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Washington State Prison Brass Interferes in Release of Senator’s Son

Questions are swirling about whether a Washington State legislator’s son was released 103 days early due to his mother’s political clout. Despite warnings from community corrections officers that the release would violate Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) policy, administrators ordered the release.

Stephen Roach, the son of 16-year Republican Sen. Pam Roach, was convicted of five drug charges and sentenced to 20 months in prison. The convictions stemmed from a September 2004 police raid. Roach was arrested after he sold OxyContin, a powerful narcotic pain reliever, to an undercover informant wearing a wire.

According to court records, a search of Roach’s home netted cash, OxyContin, scales, “marijuana packaged for sale, a .45-caliber handgun and a pair of shotguns, one of which was loaded and concealed behind his bed’s headboard.” Roach was classified as Risk Management C, a relatively low-risk offender, and served most of his time at the Larch Corrections Center.

Roach’s classification entitled him to half his sentence being reduced for good behavior. As it turns out, Roach should have been classified as Risk Management A, which only qualifies for a one-third reduction. That classification is for prisoners with a history of violence against a stranger that results in injury.

The record reflected Roach had been convicted previously of a misdemeanor assault, but according to Kevin Mauss, WDOC’s risk-assessment specialist, there was no indication it let to the level of “stranger violence.” Things changed shortly after community corrections officer John Conaty had a run in with Mrs. Roach on March 13, 2006, as he was preparing for Roach’s release to his parents’ home.

Conaty and Officer Erica Lee Odell were met at the door by Jim Roach and shown a basement bedroom where Stephen would stay. The officers were concerned about a gun safe in the closet with a key sticking out of the combination dial. They were summoned upstairs by Mrs. Roach moments later.

She took issue with their failure to remove their shoes as requested by a sign at the entrance. They refused, citing safety issues. When her husband offered to show them a bedroom upstairs for approval, Mrs. Roach refused to allow them to go upstairs.

As soon as they returned to their car, they tried to call their boss, Sandy Heurion, but she was already on the phone with Mrs. Roach. Then, Mrs. Roach called WDOC’s Secretary, Harold Clarke. Both say the conversation only had to do with the shoe issue.

Conaty discovered on March 16 that Stephen Roach had committed “stranger violence.” He noted it in Roach’s file and state he should have Risk Management A classification. He said he was ordered by Heurion and field administrator Gregg Freeman to not advise Roach’s counselor of the error and to approve the residence.

On several occasions, Heurion told Conaty that “we are not going to do anything until we get direction from above.” Conaty also noted in Roach’s file that the impending placement “is being done without completing the… home visit. The upstairs portion of the home as well as (Stephen Roach’s) room has not been viewed.” Heurion ordered Conaty to remove that entry; she acknowledged giving the order.

Three days after Roach’s release WDOC upgraded him to Risk Management A. A court ruling prevented him from being taken back into custody because he had not violated any release provisions.

Involvement of the higher brass was unusual. “For a deputy secretary to get involved is unusual,” said Lee-Odell. “I can’t recall another time where it has happened.”

Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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