The teenage son of Washington state Sen. Brian Hatfield (D) pleaded guilty this week to raping and molesting a younger boy at the lawmaker's homes, incidents that Hatfield had reportedly been aware of but failed to report.
Hatfield's 15-year-old son was arrested last week, KIRO-TV reported, and the 11-year-old victim later told authorities that the abuse had taken place between November 2012, when the victim was still 10 years old, and February 2013. Hatfield's son ultimately pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree rape of a child and four counts of first-degree child molestation.
Both Hatfield and his wife had reportedly been made aware of the abuse as far back as February, when Jacqueline Hatfield “witnessed some inappropriate behavior” between the two boys. They did not report the matter to authorities, but instead separated the two children and worked to get their son into therapy. According to The Seattle Times, Hatfield's son hadn't yet gotten therapy when the victim reported the abuse to elementary-school officials in April, triggering an investigation by Lewis County authorities.
Cristine Beckwith, a lawyer representing Hatfield, said that the senator had contacted her office after finding out about the incidents. She said they were in the process of setting up counseling, and that Hatfield's son had intended to turn himself in, but that the report was made before he could do so.
John Meyer, the prosecuting attorney in Lewis County, told the Associated Press that he did not expect Hatfield to face any charges for failing to report the abuse because Hatfield is not required to report it under state law.
Under Washington state law, the reporting requirement for abuse only applies to “any adult who has reasonable cause to believe that a child who resides with them, has suffered severe abuse, and is able or capable of making a report [to fail to do so]."
The law continues: "For the purposes of this subsection, ‘severe abuse’ means any of the following: Any single act of abuse that causes physical trauma of sufficient severity that, if left untreated, could cause death; any single act of sexual abuse that causes significant bleeding, deep bruising, or significant external or internal swelling; or more than one act of physical abuse, each of which causes bleeding, deep bruising, significant external or internal swelling, bone fracture, or unconsciousness.”
The victim's statement to authorities in this case reportedly didn't meet that criteria in terms of physical violence.
The Chinook Observer reports on the punishment to be faced by Hatfield's son:
Court documents indicate he will likely face a 104-week counseling program called Special Sex Offender Disposition Alternative (SSODA), 30 days in custody, transfer of jurisdiction to Pacific County, restitution to be determined, school notification, firearms ineligibility and $100 fees to the crime victims fund and for DNA registration. He is eligible for SSODA because he committed non “serious violent” sex offenses and has no prior history of sex offenses. In addition, a notation "M.I." on his "Statement of Plea of Guilty" indicates juvenile authorities will tell the judge that a "manifest injustice" would result if he was subjected to the full sentencing range specified by state law.
In a statement through his attorney, provided to the AP and KING 5 News, Hatfield explained that his son had suffered several catastrophic losses in his life, including the death of his biological mother, who died of cancer in 2007.
"His extremely difficult childhood is a contributing factor in this case, and is not an uncommon history of other juvenile offenders," the statement said.