By Chad Dundas
SPOKANE — A former social worker testified Wednesday that a girl who said she was pressured to give false testimony during the Wenatchee child-sex-rings cases was not intimidated by police.
Tim Abbey, former Wenatchee-area administrator for the state Department of Social and Health Services’ Division of Children and Family Services, said he and former police detective Robert Perez together interviewed the girl, who alleged that she had been sexually abused.
Abbey testified that Perez acted appropriately and never forced answers from the girl during the interrogation.
"Bob was talking in a soft, quiet voice," Abbey testified during a civil lawsuit filed over police tactics in the 1994-95 investigations.
The girl twice denied that abuse occurred before telling police she had been molested by her mother and others, Abbey said.
Plaintiff’s attorney John Stocks implied on cross examination that Abbey and Perez bullied the girl — whom he described as an impressionable 10-year-old — into giving false answers.
"After some time, won’t some children make things up just to please authority figures?" Stocks said.
"I can’t carte blanche agree with you on that," Abbey said.
He denied that he or Perez asked leading or suggestive questions.
The girl recanted her accusations six months later.
Stocks cited the girl’s statement, which said Abbey and Perez stared at her for "minutes at a time" to intimidate her.
"I’m not sure I stared at her or made eye contact," Abbey said. "I sat quietly."
Abbey, who has since taken over state Child Protective Services investigations in Spokane County, was called as a defense witness by the city of Wenatchee.
The lawsuit, filed by Roby Roberson and members of his East Wenatchee church who were accused in the sex-rings case, seeks unspecified damages from the city of Wenatchee, Douglas County and various officials.
Roberson, his wife, Connie, former Sunday school teacher Honnah Sims and parishioner Donna Rodriguez were accused of operating a child sex ring out of the church. The Robersons and Sims were acquitted. Charges against Rodriguez were dropped.
Stocks also accused Abbey of visiting the girl’s mother in jail and mocking the crying woman by saying, "So this is where (the girl) gets her quivering lip from."
Abbey said he didn’t remember making that statement.
Douglas County Sheriff Dan LaRoche and county detectives Dave Helvey and Robbin Wagg are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Perez and former Wenatchee police chief Ken Badgley were dismissed as defendants before the trial.
In all, 43 people were arrested in the cases.
The 18 people sent to prison all have been released, either because their convictions were overturned on appeal or because they accepted post-conviction agreements to plead guilty to lesser charges while their cases were on appeal.
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