Animal activists say change in state law needed to strengthen sex abuse cases

SEATTLE -- When James Evans pleaded guilty last Friday to hanging and killing a service dog named Diamond near Summit Lake in Thurston County in 2016, it took a lot of animal lovers who had been following the case by surprise.

It was supposed to just be another pretrial hearing for the Grays Harbor County man.  But then came the guilty plea, and the judge sentenced Evans to one year in the Thurston County Jail.

"It's very upsetting. I was essentially in emotional convulsions,” said Tracy Clark.

Clark is one of the members of the Justice for Diamond Facebook group who was in the courtroom along with Cyndy Hahn.

"If the defense attorney and the prosecuting attorney both agree to a maximum sentence, that speaks loudly. There is no further they can go with that,” Hahn said.

Thurston County prosecutors originally charged Evans with Animal Cruelty with Sexual Motivation after evidence showed Diamond had been raped.

"We all wanted a lot more time than that, but, unfortunately, their hands were tied with the way the RCW (state law) reads right now,” said Thurston County Animal Services Officer Erika Johnson, who investigated the case from the beginning.

The way the law reads, prosecutors would have had to prove Evans committed the rape "for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal of the person."

"That's obviously something that's very hard to prove,”Johnson said.

She is urging lawmakers to remove that verbiage.

"It would make the aggravator (aggravating factors) more easy to obtain in a criminal charge like this so he would have done 20 months to 24 months,” Johnson said.

Justice for Diamond members say they will be supporting this change in state law and urging the public to contact their lawmakers.

"I liken it to combing your hair with an old comb with only three teeth. Your gonna have a messed-up head of hair and you need to change laws and put teeth in them,” Clark said.

Evans has been ordered to report to the jail on Wednesday,  August 9.

"The degree of violence in this act, especially against an animal, just speaks volume to character.  While we are all frustrated and saddened by the outcome of this, I really would plead with the community to push forward, support us in changing the law, making it a stronger law, to put their anger to good use,” Johnson said.

Pasado's Safe Haven has created a "2-Minute Action" link to tell your state elected officials sexual assault of an animal should always be considered a crime.