Attorney Danford Grant pleads guilty to 5 counts of rape
Seattle attorney Danford Grant pleaded guilty Wednesday to five counts of third-degree rape and one count of first-degree burglary in connection with sexual attacks on five Asian massage therapists. He now faces 25 years in prison.
Seattle Times staff reporter
In a plea deal that prosecutors say spared five women from having to publicly recount details of their violent rapes, Seattle attorney Danford Grant pleaded guilty Wednesday to five counts of third-degree rape for attacks on Asian massage therapists and now faces a 25-year prison sentence.
A jury had been empaneled Tuesday for Grant’s trial, but the state and defense engaged in lengthy negotiations throughout the afternoon in the hallway outside a King County courtroom, said Superior Court Judge William Downing.
Wednesday morning, just before opening statements were to begin in his trial, Grant, 49, instead said “guilty” six times — once for each of the rape charges and once for a first-degree burglary charge for bursting through one victim’s locked door to sexually assault her inside her Shoreline home. One of the rape charges also carried a deadly weapon enhancement.
Grant was arrested in September 2012 after a series of sexual assaults on five Asian massage therapists in Bellevue, Shoreline and Seattle, according to police and prosecutors.
As part of the plea deal, Grant will serve five years for each of the rapes, for a total of 25, though he could be released after serving only 15 years if he accrues “good time” behind bars. He will get credit for the roughly 18 months he’s served on electronic-home detention while awaiting trial. Grant will also be required to register as a sex offender once he’s released.
Had he gone to trial, Grant faced two counts of first-degree rape, two counts of attempted second-degree rape and one count of burglary.
In Washington state, first-degree rape is defined as rape by “forcible compulsion” with one of the following: use of or threat of a deadly weapon, kidnap, infliction of serious physical injury or illegal entry into a building or vehicle.
Second-degree rape involves forcible compulsion, but not the other elements of first-degree rape. Third-degree rape involves sex to which the victim clearly objected through words or conduct.
Had he been convicted at trial, Grant faced a sentence of 25 to 32 years in prison, but convictions for first- and second-degree rape also carry the potential of an indeterminate sentence, in which a state board can add additional time to a prison sentence up to life. Grant’s plea deal enabled him to avoid that possibility.
He will remain on electronic-home detention until he is sentenced May 19.
Grant declined to comment as he left court Wednesday, saying he’ll save his remarks for sentencing.
During a news conference after Grant’s guilty pleas, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg called him a violent, serial rapist — and described him as a “man of power and privilege” who preyed upon vulnerable women, some of whom live on the margins of society.
“He thought he chose his victims wisely,” assuming they would remain quiet out of shame and because of language and cultural barriers, Satterberg said of Grant’s victims, who are all Asian.
“Frankly, they didn’t want to be in the same room with this guy again,” Satterberg said of the victims, who were “thrilled” not to have to testify at trial.
By Grant pleading guilty to one rape charge per victim, it sent the message that the women were believed, he said, noting they didn’t know each other yet told strikingly similar accounts.
“We believe you. Even somebody who works in a massage parlor can be raped,” Satterberg said.
Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Richard Hansen seemed to minimize his client’s conduct.
“I don’t want to disparage the women in this case,” he said, but there was “no force, no weapon, they just didn’t want to do it but did it anyway. That’s what he pleaded guilty to, and that’s closer to the truth.”
He said his client, who suffers from depression and sex addiction, “is a good person” and has the support of his wife and family.
Grant, 49, was originally charged with seven felonies in connection with rapes or attempted rapes of five massage therapists in 2011 and 2012. Last month, King County prosecutors added two felony charges, but then on Monday dismissed four of the nine felonies he faced involving three of his alleged victims over evidence concerns, according to court records.
Grant was to stand trial in connection with attacks on a 46-year-old Bellevue woman and a 54-year-old Shoreline woman.
But the guilty pleas also include attacks on three other victims, who are now 21, 29 and 46.
Four of the five women are Chinese and at least two do not speak English. The fifth woman is Thai.
It had been expected that Grant would present a defense that he engaged in paid, consensual sex with his victims.
Grant, a married father of three, was a partner in a private law firm in Seattle before his arrest.
Though Grant has not been disbarred, Satterberg said Wednesday that the Washington State Bar Association is expected to begin its own investigation now that Grant has pleaded guilty.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information in this article, originally published May 7, 2014, was corrected May 8, 2014. A previous web summary on this story incorrectly stated that Danford Grant pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery. He pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary.