Benton County judge expected to sign order preventing release of sex offender information

By Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldMarch 28, 2014 

Judge Bruce Spanner is expected to sign orders April 18 officially preventing Benton County from releasing any low-level sex offender information to Donna Zink.

"This will cover every Level 1 sex offender," said Ryan Lukson, deputy county prosecutor. "Ms. Zink has already appealed. Her appeal will be effective the (day after April 18)."

Spanner ruled in January that the personal information of more than 400 Level 1 sex offenders is confidential and Zink has no "legitimate interest" in it.

Zink requested the information last summer to create a digital database so people could know if sex offenders are living in their neighborhoods, she said.

The information -- which includes offenders' names, addresses, pictures and other details -- could cause offenders irreparable harm if it's released, Spanner wrote in his decision.

At a hearing Friday, Spanner shot down arguments from Shelley Williams, assistant attorney general, who represents the Washington State Patrol.

Williams argued that sex offenders' registration information is public record and that the criminal justice system needs to be as transparent as possible.

She wanted an injunction -- which prevents state police from releasing sex offender information from its statewide database to Zink -- dismissed.

But Spanner stuck by his earlier ruling, citing case law, particularly State v. Ward, which states the information is confidential.

"Intellectually, I always go back to the same place and that is State v. Ward," Spanner said at the hearing.

The case is expected to be decided in higher courts. Zink, who represents herself, has requested sex offender information from multiple agencies in at least three counties across the state.

Franklin County released low-level sex offender information to Zink after her initial request.

There are several injunctions in place in Benton, King and Yakima counties preventing multiple agencies and county officials from releasing sex offender information to Zink.

The Washington American Civil Liberties Union has fought to get injunctions in place in King County.

Zink has also requested more than 80,000 emails from Benton County officials that contain sex offender information. An injunction is place preventing the release of emails that contain sex offender information.

The county was releasing emails in installments to Zink that didn't contain sex offender information. Zink has since put her request on hold because county officials told her it would take more than a decade to meet.

"We asked her to consider amending the request," Lukson said. "Given our current pace, we would not complete it until 2032."

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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