High court declines to consider judgment against city of Wenatchee
The city of Wenatchee may have to pay more than $700,000 in penalties in the 1994-95 child sex-rings case now that the state Supreme Court...
WENATCHEE — The city of Wenatchee may have to pay more than $700,000 in penalties in the 1994-95 child sex-rings case now that the state Supreme Court has refused to consider a lower-court finding that city officials improperly withheld documents from plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the investigations.
"Basically, for the city of Wenatchee, it's time to pay up," East Wenatchee Pastor Robert "Roby" Roberson said of the ruling last week.
In a $60 million lawsuit filed in 1998, Roberson and Malaga residents Honnah Sims and Donna Rodriguez accused the city of violating their civil rights.
Before the lawsuit went to trial, they sought employment records for former Wenatchee police Detective Bob Perez, lead investigator in the sex-rings case, which alleged that Roberson and his congregants sexually abused children. Sims was a Sunday-school teacher at Roberson's church.
The city declined to provide all the documents, and then prevailed at trial.
In August, an appeals court upheld a 2003 Spokane County Superior Court decision restoring the lawsuit and ordering the city to pay $718,000 in penalties. Judge Michael Donohue found the city intentionally withheld Perez's records from the court and the plaintiffs' attorneys, and that the records could have changed the outcome of the trial.
At issue were results of a pre-employment polygraph test, medical records and state Department of Employment Security files. In them, police officials expressed concerns about Perez's fitness for duty.
The employment records show Perez was suffering from a serious mental disability at the time he conducted the investigations, attorneys have said in court. Since the 1998 sex-rings trial in Seattle, at least 12 people Perez helped convict have been released from prison.
Plaintiffs Roberson, Sims and Rodriguez were each accused of committing sex crimes. Charges against Rodriguez were dismissed before trial. Roberson and Sims were acquitted.
The decision by state justices not to consider the lower-court rulings means the lawsuit against the city and Perez will be retried, said the plaintiffs' attorney, Auburn lawyer Tyler Firkins.
Firkins also said the city has exhausted its avenues for appeal and will have to pay the fine, with interest. That could top $1 million, he said in a telephone interview.
Pat McMahon, attorney for the city of Wenatchee, disagreed.
"We're taking a look at the decision and seeing what our options are at this point," McMahon said. He said he does not believe the city would be required to pay interest on the fine.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.