OLYMPIA—Trial started Monday in Pierce County Superior Court in a case where the Washington Attorney General’s Office is seeking to civilly commit a Pierce County sex offender to 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.
Jesse Shoffstall, 56, was previously convicted of two sexually violent offenses against children. He was originally scheduled for release on Oct. 13, 2012, but has been confined pending this trial.
In its civil commitment petition, the AGO SVP Unit alleges Shoffstall suffers from a mental abnormality that causes 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.
The civil commitment petition consists of allegations that have not yet been proven in a court of law. The State of Washington has the burden to prove the allegations in court.
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 March 2014, 296 sexually violent predators were 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