Convicted sex offender to remain behind bars, for now

Tri-City HeraldJuly 26, 2013 

Stephen Robinson, a convicted sex offender who was set for release Friday, will remain behind bars for at least two more months. He appeared in Benton County Superior Court for a hearing to determine if there's probable cause to keep him behind bars as a sexually violent predator.

KAI-HUEI YAU — Tri-City Herald

— One year after raping a young girl in Colorado, Stephen Robinson admitted the crime was hideous and that he felt “like crud.”

Yet, Washington prosecutors say stints in sex offender treatment haven’t worked for the pedophile who continues to fantasize about young girls and is eager to return to the free world so he can “have the real thing.”

Robinson, 56, was scheduled to be released from prison Friday after serving a five-year, eight-month sentence for violating his probation on a 1984 Benton County Superior Court conviction.

Instead, he found himself inside a Kennewick courtroom, where Judge Carrie Runge said Robinson must wait at least 71⁄2 more weeks to find out if he’s on his way to freedom or a potential life behind bars.

At issue is not only Robinson’s deviant past, but what could happen in the future.

Assistant Attorney General Jeremy Bartels said the former Kennewick man is a danger to the community, and should be declared a sexually violent predator and civilly committed to the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island, where he can be held indefinitely with annual status checks.

“His admissions alone paint a grim and frightening picture of Robinson’s future if released,” Bartels said in court documents. “He stated that although he would attempt to control his urges, he stated he would be unable to do so.”

A petition to keep Robinson locked up was filed Tuesday by the Attorney General’s Office.

Robinson’s lawyer, Sonja K. Hardenbrook, said she wasn’t prepared to argue Friday because she only met her client at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Benton County jail and had 2,500 pages of police reports and court documents to read.

An attorney with the Snohomish County Public Defender Association, Hardenbrook said until she reviews the facts she can’t even stipulate as to Robinson’s identity and that the man she’s working with is the one in all the paperwork.

Hardenbrook and Bartels -- who called in to the courtroom from his Seattle office -- made the joint request for a delay. Court administration set the next hearing for Sept. 17.

Judge Runge then will decide if there is sufficient evidence for a civil commitment trial. If she finds probable cause, the trial will be held either before a judge or a jury to decide if Robinson meets the definition of a sexually violent predator.

In the meantime, Robinson will be transported to McNeil Island to be held in the facility operated by state Department of Social and Health Services.

There are about 300 sexually violent predators civilly committed in the state.

Bartels wanted Robinson to remain in the Benton County jail pending the hearing. Robinson had been doing his most recent time in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

But Hardenbrook said if Robinson has to stay in the jail because his attorney needs time to prepare, “He essentially is being punished for two months.”

In the Special Commitment Center, Robinson will have the chance to join a treatment program if he wants to. And Hardenbrook said with her office in Everett, she will have better access to Robinson in the Pierce County facility.

Runge said the court is proceeding under the theory that Robinson is mentally ill, so holding him in the county jail seems more equivalent to punishment. The judge agreed with Hardenbrook that the state center is a more appropriate place for Robinson until the next hearing.

He is being held without bail.

In a 2002 letter to Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller, Robinson said he used heroin to numb himself from the reality of the horrible crimes he was committing. The letter was in advance of being sentenced to prison for the violation after finishing a Colorado sentence.

“For a number of years, I allowed this denial to continue in my life, and for all of my actions I was wrong ...” Robinson said. “I know that I cannot continue on with my lifestyle and I also recognize that I need serious help. ... I do know that I can do all that I can to rehabilitate in order to prevent this pattern of child abuse from emerging again.”

Robinson’s criminal history includes the 1984 indecent liberties conviction in Benton County and a 1999 Denver conviction for sexual assault of a child by a person in a position of trust.

“He molested or raped 100 little girls over the years that he only knew because he traded drugs to their prostitute mothers in exchange for sex with the girls,” the prosecutor wrote in documents.

In the older case, Robinson started molesting a 3-year-old girl within days of meeting her. The abuse lasted more than six months until the girl reported it to her father, court documents said.

Robinson repeatedly violated different conditions of his sentence throughout the years, including a 1988 arrest in Yakima County for indecent liberties and first-degree statutory rape. Documents show that was reduced to simple assault and he pleaded guilty.

Yet Robinson always denied having a problem.

He had an active arrest warrant for another probation violation on the original case when he moved to Colorado.

A girl told a school nurse in January 1999 that a year or so earlier, when she was 9, Robinson raped her and she was afraid because he’d left a knife on the floor nearby, court documents said.

It was a year later, as Robinson was awaiting sentencing on that case, when he told a probation officer that what he’d done was hideous, that it was hard for him to think or talk about it and that he knows the girl will be forever scarred.

Robinson -- who admitted getting sexually aroused by the abuse -- added that he was in denial, but knows he is responsible and must pay the consequences for his actions, that report said.

But Bartels says that reports also shows Robinson continues to fantasize about young girls and, if released, “will eventually seek out and get ‘what he likes,’ meaning sexual intercourse with very young girls.”

And because young girls are more likely to report a sexual assault these days, Robinson may kill the child and even her mother, the prosecutor said.

Bartels writes that Robinson’s pedophilia and antisocial personality disorder “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.”

w Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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