A Kingston man accused of committing a series of rapes was sentenced to 14 months in prison on Monday.
As part of a plea deal, Stephen Tyler Clayton, 29, pleaded guilty in December in Kitsap County Superior Court to a third-degree charge of rape and third-degree assault for assaulting three women in 2017, 2018 and 2020. Prosecutors had originally charged Clayton in July 2021 of three cases of third-degree rape.
After hearing testimony from three victims at a sentencing hearing on Monday, Judge Jeffrey Bassett said he was limited in what he could do in sentencing and said the maximum sentence he could serve in the case was 14 months.
“You’re amazing,” he told the women. “I don’t know how you did that, I don’t know how you got here and told your stories. I’m sick of what I’m reading, but my hands are tied to some extent. There are things I can do, and there are things I can’t. I can’t override the settlement agreement. I can’t rework it.”
Three women had accused Clayton of sexually assaulting them. Two filed police reports in March 2021, and a third also reported as a victim after learning Clayton was accused of assaulting other women, according to court documents.
A Kitsap County sheriff’s detective wrote in a report that one woman said she was assaulted by Clayton after they drank whiskey together, another woman described being prescribed drugs when Clayton assaulted her, and the third woman said that she had consumed alcohol and an edible marijuana and prescription anxiety medication before Clayton attacked her.
“Each of Stephen’s victims has had a similar experience of sexual abuse while incapacitated by alcohol and/or other drugs,” the detective wrote.
In addition, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Monday to the Kitsap Sun that a fourth person came forward last month with another sexual assault allegation against Clayton. Lt. Ken Dickinson, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said the alleged assault happened 10 years ago when the victim was a minor and said the matter is under investigation.
At Monday’s sentencing hearing, one of the women asked Bassett to scrap the deal or face a longer sentence.
“This case has occupied our lives since March 2021 and what do we have to show for it other than this sorry excuse for a plea deal?” she said. “This plea deal is a good example of why so many rape victims don’t come forward. Why would rape victims in Kitsap County step forward and further destroy their lives so rapists can get their wrists punched?”
Another Clayton wife said, “I know he doesn’t care what he did to us, it was a power thing.”
She later read from a third victim’s statement: “This event has caused me severe pain and emotional trauma. Since the day this happened I have developed anxiety and depression and lost the will to try and move on with my life. This case has brought back old wounds I thought I had hidden away. The shame and guilt I feel are immeasurable.”
Clayton declined to make a statement at the hearing. According to a pre-sentence investigative report prepared by a Department of Corrections official, when asked about the outcome of the case, “…Mr. Clayton stated that he felt he was involved in the plea deal and that the allegations were false, what happened was consensual sex. He’s not a gambler. He looked at 14 months vs. 20+ years in prison if he did not take the plea deal, go to trial and be found guilty.
Deputy Prosecutor Anna Aruiza told Bassett prosecutors had “serious concerns” about going to court, noting that the victim had “problems related to mental health, substance use disorders, trauma from previous abuse.”
“As the court knows, witnesses who have issues that could disrupt a courtroom may result in a mistrial, which could lead to an acquittal,” she said. “The state is deeply concerned that Mr. Clayton is a sexual predator and in order to protect the community as a whole and ensure sentencing, when the state was approached regarding a plea deal, we had to seriously consider that. ”
She continued: “We believe that in order to secure a conviction, require registration of (sex offenders), obtain a longer period of detention and guarantee protection orders for all three victims in this case, this is in the best interests of justice. I don’t necessarily say that with good taste in my mouth, Your Honor, but I believe, after consulting a number of other attorneys in my firm, that it’s the right thing to do.”
This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Kingston man accused of series of rapes gets 14 months