A round-faced, white-haired 71-year-old man who played Santa Claus at a shopping mall pleaded guilty Monday to child rape and molestation.
Ronald Carroll McDonald of Lake Forest Park was arrested last month after being confronted by relatives. He would not answer questions from reporters before or after a brief appearance in King County Superior Court.
Deputy prosecutor Scott O’Toole said he would ask that McDonald, who appeared in court wearing a red jail jumpsuit, be sentenced to more than 26 years in prison.
Defense lawyer Michael Danko said outside the courtroom his client is deeply sorry.
“He has been remorseful from the very first moment (of his arrest). He has been incredibly sincere,” Danko said. “Keep in mind that he did a lot of good in a public kind of way. It’s almost a Jekyll and Hyde, if you will, of being able to do very good things and at the same time do very bad things.”
McDonald gave only brief answers in a low, gravelly voice as he pleaded guilty before Judge Pro Tem Kenneth Comstock to four counts of first-degree child rape and three of first-degree child molestation. Sentencing was set for Jan. 9 before Judge Norma Huggins.
He pleaded innocent Oct. 29 to the same charges, which include oral sex, digital and penile penetration and having two youngsters perform sex acts with each other, but always intended to plead guilty before trial, Danko said.
“He wants to absolve this. He wants to do what needs to be done,” the defense lawyer said.
First-degree child rape carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $50,000 fine. The standard range for someone who, like McDonald, has no prior criminal record, is 20 years to 26-1/2 years.
O’Toole said he would request the top end of the range, plus payment of court costs and restitution for counseling and other expenses to the victims and their families.
He admitted the abuse to a police officer after relatives confronted him at his home last month.
In a subsequent newspaper interview, McDonald said he began molesting youngsters six years ago but court documents filed by prosecutors say he told police “that his sexual contacts with children have extended over the past 60 years and include at least 45 victims.”
Danko said additional charges could be filed if prosecutors learn of more victims.
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