PORT ORCHARD — Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s Sexually Violent Predator Unit successfully blocked the release of a convicted sex offender after a Kitsap County judge decided he should not be conditionally released into the community.
Michael Cole had petitioned for release from the State’s Special Commitment Center (SCC) on McNeil Island to a “less restrictive alternative” in the community. In the interest of public safety, prosecutors from Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s Sexually Violent Predator Unit have been working since July 2018 to prevent Cole’s release.
Cole, 44, was found by to be a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) in 2012 and was civilly committed to the state’s Special Commitment Center. Cole’s criminal history includes convictions of first-degree child molestation in 1990 and 2000.
In July 2018, Cole requested and was granted a trial to determine whether he should be conditionally released from the SCC to a “less restrictive alternative.” Under conditional release, Cole would have remained under the jurisdiction of the Kitsap County Superior Court as a sexually violent predator, but he would have been allowed to live and receive treatment in a community setting under court-ordered conditions.
The trial began on May 7 and the judge issued her decision on July 22 that Cole must remain in total confinement. Assistant Attorneys General Katharine Hemann and Rose McGillis prosecuted the case for the state.
Under Washington’s civil commitment law, prosecutors had to demonstrate that Cole’s release plan was either not in his best interest or did not include conditions adequate to protect the public. The judge on Monday found that the state had proved both.
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.
Ferguson worked with the Washington State Legislature to pass two Attorney General Request bills strengthening the state’s sexually violent predator statute.
The AGO SVP unit is responsible for prosecuting sex predator cases for 38 of Washington’s 39 counties (King County being the exception). As of April 2019, 255 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.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; firstname.lastname@example.org