MOUNT VERNON — A Skagit County jury has determined that sex offender Gregory Coley is a dangerous predator and must remain confined in the state’s Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island. In the interest of public safety, prosecutors from Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Unit have been fighting since 2013 to prevent Coley’s release into the community.
Coley, 36, was convicted of one sexually violent offense as a juvenile: first-degree child molestation in 1991. Coley was committed back in November 2002 but petitioned in 2013 for an unconditional release trial, in which the State of Washington has the burden to prove the respondent still meets the criteria for being confined as a sexually violent predator.
The trial began on Jan. 11, 2016, and ended yesterday, with the jury’s decision that Coley remains a Sexually Violent Predator.
“My office is dedicated to protecting our communities from sexually violent predators,” Ferguson said. “When the evidence shows an offender is still a danger, my team will work to ensure that person remains confined and receiving the treatment they need.”
Under Washington’s civil commitment law, prosecutors had to demonstrate Coley still suffers from specific mental abnormalities and/or personality disorders that cause him to have serious difficulty in controlling his dangerous behavior and make him likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence unless confined to a secure facility.
In 1990, Washington became the first state in the nation to pass a law permitting the involuntary civil commitment of sex offenders after they have served their criminal sentence. The Attorney General’s SVP Unit was established shortly thereafter.
The AGO SVP unit is responsible for prosecuting sex predator cases for 38 of Washington’s 39 counties (King County being the exception). In Fiscal Year 2015, the unit tried 15 cases and won 10 civil commitments. Two trials ended in hung juries (meaning the offender remains detained pending a new trial), and three trials involved an offender who was found by the jury to not meet the criteria to be committed as a sexually violent predator.
As of October 2015, 289 sexually violent predators are in the state’s Special Commitment Program.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov