Charges dropped against Wash. firefighter-paramedic in child molestation case
Anthony Spada, a firefighter and paramedic with the Walla Walla Fire Department, stood trial on child sex crime charges earlier this year, but a mistrial was declared
By Jeremy Burnham
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Wash.
WALLA WALLA, Wash. — Child sex crime charges against a Walla Walla firefighter have been dropped to prevent the alleged victim from having to testify at trial for a second time.
Anthony Spada, a firefighter and paramedic with the Walla Walla Fire Department, faced charges of first-degree child molestation, second-degree child molestation and communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
The charges were dismissed Friday, Dec. 1.
He stood trial earlier this year on those charges, but a mistrial was declared Feb. 7 after the jury was unable to reach a verdict.
According to a court document filed by Walla Walla County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Mulhern, the charges were dismissed not because prosecutors no longer think that Spada is guilty, but because “the survivor has declined to participate in a second trial at this time.”
One member of jury in the first trial told the Union-Bulletin in February that the jury voted 10-2 to convict Spada. The juror also said one of the holdouts agreed to reverse their vote if another vote was held, but the final holdout stood strong.
After the first trial, Spada changed attorneys from Walla Walla -based attorney William McCool to Tukwila -based attorney Emily M. Gause .
Gause sent a news release Friday, Dec. 1 , announcing that the charges had been dropped.
In her release, she did not provide details of why the charges were dropped but said her client was innocent.
” Anthony Spada has never inappropriately touched anyone and has steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout this ordeal,” she said.
Gause also stated that Spada passed a polygraph test in which he denied the allegations against him. However, polygraph tests are not admissible in court proceedings.
JoDee Garretson , the executive director of the Support, Advocacy & Resource Center in Richland, Washington , told the Union-Bulletin that a victim of sexual assault not wanting to testify in court should not be interpreted as an admission that the allegations aren’t true.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “I think if a victim chooses not to engage with a trial, or a second trial, it has nothing to do with their truthfulness. It’s just the trauma they endured.”
Garretson said she was not familiar with this case before speaking with the Union-Bulletin, but that she has worked with victims who chose not to participate in trials.
“Because of the process, it is really difficult for victims to come forward and make a disclosure to begin with,” she said. “Often times they are not believed, or they are blamed for whatever happened. They are afraid.”
She said the investigation can also be hard as they victim has to recount their traumatic experience several times in interviews.
“Then, when it gets to court ... the victim has already had to speak to many different people about the abuse,” she said. “When they testify, most of the time they know the accused, and that person is sitting right there. It can be very traumatizing.”
The charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning, they can be refiled later should the alleged victim change her mind.
According to Washington law, there is no statute of limitation on child molestation charges.
Walla Walla city spokesperson Brenden Koch said Spada is still am employee with the city, but he has not been cleared to return to duty.
“The City of Walla Walla is aware the case against Anthony Spada will be dismissed,” said Koch. “At this time, Mr. Spada remains on unpaid administrative leave while we complete our internal investigation, which we will undertake with due diligence as we do with all matters of this nature.”
When asked who would be doing the investigation and what it would involve, Koch said, “This is an internal administrative investigation to determine Mr. Spada’s eligibility for reinstatement.”
The state’s case accused Spada of sexually assaulting a girl starting when she was about 10 years old.
The state also argued that he showed the girl pornography. The state’s main evidence was the victim’s testimony. There was no physical evidence presented.
The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin does not publish the identity of alleged sexual assault victims.
The defense’s case was that the girl made up the story.
Gause said her client is looking forward to moving on.
“Anthony hopes this dismissal brings closure and peace to his family and is grateful that he can put this painful chapter behind him.” She said.
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