WENATCHEE – Jeremy Douglas Pedersen was convicted of child rape Friday, but acquitted of child molestation.
A Chelan County Superior Court jury deliberated for about three hours before returning with a guilty verdict for first-degree child rape and a not guilty verdict for first-degree child molestation.
Pedersen was accused of inappropriately touching a girl in 2011 or 2012 and later forcing her to perform oral sex. She was about 6 years old at the time. The girl brought the accusations to authorities in July 2018 and Pedersen was arrested in December 2018.
Pedersen, often emotional during the three-day trial, stared blankly and shook his head slowly after the verdict was read.
The jury also found Pedersen guilty on two special verdicts: that he used his position of trust to facilitate the crime and that he knew or should have known the victim was particularly vulnerable. The finding allows Judge Lesley Allan to sentence him beyond the standard range.
In May 2019, he chose to forgo a public defender and instead represent himself at trial.
On Thursday, Pedersen called two witnesses to the stand: the now 13-year-old alleged victim and the Wenatchee police detective, Steve Evitt, who investigated the case.
In his examination, Pedersen doubted the accuracy of the girl’s memory – debating the location and questioning whether parts of her description of the oral sex were feasible. Her recollection Thursday of where the incidents allegedly happened was different than her testimony Wednesday and in earlier interviews with detectives.
During cross-examination from Hartnell, the girl said the alleged abuse from Pedersen isn’t something she wants to remember.
“I try to suppress it and keep it out of my mind,” the girl said.
The girl brought the accusations to authorities in July 2018 after she got into trouble at school. Not directly related to her school troubles, she said she was self-harming and wanted to speak out about Pedersen. She told her grandmother first and then a cousin.
Pedersen, who turned 47 on Friday, was arrested in December 2018. He was released from custody in August 2019 after posting $25,000 bond, but then arrested in January 2020 for possession of methamphetamine.
Deputy Prosecutor Julia Hartnell called five witnesses: the girl’s grandmother, mother and cousin, Jessica Johnson, the executive director of Sage, an agency that helps crime victims who’ve experienced trauma, and Evitt again.
The grandmother, mother and cousin testified to what the girl said to them when she first disclosed the alleged abuse.
Pedersen has said at trial he believes the girl is lying, and has pointed to what he believes to be inconsistencies in her memory of the location of the alleged incidents. Johnson said less than 4% of children lie about sexual abuse.
Evitt said victims don’t always remember everything exactly the same in each interview.
“The substance is going to be there, but the details, not uncommonly, are going to be different,” Evitt said.
Pedersen asked the girl about the oral abuse and what the alleged act entailed. She’d testified that she was lying in bed when he entered the room, and in an interview prior to trial said she was sitting in her room.
Pedersen asked her if it was true that she said she was sitting in the room.
“Yes, but I didn’t mean sitting up – I meant just sitting in my room,” the girl said.
Pedersen sighed and returned to his seat. Allan asked if he had more witnesses to call.
“I’d like to do it all over again, but I can’t,” Pedersen said.
He called Evitt back to the witness box, asked a few more questions and then rested his case.
Pedersen is expected to be sentenced March 26.
For the girl, who twice faced questions from her attacker, and her family, the conviction brought relief and closure.
“I’m thankful for my friends for keeping me here,” the girl said after the trial. “For the support.”
“I feel like (my daughter) can finally heal,” the girl’s mother said after the trial. “Everyone can move on.”
The girl said it was nerve-wracking to testify against Pedersen. “It felt scary, but, I mean, I just didn’t look at him,” she said.
The girl’s grandfather said he doesn’t believe Pedersen should have been able to question the girl at trial. “I don’t think it’s fair that a perpetrator can actually do this to their victim,” the grandfather said.
Prosecutor Doug Shae said it was Pedersen’s right since he was a pro se defendant, choosing to represent himself in court.
“That’s kind of one of the things that happens when you represent yourself,” Shae said. “We can’t stop him from asking questions, and he chose to represent himself.”
The scenario – a young sex abuse victim fielding questions directly from her rapist at trial – rarely presents itself. “I can’t think of case in my 30 years where we had a pro se sex case,” Shae said.
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