Prosecutors prevent release of PT child molestation suspect

Magistrate judge had ordered release Aug. 8

Posted 8/14/19

A 62-year-old Port Townsend man charged with child molestation was initially ordered released by the magistrate judge Aug. 8, pending trial, but the U.S. Attorney’s office successfully prevented his release.

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Prosecutors prevent release of PT child molestation suspect

Magistrate judge had ordered release Aug. 8

Posted

A 62-year-old Port Townsend man charged with child molestation was initially ordered released by the magistrate judge Aug. 8, pending trial, but the U.S. Attorney’s office successfully prevented his release.

John Timothy Whicher was arrested and made his initial appearance on the complaint in U.S. District Court in Tacoma Aug. 5, before his detention hearing was scheduled Aug. 8 before Magistrate Judge David W. Christel of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

According to the original criminal complaint, in August of 2017, Whicher took a 6-year-old child to Canada to stay at a family cabin in Ontario, allegedly planning the trip as a surprise, and purchasing the trip without informing the child’s custodial parent, but when the child returned from the trip, they told their parent Whicher had raped them, and had told the child to keep it a secret.

“Whicher is too dangerous to be permitted to remain in the community, and has substantial incentive to avoid prosecution, given the sentence he faces and the substantial evidence of guilt,” the government motion read. “As such, there are no conditions that can reasonably assure the safety of the community and Whicher’s future appearance, and he should be detained pending trial.”

The government motion to appeal the release order was filed by the Western District of Washington’s U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew P. Hampton Aug. 9, requesting that the defendant be held in custody pending trial.

After Magistrate Christel issued an order of release Aug. 8, the government orally moved for a stay of that order, to permit time to prepare an appeal to the District Court. Magistrate Christel granted the government’s request for the delay (called a stay), and directed the government to file its appeal by noon on Aug. 9.

The motion opposing release of Whicher says he supplied the child’s parent with three contradictory stories, saying he “probably” touched the child’s genitals in the first answer he supplied, then denying any molestation but apologizing “for having done wrong,” and finally sending a letter in which the defendant said he believed the child’s account but claimed to have no memory of it because of “a drunken stupor.”

The motion against Whicher’s freedom cited the Bail Reform Act, which specifically states that a court should consider whether an offense “involves a minor victim,” before asserting that Whicher fits the standards for “presumptive detention,” given the “special risk that offenders who prey on children pose,” and the types of sentences they face.

“Whicher is in his sixties and faces years in prison,” the motion read. “Indeed, he may well face a term that will be tantamount to a life sentence. He faces these consequences because he spirited a six-year-old to Canada, where he was the child’s only caretaker, and raped him. His dangerousness is manifest, and his incentive to flee is also apparent.”

The motion acknowledges that U.S. Pretrial Services recommended Whicher’s release, due to his lack of prior criminal history, his “apparently supportive” family, a spouse willing to serve as a third-party custodian, and his ties to western Washington.

“Even if, as he suggested at one point in his letter to [the child’s] parent, whatever happened was just the product of a binge and occurred in a drunken stupor, that should hardly put the Court’s mind at ease,” the motion read. “It may well be that Whicher has never done this before. The fact that he has done it even once, however, is sufficient evidence of who he is, and the danger he poses.”

The motion characterized the evidence in this case as “strong, even overwhelming,” given that much of it comes from Whicher’s own words to the child’s parent.

“In the end, a jury will sort out his guilt or innocence, but the evidence amassed against Whicher, a large part of it provided by Whicher himself, is compelling,” the motion read.

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