March 2, 2010 in City

Jury deciding whether child molester should be released

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

Ronald Reo Timm is led into court Thursday in the Spokane County Courthouse for his civil commitment trial. Timm is a sex offender who has admitted to molesting 24 victims.
(Full-size photo)

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A jury is now deciding whether convicted child molester Ronald Reo Timm is immediately released or sent to a secure state facility for the rest of his life.

Assistant Attorney General Tricia Boerger gave the state’s final argument today before the jury, made up of nine men and three women, began deliberating the future of the 59-year-old sex offender.

Timm was convicted in 1989 of statutory rape and then again in 1996 for first-degree rape of a child. While in prison, Timm told a counselor that he molested 24 children, all ages between 3 and 7.

“He is a predator,” Boerger said of Timm. “He preys on young girls to satisfy his sexual desires.”

To side with the state, the jury in this civil trial must decide that Timm has a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes him likely to reoffend if released from prison.

Timm’s attorney, Tim Trageser, told the jury that people have been coming to the Spokane County Courthouse for more than 100 years to decide cases. But in almost all of those cases, persons are judged after they commit a crime. Only during the civil commitment hearings are juries asked to predict the future.

“The task belongs to you. That’s a difficult task,” he said. “It is a myth to consider the fact that sex offenders re-offend as a rule.”

Timm served his entire 10 year sentence from the 1996 conviction. He has spent the past three years in custody awaiting the civil commitment trial.

“We all know that people choose what they do. They may regret it, but they choose to do it,” he said. “We punish people when they make those choices. But the inability to make those choices never … was considered until it became time to release a man who admitted molesting 24 children.”

Trageser argued that psychologists are trained to treat persons with mental illness and that they should not be asked to predict how an offender may react once released.

“This is a commitment law where it has to be proven that my client is mentally ill. How do you determine that Mr. Timm is one of the few who can’t control his behavior versus those who choose to do what they do?” Trageser said. “I would submit that there is no evidence that he has a mental abnormality.”

Trageser ended his argument by reminding the jury that any decision they make about what Timm may do once released “would merely be a guess. He is now a 60-year-old wanting to get out of prison,” he said. “What are you going to do with him? There is a strong temptation to keep him in (prison) because he is potentially dangerous. But you can’t use this law to do it.”

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