Times - Charges against recruiter dropped

Charges against recruiter dropped

By Keiko Morris Seattle Times Snohomish County bureau

February 4, 2000

Read it in the Seattle Times

SHORELINE - Prosecutors have agreed to dismiss charges against a former Army recruiter accused of propositioning a 16-year-old Shorewood High School student for sex last year. They decided the case would be too difficult to prove.

The charge was communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, a gross misdemeanor. Elizabeth Abbott, a deputy prosecutor in Shoreline District Court, said authorities agreed yesterday to drop the case because under state law a request for consensual sex between an adult and someone as young as 16 is legal if the adult is not in a position of trust, as teachers are.

"As unsavory as it is, it's legal if you are not in a position of trust," Abbott said after the court proceeding.

Last May a 16-year-old Shorewood High School student told police the recruiter offered her a ride and later asked her for sex after she invited him into her house.

It was the second such allegation involving an Army recruiter and a student in the Shoreline School District in 1 1/2 years and prompted school officials to ban Army recruiters from the district's high schools.

Prosecutors initially thought they could prove in the most recent case that the recruiter was in a position of trust.

The recruiter's job is to help advance a student's military career and possibly make financial aid available, Abbott said.

The 16-year-old student previously had expressed an interest in joining the military, Abbott said, but had spoken to a different recruiter.

Patricia Fulton, the recruiter's attorney, said he was falsely accused. Although he did see the student on the day of the reported incident, he didn't go into her house and didn't ask for sex, she said. He only left brochures, Fulton said.

Fulton said an adult not only has to be in a position of trust to be prosecuted, the law prohibiting communication with a minor for immoral purposes deals with specific acts, such as sex for money or having a minor pose for pornography.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $5,000 fine.

"Even if you were to assume everything in the police report was true, which we're not . . . no crime was committed," Fulton said.

The former recruiter, now living in Aurora, Colo., said he felt relieved and vindicated. But the events over the last year had left him frustrated.

The 11-year Army veteran never had problems recruiting at other high schools in the area, he said. And he thinks the earlier sexual-assault allegations against another recruiter from the same battalion had prejudiced police against him.

In that case, a 17-year-old Shorecrest High School student accused a 36-year-old Army sergeant of touching her breasts and buttocks while driving her to the recruiting station and then to her home in January 1998. The student alleged she was propositioned for sex. In a general court-martial at Fort Lewis, Pierce County, the sergeant was acquitted of indecent assault and using indecent language.

"The bottom line is that it's over," said the former recruiter. "From Day 1 everything she said is not true. The stuff she was talking about doesn't matter anymore."

He retired from the Army last fall for medical reasons, he said.

His only wish is that Army officials take more steps to protect its recruiters from similar allegations. His wife said she was appalled at the allegations and questioned why Army commanders didn't have recruiters work in pairs.

"They (Army officials) need to worry about looking out for their people, rather than worrying about the numbers of people they get (to join)," said the former recruiter, who now works as a corrections officer. "They should be looking out for their soldiers.

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