Man convicted of molesting 8 children will be released from prison soon

EVERETT — A convicted child molester who spent more than two decades behind bars is set to be released on March 5.

The state can no longer prove that John Callahan, 40, is a sexually violent predator, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Anita Farris said in court on Friday.

Callahan was convicted of molesting eight children in the 1980s. He went to prison in 1989. He was about to be released in 1998 when prosecutors began a civil case to have him ruled a sexually violent predator. After lengthy wrangling, that happened in 2007.

State and federal laws required that Callahan be re-evaluated each year.

The 2011 evaluation did not find he has a mental condition that likely would cause him to commit more sexually violent crimes, Farris said. The state hired an outside expert to conduct a second evaluation, which reached the same findings.

Farris stressed that the evaluations do not mean Callahan isn’t mentally ill or dangerous, only that he no longer meets legal criteria for civil commitment.

Snohomish County prosecutors won Callahan’s criminal conviction and later succeeded in having him declared a sexually violent predator. The case later was transferred to the state Attorney General’s office.

Brooke Burbank, an assistant attorney general, joined Callahan’s defense attorney in agreeing to dismiss the case. The court had no discretion over whether to keep Callahan locked up, Farris said.

The judge spoke at length about the complicated laws governing the confinement of sex offenders after they complete their prison sentences.

Callahan already served the maximum amount of time allowed under state law for the crimes of which he was convicted, Farris said.

Farris said she prepared the explanation for the hearing because of the volume of letters she’s received about the case from Callahan’s victims and their families. About two dozen of them filled the court on Friday. Some cried and embraced one another after the hearing.

Many of Callahan’s relatives opposed his release.

Callahan originally was supposed to be released from prison in 1998, but prosecutors filed a petition to have him declared a sexually violent predator in need of treatment. The trial was delayed nearly a decade for procedural and legal reasons.

Since 1989, Callahan has been held at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island, south of Tacoma.

It isn’t yet clear where he will go upon release. He has indicated to counselors in the past that he may be interested in living in the Seattle area.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com

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