A Richland man who denied sexually assaulting four children despite lengthy video evidence lost his appeal Thursday and will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
Michael Leon Shemesh’s case was sent back to Benton County Superior Court on a technicality since the proper paperwork was not entered explaining the exceptional sentence of 50 years.
But the missing paperwork did not change the outcome of the case.
Shemesh was 42 in 2013 when he was sentenced to the lengthy prison term because of aggravating factors that the crimes involved an ongoing pattern of abuse and that he used his position of trust to get close to the three boys and one girl.
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Shemesh used to be around a lot of kids through his work with a Pokémon gaming league.
A jury took just 45 minutes to convict him on six counts, including child rape, child molestation and possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
Judge Carrie Runge based her decision on the exceptional sentence on the jury’s findings that the rape and molestation charges included aggravating circumstances.
The sentence also carries a maximum term of life, meaning Shemesh must serve every day of the 50 years before the state’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board will decide if he is ready to be released.
Shemesh will be 89 then. He has been locked up since August 2009.
At his sentencing hearing, Shemesh called it “a death sentence, plain and simple,” and noted that he has a long history of medical issues. “It’s a death sentence based on lies and fabrications, intimidation of children by people put into a higher position of trust.”
Shemesh is at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center on the Olympic Peninsula, according to the state Department of Corrections’ website.
On Thursday, the state Court of Appeals in a 13-page opinion denied Shemesh’s attempt to get the convictions reversed.
The crimes involving the different victims were in 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2007.
Shemesh, in addition to repeatedly raping and sexually assaulting a preschool boy and a gradeschool boy, videotaped them, Deputy Prosecutor Julie Long said after the trial.
Jurors had to watch more than four hours of videos. One victim never has been identified.
Two other children reported being raped by Shemesh. The girl testified that Shemesh took pictures of her, but investigators never found the photographs.
The two kids said Shemesh had threatened to shoot them if they didn’t participate in sex acts, so they were afraid for some time to tell anyone about the abuse.
Other kids made allegations against Shemesh dating to 1994 but prosecutors didn’t proceed with charges for various reasons, including the young age of another victim.
Shemesh had no felony convictions before this case.
At sentencing, the judge noted that Shemesh selected and preyed on vulnerable victims and families, and refused to acknowledge the crimes or victims.
The state Court of Appeals rejected Shemesh’s claim that his state and federal constitutional speedy trial rights were violated because it took more than three years for his case to go to a jury.
Shemesh had five court-appointed attorneys over the course of his case, and the defense often requested or agreed to delays and new trial settings. Shemesh “did not sufficiently assert his rights” during all of the delays, the court opinion said.
The three-judge panel noted that Runge did not enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law for the exceptional sentence, even though she noted on the record that it was based on the jury’s findings.
The appeals court pointed out that the paperwork is a requirement, with a recent Supreme Court decision saying a case must be sent back to the trial court for the written findings to be entered.