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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Latah man pleads guilty to child molestation, 9 related charges dropped

The Spokane County Courthouse is seen on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013.  (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A Latah man pleaded guilty to first-degree child molestation Monday in exchange for prosecutors dropping nine additional charges against him.

Paul A. Sloniker, 34, was arrested in 2019 after a parent found explicit text messages from Sloniker to their son, according to court documents. Once the text messages were discovered the boy broke down and told his parents that Sloniker, a family member, had been assaulting him for the past three years, according to court documents.

At that time he was charged with communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.

After further investigation he was charged with three counts of child molestation, two counts of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, sexual exploitation of a minor, commercial sexual abuse of a minor, unlawful imprisonment and child rape.

Sloniker has no prior felonies, resulting in a sentencing range of just over four years to over five-and-a-half years in prison.

Family members Jason and Faith Force were angry over the dismissed charges as they attended the plea hearing Monday.

“I find that extremely strange considering the mountain of evidence that’s against him,” Jason Force said of the dismissal of the charges. “And I guess not so strange considering our justice system. This happens regularly, but now that it’s happened to me and my own family, I’m definitely upset about it.”

Sloniker will have to register as a sex offender and be on community custody, also known as probation, for life. First-degree child molestation is a strike offense, meaning if Sloniker were to commit another sex offense he would automatically be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Sloniker’s brother, Kevin G. Sloniker, is serving a 35-year-prison sentence in Idaho after he pleaded to molesting seven boys ages 8 to 14, over a period of 10 years.

Kevin Sloniker’s public defender, Michael Palmer, said at the time that his client’s actions were influenced by his isolated upbringing. The family lived in the small town of Latah in southern Spokane County when the boys were young.

According to Palmer, Kevin Sloniker was home-schooled, had little contact with other children and was exposed to pornography at a young age by an older sibling.