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Jury to decide whether to commit sex offender

TUESDAY, FEB. 24, 2009, 7:14 P.M.

The fate of a Spokane man with a long history of sexually abusing children is in the hands of a Superior Court jury.

The Washington Attorney General’s office is seeking to have Donald Townsend, 35, civilly committed as a violent sexual predator, saying he’s a pedophile with a mental abnormality that makes him highly likely to reoffend. The state’s petition to commit Townsend was filed in January 2005.

According to court documents and testimony, Townsend confessed to molesting his 7-year-old cousin and her 9-year old brother in Oregon in 1988 when he was 15. He also admitted to molesting his half-brother. But Townsend is also a victim who was sodomized by his older brother, according to his attorney, Tim Trageser.

In 1991, when he was 17, Townsend repeatedly molested an 8-year-old girl he was babysitting. He was sent to a juvenile facility near Eugene, Ore., where he lived until he turned 21.

In March 2000, he was convicted again in Spokane County Superior Court of second-degree attempted rape of a child for a 1999 incident.

At the time, Townsend was trolling the Internet looking for underage females and was caught by Spokane Police Det. Jerry Keller, who was posing online as “Amber,” a 13-year-old girl. According to the state’s civil commitment petition, Townsend described in “graphic detail” the sexual acts he wanted to perform on the girl and went to a hotel to meet her, where he was arrested. Keller also found child pornography on Townsend’s computer after his arrest.

Townsend’s sexual interest in prepubescent children, is “strong, resilient and dangerous,” said Assistant Attorney General James Buder in closing arguments to the jury Tuesday.

Townsend refused to submit to a penile erection test requested by the state that would have measured his arousal to images of young children. Trageser called the test highly intrusive.

Townsend committed sex acts against children because he wanted to, not because he couldn’t control himself, Trageser said.

“If Townsend chooses to do this and he offends, he’s a criminal,” not a mentally ill predator, he added.

He urged the jury to apply the same standard to Townsend’s behavior as they would in judging people who repeatedly had extramarital affairs or wrote bad checks.

“We all believe that people control what they do, until we come into these sexually violent predator trials where the state tries to convince us we have serious difficulty controlling behavior… You must find that he’s likely to commit additional crimes in a predatory fashion,” Trageser added.

If he’s civilly committed by the eight-man, four-woman jury, Townsend will be sent to the state’s Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island, where “South Hill rapist” Kevin Coe and other sexually violent predators are detained. He has been living at the center since the state filed its civil commitment petition four years ago.

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