Judge refuses to overturn verdict keeping sex offender behind bars


Herald Writer

A Snohomish County judge declined Friday to second-guess a jury’s decision to keep a convicted rapist locked up, even though state experts believe he’s ready to be eased back into the community.

Mitchell Gaff, 42, had asked Superior Court Judge James Allendoerfer to toss out an August verdict that will keep him locked up for another year at the Special Commitment Center for sex offenders. The center is inside the state’s prison on McNeil Island in south Puget Sound.

Gaff has been diagnosed as a sexual sadist. Allendoerfer ruled there is sufficient evidence to support the jury’s conclusion that it is not yet safe for Gaff to taste freedom, even under strict supervision.

But the judge also made clear he is not comfortable with much of what has happened in Gaff’s case.

He said some of the statistical evidence jurors heard about the risk that Gaff may rape again probably wouldn’t survive scientific scrutiny if attacked more vigorously in court.

The judge also criticized state officials for requiring Gaff to undergo a treatment program that some evidence indicates could actually make him more likely to harm others in the future.

That not only makes little sense, it also may be unconstitutional, the judge said.

Gaff was clearly unhappy with Allendoerfer’s decision, but he maintained his composure while in the courtroom and as he was hustled back to jail.

The judge’s ruling came after nearly two hours of arguments by lawyers .

Gaff’s attorney, public defender Mark Adair, said prosecutors had failed to make the case that his client belonged behind bars. Every expert testified the time had come to move Gaff into a community-based setting, where he can continue to receive treatment under strict supervision.

"We are not asking the court to simply unlock the door and send him on his merry way," Adair said.

Deputy prosecutor Paul Stern reminded the judge the same state experts testified that statistical analysis shows up to 92 percent of people with Gaff’s particular problems are likely to reoffend within 25 years.

"I’ve not met anybody in 19 years (of prosecuting rapists and murderers) who is more dangerous to this community than Mitchell Gaff," Stern said.

But Allendoerfer said the statistical analysis used appears too crude to take into account the effects of Gaff’s eight years of sex offender treatment.

As for Stern’s observations about Gaff’s dangerousness, "We aren’t talking about what you think" but whether Gaff has changed, he told the prosecutor.

At his trial in August, Gaff testified he raped eight women and girls during the late 1970s and early 1980s and sexually attacked scores more. At one point, he was accosting or attempting to attack 10 to 30 women a day, knocking some to the ground and putting his hands up their skirts, he admitted.

Gaff has been behind bars since 1984, when he slipped into an Everett home and bound and gagged two sisters, one 14, the other 16. He spent more than two hours repeatedly raping, sodomizing and beating the pair.

The attack ended only when one of the girls was able to wriggle free and escape, naked, into the street. At the time, Gaff had been trying to strangle one of the girls with an electrical cord.

Gaff served 10 years in prison for the 1984 rapes. On the eve of his release, prosecutors filed papers seeking to have him detained under the state’s sex predator law. A Snohomish County jury in 1995 determined Gaff belonged behind bars receiving treatment.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Ariel Garcia, 4, was last seen Wednesday morning in an apartment in the 4800 block of Vesper Dr. (Photo provided by Everett Police)
How to donate to the family of Ariel Garcia

Everett police believe the boy’s mother, Janet Garcia, stabbed him repeatedly and left his body in Pierce County.

A ribbon is cut during the Orange Line kick off event at the Lynnwood Transit Center on Saturday, March 30, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
‘A huge year for transit’: Swift Orange Line begins in Lynnwood

Elected officials, community members celebrate Snohomish County’s newest bus rapid transit line.

Bethany Teed, a certified peer counselor with Sunrise Services and experienced hairstylist, cuts the hair of Eli LeFevre during a resource fair at the Carnegie Resource Center on Wednesday, March 6, 2024, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Carnegie center is a one-stop shop for housing, work, health — and hope

The resource center in downtown Everett connects people to more than 50 social service programs.

Everett mall renderings from Brixton Capital. (Photo provided by the City of Everett)
Topgolf at the Everett Mall? Mayor’s hint still unconfirmed

After Cassie Franklin’s annual address, rumors circled about what “top” entertainment tenant could be landing at Everett Mall.

Foamy brown water, emanating a smell similar to sewage, runs along the property line of Lisa Jansson’s home after spilling off from the DTG Enterprises property on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Snohomish, Washington. Jansson said the water in the small stream had been flowing clean and clear only a few weeks earlier. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Neighbors of Maltby recycling facility assert polluted runoff, noise

For years, the DTG facility has operated without proper permits. Residents feel a heavy burden as “watchdogs” holding the company accountable.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Stanwood in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Stanwood man gets federal prison for selling fentanyl on dark web

In 2013, Christerfer Frick was sentenced to nine years for trafficking drugs. He began selling online upon his release in 2020.

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

Dan Templeman speaks during a forum lead by The Daily Herald on housing affordability at the Mukilteo Library on Thursday, April 11, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
At Herald forum, experts affirm Housing First model, despite downsides

At the Mukilteo Library, panelists discussed drug-contaminated housing and lengthy cleanup efforts in Snohomish County.

Molbak's Garden + Home in Woodinville, Washington closed on Jan. 28 2024. (Photo courtesy of Molbak's)
Molbak’s, former Woodinville garden store, hopes for a comeback

Molbak’s wants to create a “hub” for retailers and community groups at its former Woodinville store. But first it must raise $2.5 million.

A fire at a home near Alderwood Mall sent one neighbor and one firefighter to the hospital. (Photo provided by South County Fire)
Officials: Residents returned to burning Lynnwood home to rescue dogs

Five people and six dogs were displaced in the Thursday afternoon house fire, according to South County Fire.

Featuring a pink blush over a yellow background, WA 64 combines qualities of Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink (aka Pink Lady) for a firm, crisp, sweet and tart bite. A naming contest for the new apple runs through May 5, 2024. (Photo provided by Washington State University)
Hey Honeycrisp, this new breed of apple needs a name

Enter a naming contest for WA 64, a hybrid apple with the same baby daddy as Cosmic Crisp.

Police respond to a wrong way crash Thursday night on Highway 525 in Lynnwood after a police chase. (Photo provided by Washington State Department of Transportation)
Lynnwood woman, 83, killed in wrong-way crash following police pursuit

Deputies said they were chasing a man, 37, south on Highway 525 when he swerved into northbound lanes, killing an oncoming driver.

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.