering Wenatchee: Washington's version of the Dale Akiki case

Jury finds city, county negligent in child sex ring case
Couple awarded $3 million

Wednesday, August 1, 2001


A Spokane County jury yesterday found the city of Wenatchee and Douglas County negligent in the now-discredited 1994-1995 Wenatchee child sex ring investigations, awarding $3 million to a couple who had been wrongly accused in the inquiry.

In the first test of a landmark state Supreme Court decision in September that ruled police can be sued for conducting negligent child-abuse investigations, Honnah and Jonathan Sims were awarded the money after a three-week civil trial before Superior Court Judge Michael Donohue...

The jury, which deliberated all day Monday and most of yesterday, also found that both the city and county were negligent in the investigations of East Wenatchee pastor Roby Roberson and his wife, Connie, key figures accused in the case.

...The jury also found that Wenatchee's investigation of Donna Rodriguez was negligent but decided against a monetary award.

The Robersons and Honnah Sims, who had been a Sunday school teacher at Roberson's church, were acquitted of child rape and molestation charges in 1995. Charges against Rodriguez, a parishioner in the church, were dismissed in 1996 when four of her five accusers recanted.

Two children who made most of the accusations -- tales of mass sex rings involving dozens of children and adults operating out of Roberson's church -- were under foster care and living in Perez's home.
..."To me the closure point was actually 1998. With ...everybody being freed from jail. Finally our character and reputations were restored and these people (police and prosecutors) were exposed."

In 1994 and 1995, Perez and Child Protective Services caseworkers initiated a series of investigations in Wenatchee that resulted in 43 people charged with 27,726 counts of child rape and molestation against 60 children.

Roberson came under investigation in 1995 after he began criticizing Perez's investigations and the arrests of two parishioners, Harold and Idella Everett, a poor, developmentally disabled couple. The Everetts, parents to the two foster children making accusations while living under in Perez's supervision, served five years in prison before they were released when their case was overturned in September 1998...

All 18 people convicted in the investigations he initiated have since been released, their convictions overturned or agreements made to plead guilty to lesser and usually unrelated charges.

In February 1998, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published "The Power to Harm," a series of articles exploring the conduct of police, lawyers, social workers and others involved in the investigations.

...Perez's investigations began to unravel amid evidence of bungling by police and prosecutors, conflicts of interest involving a judge, and inept defense counsel.

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