MOUNT VERNON — Prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Sexually Violent Predator Unit (SVP) are in Skagit County, fighting to prevent a dangerous sex offender from being unconditionally released into the community.
Gregory Coley, 36, has been convicted of one sexually violent offense — first-degree child molestation — as a juvenile in 1991.
In November 2002, Coley stipulated to the facts to the petition and to being a Sexually Violent Predator and was civilly committed to the state’s Special Commitment Center (SCC) on Mc Neil Island. Coley has been in total confinement at the SCC since the SVP petition was filed in 2001. In the interest of public safety, SVP prosecutors are seeking to prevent his unconditional release to the community.
Washington’s Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) law allows the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to petition for and defend the civil commitment of violent sex offenders who, because of a mental abnormality and/or personality disorder, are proven likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence if released.
In an unconditional release trial, the State of Washington has the burden to prove the respondent still meets the above criteria for being confined as a sexually violent predator.
The trial began this week in Skagit County Superior Court, and is expected to continue for two weeks.
In 1990, Washington became the first state in the nation to pass a law permitting the involuntary civil commitment of sex offenders after they serve their criminal sentences. The AGO’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