City to fight sex offender’s request for bikini-barista video

EVERETT — The city is going to court, hoping for some help with a recurring public records headache.

Everett police again have received a demand for copies of 2013 surveillance videos that show bikini baristas flashing customers and otherwise behaving badly.

This time, the person making the Public Records Act request is a convicted child rapist serving two life terms for sex crimes involving multiple victims.

The city last week filed a Snohomish County Superior Court lawsuit seeking a ruling that it need not comply with a records request from inmate Jamie Wallin.

“The Court should not feed this repeat sex offender’s perversions by allowing him to obtain copies of video files that feature young women stripping and engaging in sexual conduct,” assistant city attorneys Ramsey Ramerman and Katie Rathbun said in court papers.

The lawsuit also seeks to revisit the city’s contention that the state’s records law shouldn’t force it to provide copies of videos it believes violate the baristas’ privacy.

The footage was gathered up four years ago as part of an investigation into prostitution and public corruption at sexspresso stands in Everett and elsewhere in Snohomish and King counties. The workers were surreptitiously filmed engaged in a variety of lewd behaviors with customers, mostly baring body parts for tips.

Everett in 2015 fought a losing battle to limit what it must do with demands for copies of the videos. It conceded they are public records and thus subject to disclosure. But it suggested the city could satisfy the law by allowing people who demanded access the opportunity to view the videos while simultaneously refusing to provide copies.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel ruled the city’s plan was unlawful; that the records act is clear that people have the right to inspect and to copy government videos and documents.

The city wound up paying $45,000 to Arthur West of Olympia, agreeing to supply him the videos and bringing the litigation to a close. The prolific public records requester represented himself in court, arguing that it was a case about government transparency and following the law. He also was working quietly with an attorney to demand up to $175,000 from the city over how it had responded to his request, documents show.

Controversial records requests are not new territory for Wallin. He has repeatedly sought information that has made police uncomfortable since heading to prison for his most-recent convictions nearly a decade ago.

In 2012 a Snohomish County judge tossed out the inmate’s demands for transcripts from interviews conducted with two child sex abuse victims who had been molested by another offender. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office argued it would be “egregious and shocking to the conscience” to provide Wallin — or any other sex offender — with those details.

The judge not only agreed, he also rejected Wallin’s demand that the county be fined up to $95 a day for refusing to honor his demand.

Wallin remains locked up at the state penitentiary in Walla Walla.

Under prison rules he can’t legally possess the barista videos, and the only way he could get them would be to have them somehow smuggled to him behind bars, the city maintains.

That’s grounds to deny his request, the lawyers said.

“Alternatively, if Wallin is not planning on engaging in illegal activity by smuggling the videos into prison, then he has no legitimate reason for requesting the videos and has made the request to the city for the purposes of harassing the city and in hopes of generating penalties,” the city said in court papers.

State law allows the court to enjoin inmates from making records requests for improper purposes. Potentially adding weight to the city’s case: Wallin previously ran afoul of the law for attempting to court a 16-year-old Snohomish County barista while he was on supervision for a prior molestation conviction, records show.

Ramerman said the city has continued to study evolving case law regarding the intersection of public records and privacy rights and the legal issues raised by the barista videos.

The baristas have Fourteenth Amendment privacy protections, Ramerman said. The city continues to worry that at some point, release of the videos will result in them being published to the Internet.

“The baristas’ right to bodily privacy has not been waived by their voluntary exposures to customers at coffee stands because the scope of these in-person exposures were subject to physical and temporal limitations and the production of the videos would exceed that exposure by orders of magnitude,” the city said in court papers.

Scott North: 425-339-3431; north@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snorthnews.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Photos by Olivia Vanni / The Herald
Gabby Bullock sits on her bed in a room she shares with another housemate on June 14 in Everett.
‘We don’t have openings’: SnoCo recovery houses struggle with demand

Advocates say the homes are critical for addiction recovery. But home prices make starting a sober living house difficult.

Melinda Grenier serves patrons at her coffee truck called Hay Girl Coffee during the third annual Arlington Pride event in Arlington, Washington on Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Food safety team defends its work: it’s a ‘high pressure, thankless’ job

Management tried to set the record straight about long permit delays in Snohomish County.

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
Global tech outage leaves a mark on Snohomish County

The CrowdStrike software update hit some systems at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett and briefly disrupted 911 operations.

Performers joust during the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire at Sky Meadows Park in Snohomish, Washington, on Sunday, Aug. 06, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Royalty and revelry: The spirit of the Renaissance comes to Monroe

The annual Renaissance fair will open its doors every weekend from July 20 to Aug. 18

Trees and foliage grow at the Rockport State Park on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 in Rockport, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
When you get lost in WA, what’s the cost to get rescued? Surprisingly little

Washington’s volunteer search and rescue teams save lives without costly bills.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.