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Washington Sex Offenders Settle Suit for $150,000

Washington Sex Offenders Settle Suit For $150,000

On January 22, 2001, Washington Special Commitment Center (SCC) officials settled two consolidated civil actions involving seven civilly committed Washington sex offenders. The sex offenders complained that they were not provided treatment for the psychological problems resulting in their civil commitment.

The plaintiffs, William Davenport, Anthony Jaka, Phillip McClatchery, Alan Meirhofer, Dennis Pryor, Manuel Escobedo, and Bernard Thorell are all sex offenders. Each served a sentence for his crime in the Washington prison system. Afterward, each was returned to the county jail and civilly committed under Washington's sexual predator law. Each was then incarcerated at the SCC, then located at the Washington State Reformatory near Monroe, Washington. (The SCC is now located on McNeil Island, Washington, within the confines of the McNeil Island Correction Center.) The SCC is run by the Washington Department of Social and Health Services.

In 1997, the plaintiffs brought constitutional challenges to the conditions of their confinement in two separate actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The lawsuits were consolidated by a Washington federal district court.

The core of the complaint was that SCC officials violated the sex offenders' rights to due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when they held them in the SCC without providing them with adequate treatment to overcome the sexual deviancies for which they are civilly committed.

Without treatment the sex offenders would never be considered safe to reenter society and would remain incarcerated for the rest of their lives. Such detention without treatment has been held to violate due process. See: Sharp v. Weston , 233 F.3d. 1166 (9th Cir. 2000), [on page 21 of this issue of PLN ].

On April 17, 2000, in an order issued by District Court Judge Thomas S. Zilly, the plaintiffs won a partial summary judgment precluding the State from relitigating issues already decided against them in similar prior cases and retaining counsel, Felix. G. Luna of Heller, Ehrman, White, and McCauliffe to represent them at trial.

Before trial the defendants settled the case for $75,000. Six of the plaintiffs will receive $10,000 each, and one will receive $15,000. The plaintiffs' counsel also received $75,000 in fees. These settlements are unpublished. See: William Davenport v. Mark Seling , USDC WDWN Case No. C9711662 and Manuel Escobedo aka Tall Bear v. Mark Seling , USDC WDWN Case No. C971849Z.

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Related legal cases

Davenport v. Seling

Manual Escobedo aka Tall Bear v. Mark Seling