OLYMPIA—The Washington Attorney General’s Office filed a petition in Grant County Superior Court today seeking to civilly commit a Grant County sex offender and prevent his release into the community.
Washington’s Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) law allows the state Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to petition for 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.
Rickey Powell, 29, has been convicted of three sexually violent offenses against young children since 1996. He is currently housed at the Walla Walla State Penitentiary. Unless a judge finds probable cause to believe he meets the definition of a sexually violent predator, Powell is scheduled for release on Feb. 16, 2014.
“The Attorney General’s Office works hard to prevent the release of dangerous sexually violent offenders into our communities,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The AGO SVP Unit alleges Powell suffers from both a mental abnormality and a personality disorder that cause him to have serious difficulty in controlling his dangerous behavior. SVP attorneys allege this makes him likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence unless confined to a secure facility, namely the state’s Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island.
If the judge finds probable cause to believe Powell may be a SVP, the judge will schedule a civil commitment trial. At trial, either a judge or jury will decide whether or not Powell meets the SVP criteria. If the judge or jury determines he is a sexually violent predator, Powell will be confined at the Special Commitment Center.
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 sentences. 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 2013, the unit tried 19 cases, won 16 civil commitments and secured one recommitment. One trial ended in a hung jury and one offender was found by a jury not to meet criteria to be committed as a sexually violent predator.
As of October 2013, approximately 301 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. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Contacts: Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725
Alison Dempsey-Hall, Dep. Communications Director, (206) 641-1335