Volunteer youth mentor sentenced for sexual assault

  • Mon Feb 6th, 2012 10:29pm
  • News

By Eric Stevick Herald Writer

EVERETT — A Lynnwood man was sentenced Monday to more than 12 years in prison after admitting that he sexually assaulted a boy he met through a high-profile youth mentoring organization.

James Waddell, 54, pleaded guilty Jan. 3 to first-degree child molestation and four other charges related to possessing and dealing child pornography.

He met his victim through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound.

Waddell could be in custody even longer. He will have to convince the state’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board that he’s ready for freedom before he’s let out. Waddell also will have to register as a sex offender.

Federal authorities agreed not to pursue charges against Waddell in light of the plea agreement, officials said.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis followed the sentencing recommendation of the prosecutor and Waddell’s defense attorney.

“It is a significant sentence,” deputy prosecutor Adam Cornell told the judge.

Cornell described the child pornography as “extremely explicit” but also credited the defendant for sparing the victim, “now a young man, from the public humiliation” of having to recount in a courtroom what happened to him as a child.

Waddell came to the attention of Florida authorities in November 2010 during an undercover investigation that targeted people sharing online child pornography, according to charging documents. Investigators with the Washington State Patrol searched Waddell’s Lynnwood apartment in January 2011 and seized a computer, camera and photographs.

Waddell, who had no previous criminal history, was a volunteer with the Big Brothers mentoring program from 2002 to 2005. He was terminated for having unauthorized overnight stays with a boy, court papers said. He’d been matched with the boy when the child was 6. Waddell continued to see the boy after the mentorship was terminated, Cornell wrote in charging papers.

The victim, now 16, initially denied that he’d been sexually assaulted. He later told a FBI interview specialist that Waddell had assaulted him, but he had been struggling with how to deal with the abuse.

Officials with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound cooperated with investigators. Volunteers and staff undergo screening and criminal background checks and the children and their parents are given personal safety awareness education.

Waddell allegedly sought a foster care license from the state after he was kicked out of the Big Brothers program. He didn’t tell state officials that he’d been terminated. His application was denied. An employee with the state Department of Social and Health Services concluded that Waddell was a liar, Cornell wrote. Waddell appealed the state’s decision, but the appeal was rejected in 2008.

The judge Monday called Waddell’s effort to become a foster parent “an audacious act.”

Waddell told Ellis that he is “willing to do everything” in prison needed toward his rehabilitation and vowed never to reoffend.

“I made a mistake,” he said.

The victim was not in court Monday but his mother was. She chose not to address the court but had written a letter to the judge seeking a long sentence.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com