Legislature passes Padden bill raising penalty for custodial sexual misconduct

A bipartisan bill that aims to impose longer sentences on sexually abusive jail and prison guards is headed to the governor after being unanimously passed today by the House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 5033 would reclassify the crime of first-degree custodial sexual misconduct (in which the corrections officer has sexual intercourse with the victim) from a Class C felony to a Class B felony, allowing a prison term of 10 years instead of the current five-year maximum. The bill also would reclassify 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, which would bring a maximum sentence of five years.

The proposal is prime-sponsored by 4th District Sen. Mike Padden, the ranking Republican on the Law and Justice Committee.

“I’m very pleased that both the Senate and House unanimously passed this bill and sent it to the governor,” 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.

SB 5033 was passed by the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 27. It now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee for final consideration.