SOUTH BEND — Fifteen months after they allegedly raped an unconscious woman in Ilwaco and shared a video of her assault, two Coast Guard members remain on active duty.

Their civilian legal cases have yet to be resolved and the Coast Guard has not taken any disciplinary action, aside from reassigning the men to different areas.

To the victim’s dismay, Guillermo Gutierrez, 27, pleaded guilty to a Class C felony in fall 2018. However, he won’t be sentenced until the other guardsman, Salvador Zamora, 25, stands trial.

House party gone wrong

Gutierrez and Zamora were arrested in December 2017 after the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office completed an investigation. Investigators say the guardsmen and their alleged victim drank heavily and may have used drugs at a house party. Gutierrez allegedly had sex with the woman, then invited Zamora to have sex with her. Gutierrez allegedly recorded the rape on his phone, then shared it with other members of the Coast Guard through the Snapchat app.

Zamora’s wife discovered a text conversation on his phone, in which Gutierrez assured him the victim wouldn’t accuse him of rape because she wouldn’t remember what happened. The wife reported the suspected crime to Coast Guard authorities.

Gutierrez claims the sex was consensual, but police say the video shows them assaulting a woman who was clearly passed out.

Reduced charges

Both men were initially charged with second-degree rape and first-degree voyeurism.

In September 2018, Gutierrez signed a plea deal that dismisses the rape charge, but convicts him of voyeurism.

Gutierrez will not be sentenced until Zamora’s case has been settled. Zamora’s trial has been delayed several times. It is currently scheduled for April.

Under Washington law, a person is guilty of second-degree rape when they engage in sexual intercourse with a person who is in their care or custody, a person who is unconscious or otherwise incapable of consent, or with a person with whom they have a “significant” relationship.

Second-degree rape is a Class A felony, punishable by up to life in prison and a $50,000 fine.

A person is guilty of voyeurism when they watch, photograph or film a person who hasn’t given consent, for purposes of sexual gratification. First-degree voyeurism is a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.

Gutierrez, who has no prior convictions, will likely get a sentence of four to 12 months, according to court documents.

Complications

Prosecutor Mark McClain said last week he could not discuss the cases until after Zamora’s trial.

McClain said he assigned Gutierrez’s case to then-Chief Deputy Prosecutor Don Richter and gave him full authority to handle it as he saw fit. However, Richter can’t explain his decision-making process because he was sworn in as Pacific County’s new Superior Court Judge in late December. Judges must adhere to strict laws and ethical guidelines that generally prohibit them from discussing active cases. To prevent conflicts of interest, other judges will be assigned to hear any cases in which Richter was previously involved as a prosecutor.

Tough choices?

Over the last few years, McClain’s office has been fairly aggressive in prosecuting sex crimes. Based on how McClain and Richter have historically handled similar cases, there are two likely explanations for why Richter allowed Gutierrez to plead down to a relatively light charge.

One possibility is that Richter thought a jury might not convict Gutierrez on the available evidence if his case were to go to trial. Rather than risk Gutierrez being acquitted, he might have decided it was better to ensure some level of justice by letting him plead to a lesser crime.

The other possibility is that Richter believed he needed Gutierrez’s testimony to convict Zamora at trial. In that scenario, he might have offered Gutierrez the deal with the understanding that he is expected to cooperate with prosecutors.

Still in uniform

“Both men are still members of the active duty Coast Guard. Their status there has not changed at this time,” Chief Petty Officer David Mosely, a spokesman for the Coast Guard’s 13th District, said on Jan. 7. After their arrests, Zamora was reassigned to Base Seattle.

Gutierrez was reassigned to Sector Columbia River in Warrenton.

Mosley said USCG authorities are monitoring Gutierrez’s and Zamora’s Superior Court cases and reviewing potential disciplinary options.

“We have not taken a final decision,” Mosley said.

Mosley did not know when the Coast Guard would reach a decision.

According to a pre-sentencing report, the victim expressed concern that Gutierrez and Zamora could victimize other women.

“The victim stated she did not think the plea agreement was fair or just, but she did not want to have to testify or re-live the rape in court again, so she was relieved she didn’t have to go to court,” the report said.

Natalie St. John is a staff writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact her at 360-642-8181 or nstjohn@chinookobserver.com.

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