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Friday, June 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Law That Keeps Sex Offenders Off Streets Withstands Test State Supreme Court Oks Blanket Ban On Release While Awaiting Sentencing

By Hal Spencer Associated Press

The state Supreme Court has upheld one of many tools employed in recent years to keep sex offenders off the streets - a law that flatly bans convicted offenders from release as they await sentencing.

The court, in a 6-3 ruling Thursday, rejected arguments from convicted child rapist Mark Blilie that the law violated the state and federal constitutions.

The former junior high school teacher, convicted by a King County Superior Court jury in September 1996 of raping and molesting a student, had argued that the law singled out sex offenders in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

Blilie, now serving his sentence, also argued that the statute violated the state constitution’s separation of powers doctrine because it removed the judiciary’s right to decide who merited release pending sentencing.

Blilie contended that the law simply conflicts with another state law that says a felon awaiting sentencing “shall be detained unless the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is not likely to flee or to pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community if released.”

The former Kirkland junior high school social studies teacher was convicted of rape and child molestation for a relationship with a 15-year-old female student.

Blilie was sentenced in November 1996 to 46 months in prison on the convictions. King County prosecutors had recommended a 60-month sentence for him.

In an opinion written by Justice Charles Johnson, the court rejected the arguments challenging the release law, saying he failed to demonstrate that the law was unconstitutional.

“We hold the statute was not enacted in violation of the separation of powers doctrine, nor does it violate the equal protection clause,” Johnson wrote.

Dissenting were Justices Barbara Madsen, Richard Guy and Richard Sanders, who said the majority’s reasoning “unjustifiably concedes its judicial power to the Legislature.”

The majority decision overturned a ruling by King County Superior Court Judge Janice Niemi.

The law denying sex offenders a chance for release pending sentencing is among many passed in recent years aimed in keeping such offenders behind bars.

The most notable is a law, recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, allowing state juries to civilly commit offenders to indefinite confinement even after they have served their sentences, and another mandating that twice-convicted offenders be sentenced to life without possibility of parole.

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