By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — A jury only needed two hours on Friday to acquit a former corrections deputy accused of engaging in sex acts with a female inmate at the Snohomish County Jail.
Abner Canda, 59, exhaled loudly and lurched forward in his chair as Superior Court Judge David Kurtz read the verdict. He later embraced numerous relatives who were in tears. Canda hugged his attorney, Mark Mestel.
Canda faced two counts of first-degree custodial sexual misconduct. It is a felony for corrections officers to engage in sexual activity with inmates.
Canda had been a corrections deputy since 2007. He was fired earlier this year after a sheriff’s office investigation led to charges in March.
In closing arguments on Thursday, Mestel lambasted the police investigation.
“The state’s case stinks,” Mestel told jurors.
Detectives took the woman, 22, at her word but didn’t do the work to either corroborate or refute her claims when there were opportunities to do so, Mestel said.
Detectives failed to obtain records that Canda was even working on the days the woman claimed the incidents happened, he said. They also didn’t interview at least three other inmates who were in the vicinity of the woman’s cell. Mestel also argued that detectives failed to thoroughly investigate credible reports that woman had a cellmate, which would have meant she couldn’t have been alone with Canda.
“People who are victimized are entitled to justice whether there are witnesses or not,” Mestel said.
The investigation failed to provide any justice, he said.
After Friday’s verdict, Mestel again criticized the police work.
“I’m very disappointed in the investigation in this case,” he said, adding that defendants, victims and the community deserve better.
Prosecutors had alleged that Canda traded sexual favors with the woman for food, including cookies, beef jerky, candy and a ham sandwich. They said video surveillance showed him going into the woman’s cell on the day that she reported they engaged in a sex act. Other inmates testified that Canda paid the woman special attention.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Kathy Jo Blake argued that Canda took advantage of the woman’s troubled history and counted on no one believing her if she ever reported him. The woman testified that she works as a prostitute to support a drug addiction. She told investigators she was coming forward because she was ashamed of her actions and wanted “to change to be a better person now.”
She had nothing to gain by stepping forward, Blake said.
Mestel argued that woman took steps to sue the county and his client. When that failed, she stopped cooperating with investigators, he said.
Canda was a fixture at the jail, working nearly 3,000 hours of overtime between 2010 and his termination last summer. Friday’s verdict is not expected to change the sheriff’s office decision to fire him. His termination was based on a separate internal investigation, sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.