Police are warning residents about a convicted child molester who was freed from jail last week pending trial on another sex-crime charge.
Darin A. Putnam, a registered sex offender, is accused of exposing himself in front of two Spokane girls on Feb. 15. He pleaded not guilty and was released on personal recognizance Thursday by Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen.
Eitzen told Putnam he could stay out of jail until his April 20 trial if he meets certain conditions, according to a transcript of the hearing.
Those include seeking work, avoiding places where children congregate and signing up for random drug and alcohol monitoring at Geiger Corrections Center.
She also confined him to his home in the 2400 block of West LaCrosse after 8 p.m.
Detectives said in a Tuesday press release that Putnam is “an opportunistic offender” who has been seen watching children at a north Spokane park recently.
On Tuesday, Eitzen said her decision to release Putnam was influenced by the fact that four people “who appeared to be stable and responsible citizens” vouched for him at the hearing.
Two of those people are Putnam’s mother and stepfather.
“They said they would sit on him until his trial,” the judge said. “He would be watched all the time, so it seemed the reasonable thing to do was release him with rigid conditions.”
The judge also said the unemployed Putnam was suffering from a lung injury and had virtually no chance of making bail. The law requires that judges do what they can to allow someone accused of a crime to get out of jail before trial, Eitzen said.
She also pointed out that no police detectives attended the hearing. “As I recall, nobody put up a real big fuss,” Eitzen said. “I know the allegation is awful, but it didn’t involve any touching.”
Deputy prosecutor Felicia Watson opposed the release, calling Putnam dangerous.
In the spring of 1991, Putnam was charged with two counts of seconddegree child molestation stemming from two separate incidents, according to court records.
One involved a 3-year-old Spokane girl, the other a 10-year-old Spangle girl.
Prosecutors dropped the charges in the molestation of the 3-year-old in exchange for Putnam’s guilty plea in the other case.
He was sentenced to 15 months in prison and classified as a Level III sex offender, considered a high-risk to commit more sex crimes.
In September 1993, he was charged with molesting a 7-year-old Spokane girl, court records state. Prosecutors later changed the charge to second-degree assault, and Putnam pleaded guilty. He served a 12-month sentence and was released from jail.
Last year, he was arrested in Spokane for failing to register as a sex offender.
“This behavior on this new charge is fairly similar,” Watson told Eitzen during last week’s hearing. “The state is concerned that he will reoffend and that he does pose a danger to the community.”
In the most recent case, two sisters - ages 12 and 10 - told their father they were in their back yard about 2 p.m. when Putnam jumped the fence, pulled down his pants and began masturbating, according to a police affidavit.
Their father told detectives he confronted Putnam in the back yard, then followed him to his house.
Sex crimes Detective Jerry Keller arrested Putnam four days later and booked him into the Spokane County Jail, where Eitzen initially set his bail at $20,000.
The girls’ father said Tuesday he is upset that Putnam is out of jail.
“As far as I’m concerned, he’s a predator,” he said. “My daughters are afraid to go out into their own back yard.”
The man said he would take matters into his own hands if Putnam gets near his girls again.
“If they don’t do something about him, I will,” he said. “I know he has rights, but my children have rights, too. I just wish they’d put him away.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: DESCRIPTION Darin Putnam, 37, is white, about 5 feet 4 inches tall and 150 pounds. He has blue eyes, brown hair and a snake tattoo on one arm. He is not currently wanted by police, but is considered a danger to children.