Local news

Man facing life in prison for rapes

Verdict triggers two-strikes law

Sex offender Pierre West slowly shook his head Wednesday as the judge read the jury’s long list of guilty verdicts, including charges expected to keep him in prison for life without the possibility of parole.

West’s two rape convictions stemmed from a case in which several prostitutes described their terror after being picked up by a man who drove them to his Spokane Valley home and ordered them to appease him in violent ways.

“I’m pleased that everybody in our community receives the same protection under the law,” Deputy Prosecutor John Love said after the verdicts, “and that the lifestyle of these women was not a controlling factor in the jury’s decision.”

The jury was hung – unable to reach a verdict – on three of five rape charges. West faced four courts of kidnapping, but the jury instead found him guilty of three counts of the lesser charge of unlawful imprisonment.

The jury also found West guilty of three counts of felony harassment and two counts of second-degree assault. The jury said all five of those crimes were committed with sexual motivation.

Love said the two assault convictions alone would have been enough to trigger the state’s two-strikes law for violent sexual offenses, which carries a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. West was convicted in 1988 of raping a child.

West said nothing as Spokane County sheriff’s jailers led him away. Assistant Public Defender John Stine said he had no comment after the two-week trial.

Jenn Davis Nielsen, a victims advocate for Lutheran Community Services, said many of the prostitutes attacked by West were victims of sexual abuse as children.

“They are in a position where society looks down on them. They don’t have the liberty and opportunity to report these heinous crimes,” Nielsen said. “The fact they came forward shows how dangerous Mr. West is.”

According to court records, one of the women reported seeing a video of another woman engaged in sex with West. That woman never was identified, prompting investigators to believe there are more victims who haven’t come forward.

Lynn Everson, the needle exchange coordinator at the Spokane Regional Health District, helped detectives identify some of West’s victims. Everson credited another sexual predator for prompting law enforcement and victims advocates to cooperate – death row inmate Robert Yates, who was convicted of 13 slayings in Spokane and two in Pierce County.

“In this community, as a result of Robert Yates, we all work together,” Everson said.

Love credited sheriff’s Detectives David Bentley and John Grandinetti for finding the victims and documenting their accounts of the violent encounters with West even though many were afraid to cooperate with law enforcement officers.

“Providing sexual acts for money is an illegal act,” Love said. “What does a predator do? They pick off the weakest of the herd.”

West is scheduled to be sentenced July 7.

Reporter Thomas Clouse can be reached at (509) 459-5495 or at tomc@spokesman.com.

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