Content warning: This story contains references to alleged sexual assaults of a minor.
EVERETT — In the words of his defense attorney, Jason Dominguez concedes it was a “very inappropriate, Lolita-type infatuation a grown man developed toward a teenage girl.”
Prosecutors believe Dominguez, a former parent-teacher organization president, went far beyond mere messages on social media.
A Snohomish County jury heard opening statements Friday in a trial where Dominguez is accused of grooming and sexually abusing a teen girl he met as a Girl Scouts volunteer. The defendant, a former Monroe prison guard who lived in Sultan, is fighting the most serious charges against him.
“This case is about normalizing sexual exploitation,” deputy prosecutor Martina Wong told the jury.
“This case is about fantasy, not reality,” defense attorney Eli Jacobsen countered in his statement.
Dominguez, now 36, is charged with second-degree rape of a child, third-degree rape of a child and communication with a minor for immoral purposes. According to the girl, he sent sexual messages to her when she was 13, escalating to physical abuse that lasted from 2017 to 2019.
The girl’s mother discovered the messages. She came forward to sheriff’s detectives in Sultan in summer 2019. The girl then reported, for the first time, that Dominguez had been abusing her. She recounted one morning when she was sleeping in the same house as him. According to the girl, he woke her up, took her to an isolated place in the home and raped her. She estimated they had sexual contact 10 to 12 times.
The girl spoke on the witness stand for hours Friday, seated with her hands in her lap, speaking in a calm voice through a clear mask.
Wong began by asking her questions about her life — her favorite sport, why she likes it, what she wants to do when she graduates from high school. (She wants a job where she can help people, she testified.)
The prosecutor then asked about Dominguez. The teen described how she came to trust him as “a second father.” He would buy her gifts, give her money for clothes and listen to her when she needed to talk.
Over time, he became more “flirty and touchy,” and then things escalated, she testified.
“I was younger,” she testified, “so I didn’t really like understand how wrong it was.”
In a trial brief, Jacobsen described the defendant as a father and a family man with no criminal history.
In court papers, the defense acknowledged Dominguez sent inappropriate messages to the girl, but asserted there was no proof — aside from screenshots taken by the girl’s mother — that it was actually Dominguez who sent a pornographic image to her from his Facebook account, with a request: “Will you do that for me?”
“umm no,” she responded.
He insisted it wasn’t gross, according to the screenshots.
“Yeah it is dude,” she texted, “I’m only 13.”
According to the defense, “the produced messages, if accurate, represent an unfulfilled fantasy.”
Jurors read those text messages off a large television screen Friday, with the girl reciting the conversations and giving context, across the courtroom from Dominguez.
As is extremely common in sex abuse cases, the girl was the only witness to the abuse she reported.
She was reluctant to say what happened, she said, “because I didn’t want his family to get hurt.”
In opening statements Friday, the prosecution did not touch on claims that Dominguez had been inappropriate with other girls in Sultan — using his positions in the community to get emotionally and physically close to girls, at times playing with their hair and kissing them, as alleged at an initial bail hearing in 2019.
“It is apparent that the defendant has intentionally placed himself in positions of trust … that inherently involved direct contact with youth, in this tight-knit community,” Wong said in 2019.
After the messages came to light, another woman reported seeing Dominguez on a playground, hugging children in fourth and fifth grade, grabbing them from behind and holding them for “long hugs,” according to a defense motion to suppress any mention of those allegations.
On a LinkedIn profile, Dominguez wrote he served as an Aviation Operations Specialist with the U.S. Marine Corps, and as a security officer in San Diego and New York. He took a job as a corrections officer in 2012, and he was based at the Monroe prison, according to the state Department of Corrections.
An arrest report noted he served as a volunteer for Gold Bar Elementary School, as the previous president of the Gold Bar Elementary PTO and as a Girl Scouts “volunteer/leader.” Months before his arrest, he passed a background check to be a Girl Scouts troop helper.
Dominguez resigned from his job at the Monroe prison, according to charging papers. He has been behind bars at the Snohomish County Jail since Oct. 8, 2019, with his bail set at $250,000.
In October 2020, the defendant asked for a new attorney, claiming his current one would go weeks or months without communicating. The motion was denied.
In jury selection this week, Jacobsen said the defendant “almost certainly” will not testify in his defense.
The trial was expected to continue next week in Superior Court Judge Anita Farris’ courtroom.
Help is out there for survivors of sexual abuse
Dawson Place, an advocacy center for child abuse victims, is located at 1509 California St. in Everett. Staff can advise survivors, family and friends about how to make a report or seek help. The center can be reached at 425-789-3000.
RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, runs a 24-hour national hotline, 800-656-HOPE (4673), in partnership with 1,000 sexual assault service providers.
Domestic Violence Services Snohomish County also has a 24-hour hotline, 425-25-ABUSE.