Former Prosser mayor pleads innocent to child molestation

The former Prosser mayor accused of exchanging sexually explicit text messages and having sexual contact with a teenage boy made her first appearance Thursday morning in Benton County Superior Court.

Linda Lusk, 49, faces an Aug. 23 trial for one count of third-degree child molestation. She remains out of jail without bail.

Her attorney, Scott Johnson, entered an innocent plea on her behalf and then quickly ushered Lusk out of the courtroom.

Lusk, who owns a handbag boutique in Prosser, appeared to have about a half-dozen supporters who attended the brief hearing.

She is accused of having sexual contact with the teen at her house during an early release day from school in late April.

The boy attends Prosser High School, where Lusk's husband, Kevin, is the principal. Lusk served one term as Prosser's mayor before losing her re-election bid in 2007.

Prosecutors allege Lusk and the boy exchanged a series of text messages that escalated over time into sexually explicit messages, and that Lusk sent the boy a picture of herself in lingerie.

Prosser police contacted the teen's parents after hearing some friends of the boy talking about Lusk performing a "sexual act" on the teen.

The next day the investigation was turned over to the Benton County Sheriff's Office because of possible conflicts of interest from Lusk's past position as mayor, officials said.

If convicted, she faces a standard sentencing range of 12 to 14 months in prison.

Hearings are scheduled for today to see if a judge will authorize permanent restraining orders against Lusk.

-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; phorton@tricityherald.com