Sex Offenders continue to victimize even while civilly confined

The KING 5 Investigators have uncovered a type of crime being committed using a simple, everyday device inside the state’s center for the most violent sex offenders.

The Special Commitment Center, known as the SCC, on McNeil Island, near Tacoma, is supposed to keep the community safe by locking up predatory sex offenders after they’ve served their time.

But some on the inside have found a way to keep preying on unsuspecting victims.

Troy Scott Peterson

Tami Jordan of Wenatchee is one of those victims. Thirteen years ago her cousin, convicted sex offender Troy Scott Peterson, tried to rape her during a violent assault.

“He grabbed me and dragged me in my room and proceeded to try to molest me,” Jordan said. “The more I fought, the more I fought the more I got hit in the head.”

Jordan finally got away by hitting Peterson with a spoon she grabbed from her kitchen.

Through tears, Jordan said the experience has traumatized her.

“Yeah, it’s changed every aspect of my life, A to Z,” she said.

Peterson served 10 years for the crime. After that he was transported to the SCC. It’s a treatment center for those deemed sexually violent predators.

The 290 men and one woman living there are called residents, not inmates, because they’ve already served their prison sentences. The residents have been deemed too dangerous to be let out by juries in civil commitment trials.

The place is surrounded by razor wire, cameras and high-tech surveillance. But with one seemingly harmless device – the telephone – security breaks down.

Last year, out of the blue, Tami Jordan got two phone calls from her attacker.

“I answered the phone and it was Troy. It’s just like the whole day lived over again, again and again,” Jordan said. “It just brings everything flooding back to you.”

That’s just the beginning of the problems with the phones at the SCC uncovered by the KING 5 Investigators.

The Investigators studied hundreds of public records and found residents using the phones to harass, threaten and prey on women and children.

The worst case they found involves a convicted rapist named Lawrence Williams.

He’s suspected of threatening women using SCC phones many times over. One of many allegations is that he called a woman from the SCC and lied to her by saying he was out of prison.

According to court documents obtained by KING 5, he allegedly threatened that if she didn’t comply with demands for phone sex he would “rape, kidnap, and kill her.”

“That’s extortion and it’s sexually motivated extortion, and that’s the kind of sexually violent activity we’re trying to prevent by putting them on McNeil Island,” said David Hackett, head of the Sexually Violent Predator Unit at the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Hackett’s job is to prosecute sex offenders, but he says he couldn’t do anything about the Lawrence Williams allegations because at the SCC there’s no tracking of who’s doing the calling.

“We were not able to adequately investigate or prosecute that kind of behavior, which is very serious because the phones are wide open,” Hackett said.

They’re so open one resident was caught talking to children about their underwear.

Another called a woman to say he was raping her daughter.

Resident Darren Strong established a romantic phone relationship with a 13-year-old girl he met on a chat-line. The girl sent letters to him at the center in which she wrote she loved him and couldn’t wait to marry him.

The KING 5 Investigators found that convicted rapist Kevin Ambers is looking for love on’s phone dating system.

We obtained his voice greeting from the service. He describes himself as a Gemini who runs his own business and lives in the Tacoma area.

A portion of the taped greeting states: “Hi, my name is Kevin. I ‘m a 49-year-old African American male. Very single. I live in the Tacoma area.”

Ambers wasn’t innocently flirting with the women he met on the phone. According to one document he allegedly threatened to “cut up” one woman he met on the system if she ended the relationship.

The SCC residents are able make these kinds of calls because currently there are no restrictions on phone usage. SCC Superintendent Dr. Henry Richards says he would like to see some record-keeping of calls, but right now he has no legal authority.

“Because the law is written that they have all rights except those required to contain them here in the center and to provide for their treatment,” Richards said.

Current law says residents have unfettered access to phones, unless they’re caught abusing them. Without a tracking system, it’s difficult to find the offenders.

“Essentially now it’s impossible,” Richards said.

Representative Troy Kelley of Tacoma wants to change that. He’s proposed legislation to keep a log of all outgoing calls from the center to deter abuse. The bill doesn’t call for monitoring or recording of calls. It mandates that logs would be generated by an outside company. If there were a problem, the logs could be checked to figure out who made the call.

KING 5 showed their findings to the representative before an interview this month. He said he thought the information would help his bill.

“My first reaction is that the committee needs to see this right away,” Kelley said. “If we can get that to them, I think it will be important in crafting this law.”

Residents we talked to at the center said they’d fight any kind of tracking system because they’re supposed to have all their constitutional rights.

“Any chipping away of our constitution, whether it be in here or out there, is totally wrong,” Carrie Benjamin said.

“It’s an invasion of your privacy,” Tommie Coleman said. “Not only my privacy but who ever am I talking to, my lawyer, my wife, my kids.”

Tami Jordan thinks the state blew it. She believes some safeguards should have been placed on phones at the center years ago, before she got those haunting calls.

“It’s not only him, but you’re getting victimized again by the state,” Jordan said. “Your own state and it’s just not right.”


Published in: on February 20, 2009 at 12:47 am  Leave a Comment  

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