WENATCHEE — The last defendant still imprisoned in a wide-ranging child sex ring prosecution is being released.
Whitman County Superior Court Judge Wallis Friel signed an order Tuesday vacating Michael E. Rose’s child rape and molestation convictions. Prosecutors this week gave up their fight to keep Rose in prison.
Rose, 31, will likely be released today from the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe after spending more than six years in prison.
"It’s been a long six years, and I’m glad it’s over," Rose said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "I knew I would get out eventually, but it never should have taken this long."
Chelan County Prosecutor Gary Riesen said he dropped the fight to keep Rose in prison because Friel has twice ruled that former Wenatchee police Detective Bob Perez used improper interview methods.
Rose is the 18th child sex-abuse defendant to be released from prison after courts overturned their convictions, or because they pleaded to lesser charges after appeals.
"I’m very happy this is the last one of these cases," Riesen said.
Leta Schattauer, a lawyer representing Rose, called Rose "one of the bravest people I have ever known. Even though he was faced with insurmountable odds, he has steadfastly held onto the fact that he was innocent."
Rose was one of nine adults initially said by authorities to have been part of a Wenatchee sex ring involving many children.
Twenty-eight Wenatchee-area people eventually were charged with child rape or molestation. Of those, 19 were either convicted or pleaded guilty and were sent to prison.
One remains in prison, but Timothy Durst’s case did not involve any alleged involvement in a sex ring. Durst is serving a 23-year sentence for child rape. He has not appealed.
Since 1997, the state Court of Appeals has thrown out the convictions of 10 defendants. Another seven have been released from prison after agreeing to plead to lesser charges while their appeals were pending.
The cases were taken up by lawyers from Innocence Project Northwest.
Rose was convicted in March 1995 of five counts of rape and molestation involving two boys. He was sentenced to 23 years and four months in prison.
Rose is being freed after the state Court of Appeals ordered a special hearing, which called into question Perez’s methods and the reliability of the two boys who made allegations against Rose.
Schattauer, a Seattle lawyer, argued in Rose’s appeal that his trial lawyer failed to contest the competency of the alleged victims.
Clarice Nelson, Rose’s mother, said her son relied on his strong faith in God to make it through the appeals process.
"He’s been very, very positive," she said. "He’s been more positive at times when we’ve tended to get depressed. He just wants to get on with his life, get back to normal."
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