Attorney Katie Kauffman came up with a huge win for her client this week, as she successfully argued he should be spared from going to prison.
Under the terms of what a state Department of Corrections officer described as a “rather unorthodox idea” for punishment that she supported, Kauffman’s client will keep his job.
At the hearing on May 24, a Clark County senior deputy prosecutor asked Superior Court Judge Derek Vanderwood to sentence Kauffman’s client to 30 months in prison.
In Washington state, crimes carry a standard range of confinement. Sentences that go higher or lower than those standard ranges are called “exceptional sentences” and judges need to articulate a reason for going outside the standard range.
Kauffman’s client had pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct in the first degree. The charges originated from a Dropbox tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which sent it to local law enforcement.
While Washington state’s SSOSA (Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative) allows for treatment instead of prison, a key requirement excluded Kauffman’s client from consideration. To receive SSOSA, an offender must have an established relationship with the victim. Since Kauffman’s client looked at photographs of children he doesn’t know, he wasn’t eligible.
Kauffman gave Judge Vanderwood several facts that supported an exceptional sentence below the standard range.
Her client had no prior criminal history and no known contact with law enforcement. He has a full-time job and support from his employer. He supports and cares for his two children including providing their healthcare benefits. The mother of his oldest child and his current girlfriend both support him. He passed a polygraph that indicated he was being truthful when he said he has not had any sexual contact with minors and has no interest. He cooperated with law enforcement and admitted to looking at the photographs.
Kauffman had her client do psychosexual evaluations with two doctors, both of whom said her client was a low risk to reoffend.
Those opinions were shared with the Department of Corrections, which also supported the downward departure from the sentencing range. In a pre-sentence investigation report, a corrections officer noted the defendant was a “young man and father, with a stable career, a supportive family and no criminal record or drug problem.” Kauffman’s proposal of work release “may be a rather unorthodox idea to which Department of Corrections might ordinarily take exception,” but in this case her client “has a history of good follow through, including with his employment, parental responsibilities, and even such simple things as keeping legal-related appointments and court dates. He came clean with investigating officers on these charges, (and) agreed to a polygraph and sexual deviancy assessment.”
Kauffman’s client, the corrections officer wrote, said he accepted the files from another individual to his Dropbox account not knowing what exactly were in the files. “He did eventually look at the files, and realized there were sexually-explicit child images in the material,” the corrections officer wrote. “He described his curiosity being ‘piqued’ and not immediately deleting the files.” He denied independently searching for sexually-explicit child images or having any actual sexual interest in children, she wrote.
One doctor noted that Kauffman’s client, who was 24 when he looked at the photographs, was medicated for ADHD from sixth grade through high school and that may have affected his neurodevelopment.
Vanderwood sentenced Kauffman’s client to one year of work release, which means he’ll be at the Clark County Work Center when he’s not at his job. He was also ordered to receive treatment and register as a sex offender.