Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Jarett Goodkin gives his opening statement in the trial of former Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy Anthony Zayas (right) at Snohomish County Courthouse on Wednesday in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Jarett Goodkin gives his opening statement in the trial of former Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy Anthony Zayas (right) at Snohomish County Courthouse on Wednesday in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Trial begins for Snohomish County ex-deputy accused of rape

Anthony Zayas, 27, is accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl he met on Tinder while employed by the sheriff’s office.

Content warning: This story contains allegations of sexual assault.

EVERETT — A former Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy accused of raping a 14-year-old girl believed she was 18, his attorney said in court Wednesday.

This week, the trial began for Anthony Zayas, 27, of Arlington. A Snohomish County Superior Court jury will decide if the former deputy is guilty of third-degree rape of a child.

Zayas was employed as a sheriff’s deputy from 2019 to 2021. On June 20, 2020, he reportedly had sexual contact with a girl he met on the internet through the dating application Tinder, according to charging papers. The girl used a fake name on her dating profile and said she was 19.

The girl, now 16, shed tears as she testified Thursday. When asked if she thought the photos on her Tinder profile resembled what she looked like in real life when she met Zayas, she said, “not at all.”

“I looked like I was 14,” she told the courtroom. “I didn’t have the maturity and the look. I still had a baby face. I still have a baby face.”

When they met, Zayas asked her age and birthday, according to charging papers. She reportedly told him she was 18 and would be turning 19 in August. He believed her, he stated, because she smoked cigarettes, talked about marijuana and had a tattoo.

A family friend who knew the girl described her at the time as looking “14 or 15 without makeup,” or “17, if that, with makeup on,” the charges say.

On Wednesday morning, attorneys wrapped up a three-day jury selection process.

Defense attorney Samantha Sommerman and deputy prosecutor Jarett Goodkin took turns asking potential jurors questions to gauge their abilities to set aside personal beliefs.

One person, who was not chosen for the jury, argued it is not normal practice to investigate somebody’s age in a dating relationship.

“I think it’s probably good to find out someone’s age, but I don’t think that’s realistic,” the potential juror said. “I mean, no one’s logging into Sound Politics to check the voting record to see what their age is. I’d be shocked if most people did much more than Facebook-search someone.”

Another prospective juror, who also wasn’t chosen, argued that law enforcement employees have resources they can draw on to find information about people, such as age.

“Well, with any person in assessing the age of somebody else in a situation like this, it’s the adult’s responsibility,” the potential juror said. “… Being a police officer, even more than the rest of us, he would have training and resources to be able to determine that.”

In Washington, a person is guilty of rape of a child in the third degree when the person has sexual intercourse with another who is at least 14 years old but less than 16 and the perpetrator is at least four years older than the victim.

The state must convince the jury that it is unreasonable to believe Zayas thought the girl was at least 16.

“What the evidence is expected to show in this case is that Mr. Zayas did not reasonably believe (the girl) was over 16,” deputy prosecutor Goodkin told the courtroom Wednesday during his opening statement.

Defense attorney Sommerman said Zayas was convinced the girl was as old as she had told him.

“It’s clear. The evidence will show that Anthony reasonably believed what he was being told,” Sommerman said. “Everything added up: the smoking, the tattoos, the intricate backstory.”

The girl’s mother sobbed when she took the witness stand Thursday.

“She looked like a 14-year-old kid,” the mother told the courtroom. “Like an average kid.”

Her daughter ran away from home in early June 2020, weeks before she met Zayas, the mother said. Later, she was found in Spokane. One of the mother’s friends agreed to take her to Skagit County to stay a while, in a home monitored by security cameras, figuring it would give the girl a break from home and keep her from running off again.

The mother said, “I trusted the wrong person.”

On June 18, 2020, Zayas matched with a stranger on Tinder. She used a fake name and listed her age as 19. The profile indicated she was a student at Eastern Washington University. She was not in college.

Two days later, on June 20, Zayas was working the swing shift — 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. — with a fellow sheriff’s deputy. Zayas told his coworker that he needed to be off work on time that night because he had a date with a 19-year-old who was willing to meet him after 2 a.m. on a weeknight, the charges say. She was from Idaho, Zayas reportedly told his coworker, and was staying at a family friend’s house and did not have a car.

The coworker reported he jokingly cautioned Zayas not to pick the date up at a park, according to the charges, because meetings at parks are common in investigations related to sexual contact with children.

After work, Zayas went home and changed out of his uniform. He drove his personal car to pick the girl up at a park in a neighborhood in Mount Vernon. She had told him she did not want to get picked up at the house where she was staying, so as to avoid disturbing roommates in the early morning.

The deputy drove them back to his home, where they watched TV, drank rum and coke and had sexual contact twice, the charges say. According to Zayas’ account, she listed her age online as 19 and told him in person that her age was 18.

The friend the girl was staying with went through the teen’s phone and found Snapchat photos of a man later identified as Zayas. The girl told the woman they were “not just hanging out” and that he was into sexual bondage, according to charging papers. The friend looked up Zayas on Facebook and saw evidence that he might be a law enforcement officer. She reportedly contacted him and told him the girl’s real age.

“Oh my God,” Zayas replied, according to court papers. “What the (expletive)?”

According to the charges, Zayas stated he almost threw up when he found out the girl’s age.

Zayas was placed on administrative leave in August 2020 by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office while they conducted an internal investigation, sheriff’s office spokesperson Courtney O’Keefe said. He resigned on March 2, 2021.

After the girl’s mother found out what happened to her daughter, she sent Zayas a Facebook message, calling him a “child raping (expletive).”

The mother wept on the witness stand when asked about the message.

“I wanted him to know she was somebody’s daughter,” she said. “That somebody loved her.”

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; edennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen

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