Lusk now faces child rape charge

KENNEWICK — Former Prosser mayor Linda Lusk now faces two more charges, including child rape, for alleged sexual contact last year with a 14-year-old Prosser High School boy.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Carrie Runge on Monday denied a request by Lusk's attorney to block the added charges of rape and communication with a minor for immoral purposes. Lusk, 49, now faces three felonies.

The new charges came after failed discussions with Lusk's attorney, Scott Johnson.

Prosecutor Andy Miller had offered to prosecute just one felony count of child molestation if Lusk would accept responsibility for all three allegations, including the rape.

Johnson told the judge Monday that the discussions fell apart because of "a misunderstanding" about the meaning of "accept responsibility."

Johnson said Miller had assumed Lusk would admit guilt to all three felonies, while he and Lusk believed all she had to do was give a truthful statement to the sheriff's detective. That statement included denying the alleged child rape.

"There was no meeting of the minds," Johnson said, although Lusk voluntarily gave up her constitutional rights and provided a statement to the investigator.

"We want it over. There's no two ways about that, but we want it to be fair," Johnson said.

Miller said because Lusk didn't take responsibility for the additional allegations that included performing the sex act on the boy that triggered the child rape charge.

"None of the acts she has admitted to would constitute rape of a child," Miller said.

Lusk was charged in June after authorities say she invited a boy to her home in April, where they both were partially unclothed and there was sexual contact. Investigative reports revealed that Lusk and the boy had been exchanging phone text messages that include semi-nude photos of herself.

Miller told the court it appears Lusk wants to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of fourth-degree assault, but he, the teen and the boy's family won't take anything less than a felony conviction.

"No one here wants to go to trial. Not the 14-year-old boy, and not his family. It's a very difficult situation. But the boy will testify if he has to. If (Lusk) wants to go to trial, she has to face all the charges," Miller said.

Miller's June 9 letter to Johnson claims Lusk:

* Texted semi-nude photos of herself, with comments, to the boy.

* Engaged in sexual contact with the boy, culminating in child rape.

* Texted the boy to invite him to her Prosser store for the purpose of sexual contact.

Miller said Lusk has admitted to acts constituting third-degree child molestation, but said a jury will determine the truth of that allegation. He offered in court Monday to settle the case on the spot if Lusk would plead guilty to one felony.

"We can do it here and be done in 10 minutes," said Miller, noting the boy's grandmother and other family members were in court and could be consulted if necessary.

Runge said she would not block Miller's additional charges, and would wait to decide if Lusk's voluntary statement to the detective can be used as evidence in a trial, which is still set for Jan. 25.

Johnson said he plans to appeal the ruling. "We want Mr. Miller to live up to the deal," he said.

Lusk sat quietly throughout the hourlong hearing, while her husband, Kevin Lusk, who is the principal at Prosser High, sat behind her in the audience.

* John Trumbo: 509-582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com