[Note: Because both the alleged victim and defendant in the court case mentioned in the story are minors, our story has been written to protect the identities of both parties.]
The troubles of one Washington state senator involving charges that his 15-year-old son raped a much younger boy may be growing around his own failure to promptly report the suspected abuse to authorities, according details of court documents and case records obtained by NW Daily Marker.
On Tuesday, the son of state Sen. Brian Hatfield (D-Raymond) pleaded guilty in Lewis County Superior Court to four charges of first degree child molestation and four charges of rape of a child in which he is accused of engaging in sexual acts and intercourse with a much younger boy also living in the Hatfield home.
Documents obtained by NW Daily Marker show that Hatfield was made aware of the most recent alleged incident of sexual abuse that took place on Feb. 14, according to the statement given by Hatfield’s wife to a Lewis County Sheriff’s detective shortly before Hatfield’s son was arrested on Apr. 25.
The statement by Hatfield’s wife affirmed that she witnessed a possible act of abuse being committed by Hatfield’s son on the alleged victim, an act the victim also described in his own account to the detective. She told police she “contacted Brian Hatfield and informed him of the incident.”
Though Hatfield’s wife and the victim both told the detective that Hatfield assured them that he was taking step to get his son into treatment and would have him turn himself over to authorities, it was not until the victim disclosed the alleged molestation to school officials that law enforcement became aware.
Washington state law makes the failure to report suspected “severe” abuse a gross misdemeanor criminal offense. From RCW 26.44.030:
The reporting requirement shall also apply to any adult who has reasonable cause to believe that a child who resides with them, has suffered severe abuse, and is able or capable of making a report. For the purposes of this subsection, “severe abuse” means any of the following: Any single act of abuse that causes physical trauma of sufficient severity that, if left untreated, could cause death; any single act of sexual abuse that causes significant bleeding, deep bruising, or significant external or internal swelling; or more than one act of physical abuse, each of which causes bleeding, deep bruising, significant external or internal swelling, bone fracture, or unconsciousness.
According to a press statement issued Wednesday by the attorney defending Hatfield’s son, Christine Beckwith, Sen. Hatfield quickly sought her advice after his wife made him aware of the February incident. From Beckwith’s statement:
Senator Hatfield was told by his wife that she had witnessed some inappropriate behavior by his son B.A.H. towards the end of February 2013. In abundance of caution, Senator Hatfield called our office for a consultation for his son to see what the best course of action would be. I privately interviewed B.A.H. in a conversation that is and was protected by attorney/client privilege. That information was never disclosed to Senator Hatfield or his wife.
Hatfield’s wife also told the Lewis County detective that Hatfield assured her that he would take proactive steps to remedy the situation but that she had no evidence that ever happened. From the detective’s report:
[Wife] concluded telling me that Brian had told her on several occasions that he was attempting to enter [Hatfield’s son] into therapy and would also being [sic] contacting authorities in Lewis County. [Wife] stated that she knows this has not occurred.
On the advice of his attorney, Hatfield refused to give a statement to detectives at the time of his son’s arrest.
For now, Hatfield’s son has been released into his father’s custody pending the court’s acceptance of his guilty plea and a deal that would in part require his participation in a two-year sex offender treatment program and spending 30 days in custody.
The full statement from Hatfield’s son’s attorney reads as follows:
The Hatfield family has been asked to respond regarding Senator Brian Hatfield’s son being accused of criminal offenses. Senator Hatfield was told by his wife that she had witnessed some inappropriate behavior by his son B.A.H. towards the end of February 2013. In abundance of caution, Senator Hatfield called our office for a consultation for his son to see what the best course of action would be. I privately interviewed B.A.H. in a conversation that is and was protected by attorney/client privilege. That information was never disclosed to Senator Hatfield or his wife. There was never any information that was disclosed to Senator Hatfield that would trigger a legal requirement for him to report any conduct to legal authorities. Upon my advice, Senator Hatfield changed his supervision plan for his son and was in the process of setting up appropriate counseling at my direction. When those things were in place it was the intention of B.A.H. to turn himself in to the proper authorities to address the underlying criminal offenses. Prior to being able to do that there was a report to law enforcement, and B.A.H. turned himself in to law enforcement without incident. B.A.H. is a minor and no different than any other juvenile offender other than his father being an elected official. The Hatfield family hopes that B.A.H. will be treated fairly and justly under the law, and not given a more severe penalty than other similarly situated juvenile offenders. Because all the parties that are involved in this case are minors, the families are hoping that the media respects the unique nature of juvenile crimes. The purpose of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate offenders so that they can go on to be productive law abiding adult citizens. B.A.H., has had several catastrophic loses including his mother dying at a young age. His extremely difficult childhood is a contributing factor in this case, and is not an uncommon history of other juvenile offenders. The family hopes that the media will be cautious in the printing and disseminating the names of juveniles that ultimately may have the opportunity for the sealing of the criminal record in the future. Every measure is being taken to ensure that this matter is dealt with in an appropriate and thoughtful manner for all involved parties.