By Scott North
It’s a 295-mile drive from Everett to Walla Walla. And while you can’t tell from the map, in important ways it’s supposed to be an even farther journey to Unit R, Tier B, cell 202, inside the Washington State Penitentiary.
At his 2007 sentencing, the judge called Wallin’s crimes “nothing less than a scourge on our community.”
“You are a predator. You prey on our children and society will not put up with it,” Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael Downes told him.
But being tossed into prison hasn’t fully sent Wallin away. On Sept. 28, prosecutors were in court fighting to keep him from accessing information they contend could allow him to cause more harm to victims of sex crimes.
From prison, Wallin has filed a series of public records requests seeking documents he apparently believes may help in his efforts to regain freedom. He’s received many of the records he’s sought — including some handed over under court orders.
This time, though, Wallin apparently overplayed his hand. He sought transcripts from interviews conducted with two child sex abuse victims. The children, then 9 and 14, described being molested by a man who later was locked up with Wallin at the county jail. That man became a witness against Wallin.
The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office in March 2011 refused to provide Wallin with transcripts of the children’s interviews. Officials argued the records were exempt from disclosure for several reasons, including specific protections for crime victims. They also said the sheriff’s office doesn’t release such interview transcripts to anyone, except for use in criminal prosecutions where evidence rules and protective orders are in place to limit access.
“The release of these intimate, personal, traumatic details of the rape of a child to a sexual offender… is egregious and shocking to the conscience,” Jeffrey Miller, a sheriff’s office Bureau Chief, said in court papers. Victims would be less willing to talk if they knew details they shared could later be read by any sex offender, he argued.
Wallin asked Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss to order release of the transcripts and to fine the county up to $95 a day, back to March 2011.
The judge turned the inmate down and dismissed his lawsuit.
Prosecutors are concerned, however. The state’s records law is clear: Exemptions to disclosure are to be narrowly applied.
When the questions are in the abstract though, good people can raise valid arguments to justify many positions. The day before Wallin’s hearing, the state Supreme Court ruled in a separate case that victim impact statements in sex assault cases are public records, as are the reports prepared to screen sex offenders who may be eligible for special sentences focusing on treatment.
Prosecutors here said they were grateful Weiss ruled in their favor.
What they’d really like, though, is for Wallin and his records requests to go away for good.