By Andrew Binion, The Kitsap Sun
A state court of appeals was asked Monday to review a trial judge’s decision to prohibit Kitsap County prosecutors from arguing that a middle school-aged girl sexually abused by a Kitsap County sheriff’s deputy should share some responsibility in the civil trial.
Former Deputy Michael L. Kleinfelder, 37, pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree child molestation in 2003 and was sentenced to two years in prison. The girl was a baby-sitter to Kleinfelder’s children and went for ride-alongs in his patrol car.
The lawsuit filed by the girl has already cost the county nearly $67,000 in attorneys fees, costs and penalties. It is being heard in Pierce County Superior Court and the trial is scheduled to begin May 17.
Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Ione George is representing the county and filed the paperwork Monday, appealing three decisions by Judge Thomas P. Larkin. The first asks for a review of Larkin’s decision to limit George’s ability to use as a defense the “contributory fault” of the girl. The appeals court does not have to respond.
The girl’s attorney compared the legal maneuver to blaming a rape victim for their rape.
“I was really shocked,” said Raymond Dearie of Seattle.
Dearie decried the appeal as “ironic,” considering the office of the prosecuting attorney routinely prosecutes people for having sexual contact with children and teens, despite protests that it is “consensual.”
Dearie also theorized that the last-minute move is a signal of desperation.
“They want to bully the plaintiff or they simply want to buy time,” Dearie said, noting that case law says 13-year-olds can’t be found to have “contributory fault” when they are being looked after by adults in an official capacity, specifically school teachers.
George said Kleinfelder was criminally responsible, but this case is about who is financially responsible, and noted that the girl attempted to keep hidden the relationship from her parents and the department.
George said she believed Larkin’s decision was improper and would attempt to have it corrected through proper legal channels.
“I am an acting in the best faith and best ethics I have to defend the county, this community, against charges rendered against it,” George said, and declined to directly address Dearie’s assertions.
George said that if the trial remains on schedule for May 17, she is ready.
“Absolutely,” she said.
Kleinfelder was originally charged with six counts of rape of a child and child molestation. After a hung jury, he pleaded guilty to the single molestation charge. During his term in prison, Kleinfelder continued to deny his guilt and was therefore found “not amenable to treatment,” according to a notice distributed by the Seattle Police in 2005 after he registered as a sex offender there.