SEATTLE – For a few weeks, Michael Sean Stanley managed to cut away from a troubled life in Canada and navigate a bizarre pathway to freedom.
The sex offender removed his electronic monitoring bracelet, eluded a Canadian manhunt and headed for the border. He was allowed to cross into Washington state, where local authorities told the U.S. citizen to register as a sex offender but didn’t arrest him, since he’d committed no crimes here.
Less than four days after registering, Stanley was accused this week of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old in a Seattle alley in a case that has caused alarm on both sides of the border and exposed a challenging dynamic of cross-border relations.
Seattle Municipal Court Judge Karen Donohue set his bail at $100,000.
“This, for us, was the worst-case scenario,” Seattle police Det. Renee Witt said. “Our worst fear was realized when this kid came forward and said Stanley had attempted to sexually assault him.”
Stanley’s criminal record in Canada goes back 25 years. He most recently served a 32-month prison term after luring two mentally challenged boys into an apartment, lighting a crack pipe and blowing smoke in their faces and then sexually assaulting them. Parole board documents also describe another case in which Stanley broke into an elderly woman’s apartment while she was sleeping and sexually assaulted her.
In other cases, Stanley was found in the bedroom of two young girls, was accused of assaulting another girl and had numerous violent encounters, according to parole records.
He was being monitored by police under a peace bond, which Canadian authorities can get to impose conditions on individuals in the community. Stanley’s peace bond had 20 conditions, including one ordering him to stay away from children.
That wasn’t enough to stop him at the U.S. border, because he had already served his time for his violent crimes and was only being sought for charges related to removing his monitoring bracelet. Canadian officials hadn’t sought a provisional arrest warrant that would allow U.S. officials to arrest an American citizen on home soil.
Even once Stanley crossed the border, Canada could have sought such a warrant and Seattle officials could have nabbed him and sent him back, said Gary Botting, a criminal defense and extradition lawyer based in the Vancouver, B.C. area. But in this case, Canadian authorities didn’t seek that type of warrant or ask for his extradition, saying his crimes weren’t serious enough.
On the U.S. side, a citizen who flees back to his home country must be let back in if there’s no warrant to arrest him, Botting said.
“If he’s an American citizen, he’s home free,” Botting said.
Seattle police said they encountered Stanley early Tuesday morning after a series of calls reported noise in a west Seattle alley, and Stanley was accused of threatening someone who asked him to be quiet. When police arrived, Stanley appeared intoxicated, crawled out of a trash bin and became combative, according to a police report.
Detectives believe the attack on the teen happened before that arrest. Authorities said Stanley met a boy at a west Seattle grocery store, struck up a conversation and walked with him to an alley where he plied the teen with alcohol and attacked him. The boy pulled a knife and was able to escape. Police say charges in that case are forthcoming.
Stanley made a first appearance Wednesday morning on the harassment charge. Stanley pleaded not guilty to the charge.