Rape scandal shakes top politician

Sen. Brian Hatfield

CHEHALIS — The 15-year-old son of state Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, pleaded guilty last week in the juvenile division of Lewis County Superior Court to four counts of first-degree rape of a child who was 10 years old when the crimes began.

In addition, the teenager pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree child molestation for a pattern of abuse that took place in Hatfield’s homes in Lewis and Pacific counties, according to court documents.

The 15-year-old was booked into the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center and then released into his father’s custody. He will be sentenced June 18.

Court documents indicate he will likely face a 104-week counseling program called Special Sex Offender Disposition Alternative (SSODA), 30 days in custody, transfer of jurisdiction to Pacific County, financial restitution to be determined, school notification, firearms ineligibility and $100 fees to the crime victims fund and for DNA registration. He is eligible for SSODA because he committed “non-serious violent” sex offenses and has no prior history of sex offenses.

In addition, a notation “M.I.” on his “Statement of Plea of Guilty” indicates juvenile authorities will tell the judge that a “manifest injustice” would result if he was subjected to the full sentencing range specified by state law. The maximum penalty under state law is life imprisonment and/or a $50,000 fine for each of the eight admitted rape and molestation offenses.

Although the crimes commenced in Raymond, Pacific County does not intend to pursue separate criminal charges in the matter.

“This matter was investigated by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and in discussions with the Lewis County Prosecutor and the lead investigator, it appeared any violation as to the juvenile was substantially committed in Lewis County and will be resolved by the Lewis County Prosecutor either as part of their case or as a special appointment,” Pacific County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Mark McClain said last Wednesday.

Victim makes report

The crimes came to official attention on April 24, when adults at Olympic Elementary School in Chehalis contacted the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. An interview with the victim, who is “very articulate and intelligent for his age,” disclosed sexual abuse beginning last November. This included at least seven sexual assaults between early January 2013 and Feb. 14, when the victim’s mother arrived home unexpectedly early and interrupted a sex act in progress at Hatfield’s Chehalis residence.

Brian Hatfield later arrived and removed his son from the scene that night after being informed what had happened.

The victim’s mother told the investigator on April 24 “that Brian had told her on several occasions that he was attempting to enter [his son] into therapy and would also be contacting authorities in Lewis County. [She] stated that she knows this has not occurred.”

Hatfield’s attorney, Cristine Beckwith of Seattle, said he was under no legal obligation to report the crimes to authorities. (In the following quotations the initials B.A.H. refer to Hatfield’s son.)

“Senator Hatfield was told by his wife that she had witnessed some inappropriate behavior by his son B.A.H. towards the end of February 2013. In abundance of caution, Senator Hatfield called our office for a consultation for his son to see what the best course of action would be,” Beckwith said.

“I privately interviewed B.A.H. in a conversation that is and was protected by attorney/client privilege. That information was never disclosed to Senator Hatfield or his wife. There was never any information that was disclosed to Senator Hatfield that would trigger a legal requirement for him to report any conduct to legal authorities.”

Washington law on the obligation to report

Under Washington state law, is it a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and up to a $5,000 fine for “any adult who has reasonable cause to believe that a child who resides with them, has suffered severe abuse, and is able or capable of making a report [to fail to do so]. For the purposes of this subsection, ‘severe abuse’ means any of the following: Any single act of abuse that causes physical trauma of sufficient severity that, if left untreated, could cause death; any single act of sexual abuse that causes significant bleeding, deep bruising, or significant external or internal swelling; or more than one act of physical abuse, each of which causes bleeding, deep bruising, significant external or internal swelling, bone fracture, or unconsciousness.”

The victim’s statement to investigators does not suggest physical injuries occurred to the extent outlined in the law.

Beckwith said Hatfield was setting up appropriate counseling for his son, with an intention of contacting law enforcement afterward. But the news got out before this plan was put into effect, she said.

Difficult life circumstances

“B.A.H. has had several catastrophic loses including his mother dying at a young age. His extremely difficult childhood is a contributing factor in this case, and is not an uncommon history of other juvenile offenders,” the attorney noted. “Every measure is being taken to ensure that this matter is dealt with in an appropriate and thoughtful manner for all involved parties.”

Hatfield’s first wife, Freddie — mother of B.A.H. — lost a long battle to cancer in 2007. Hatfield has been a single father for much of the time since then, before remarrying on Sept. 1, 2012.

In an interview in February 2012, he spoke of the challenges of parenting while spending long periods away from home, during which time his son stayed with Brian’s parents in Raymond.

“Sometimes you’ve got to remember what’s important, and that’s what I’m frustrated with today — I’m just not going make it,” he lamented, about missing his son’s final eighth grade basketball game. “There’s some bills I need to be there for. You always have to put family first, and I’m going to have to apologize to my son and make it up to him. I may not even see him this weekend.”

Hatfield is chairman of the State Senate Agriculture, Water & Rural Development Committee and has been a key legislative vote on various matters, including the recently passed Senate budget. He was one of few Democratic chairmen to remain in leadership in 2013 after two other Democrats threw their votes into the Republican caucus.

He has not directly responded to news media requests for comments.

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