Governor signs Padden bill raising penalty for custodial sexual misconduct

A bipartisan bill, sponsored by 4th District Sen. Mike Padden, that aims to impose longer sentences on sexually abusive jail and prison guards was signed today by Gov. Jay Inslee after receiving unanimous approval by the Legislature this session.

The law created by Senate Bill 5033 reclassifies the crime of first-degree custodial sexual misconduct, (in which the corrections officer has sexual intercourse with the victim) now a Class C felony, to a Class B felony with a seriousness level of VII. That calls for an initial sentence of 15 to 20 months and a high-end sentence between 7.25 years and 9.6 years. The new law, which will take effect in late July, also reclassifies second-degree custodial sexual misconduct (in which the corrections officer has sexual contact with the victim) from a gross misdemeanor to a Class C felony with a seriousness level of V, which would bring a sentencing range of six to 12 months for those with the lowest offender score and a range of six to eight years for offenders with the highest offender score.

“I’m very pleased that the governor has signed this bill after both the Senate and House unanimously passed it earlier this session,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “Officers who work in jails and state correctional facilities are part of the law-enforcement community just as much as the officers who patrol our communities and investigate crimes. Like all the other people we entrust to administer justice, corrections officers must be held to a high standard, especially considering the unique level of authority they have over people in custody.”

Padden’s bill was inspired by a KING-TV investigation about a Clallam County jail guard, John Gray, who served just over a year in prison after sexually assaulting four women.

When the bill was being considered by the Senate Law and Justice Committee early this session, it was named “Kimberly Bender’s law,” in honor of the 23-year-old Quileute woman who died by suicide in her Forks jail cell in 2019 after reporting to city officials that Gray sexually harassed her. Bender’s mother, Dawn Reid, asked Padden to name the bill after her daughter.

Gray was convicted in 2021 of two felony and two misdemeanor counts of custodial sexual misconduct and served 13 months of his 20-month sentence.

Padden is ranking Republican on the Senate Law and Justice Committee.