The convicted sex offender charged in a recent West Seattle “flasher” incident and under investigation in at least two others was back in court today. 37-year-old Duane Atwood pleaded not guilty to the charges of felony indecent exposure and failing to register as a sex offender. His lawyer’s request to restrict the news media from photographing Atwood’s face was granted. His next court appearance is set for September 16th; Atwood remains jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail, and while his lawyer did not ask the judge to reduce it, they reserved the right to make that request in the future.
We first reported Atwood’s arrest almost three weeks ago; police tracked him through license-plate information given by a woman who reported that she was called over to an SUV parked near Cormorant Cove Park on Beach Drive, and saw a man inside it, exposing and holding his privates. We originally learned of her case via her comment on one of our reports about two similar incidents days earlier. While he posted bond and got out of jail the day he was arrested, his bail was raised and he was re-arrested the day charges were filed, and has been behind bars ever since.
Atwood is a Level 2 Sex Offender because of a 2001 conviction for a burglary/arson with sexual motivation. At the time of our first reports on this case, we didn’t have much information on that case, because King County’s online court records don’t go back that far. The case was very briefly summarized in the charges filed against him last month, but that still left many questions unanswered. We have since obtained dozens of pages of court documents related to the case, from the original charges to the plea bargain to the sentence.
Two felony charges were filed against Atwood on October 27, 2000. He was 23 years old. Three days earlier, the documents say, he committed arson and burglary at an apartment building in the 4500 block of Admiral Way, and “one of the purposes for which the defendant committed this crime was for the purpose of his sexual gratification.”
The probable-cause document attached to the charging papers – basically, a police-written summary — says two women in their 20s lived in the apartment and called 911 just after 6:30 in the morning on October 24, 2000.
One told police “she woke up at about 6 am and took a shower. When she walked into the living room from her bedroom, she could see and hear smoke coming from the deck. (She) then called 911 to report the fire. (She) noticed that someone had written the word “Rape” on the sliding-glass door with an unknown substance. (She) said that the front door was standing open and that there was a piece of soiled clothing on the porch. (She) also noticed that there were small pictures of nude women on the front door and on the window. Inside the apartment (she) noticed that the cover to her sewing kit had been removed.” The report went on to say that the other woman “came out of her bedroom when she heard (her roommate) screaming her name. (She) saw the smoldering fire on the deck.” Heading outside, she “saw what she thought was charcoal burning up against the wall of the apartment.” She also subsequently noticed that her purse was missing, and a closet had been gone through. Shortly thereafter, she got a phone call from a man who she said, the probable-cause document continues, told her “that he was responsible for the fire.” He knew her name and that she lived on Admiral Way, and then made a sexual threat, including “I’m coming back for you” and saying he had been watching her and her roommate.
The items police found included not only pornographic photos but also sex-aid substances and “a charred bag of charcoal briquettes … up against the wall of the apartment, under a window (with) evidence of fire and smoke damage.” The victims’ caller-ID device revealed the number of a pay phone from which the “I’m coming back for you” call had been made; fingerprints on the phone were matched to Atwood, who they found at his then-workplace in The Admiral District. The document says he confessed to police during a subsequent interview at an SPD facility. He claimed he was under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, and methamphetamine at the time. He acknowledged climbing up to the apartment’s deck and starting the fire, after which he rubbed up against the sliding glass door. The narrative says, “the fire started to get big, so he decided to leave (and) walked to his girlfriend’s house.” No one was there, so he walked back to the victims’ apartment and broke in, stealing some items and leaving when he heard an alarm.
Bail for Atwood was set at $100,000. In March 2001, he pleaded guilty to arson and burglary. As part of the plea bargain, prosecutors agreed not to charge him in two other cases. We have not yet obtained the police reports in those cases, as it is a more-complicated procedure than the one we followed to get the court documents from the case in which he was charged; both occurred in 2000, according to the SPD incident numbers. His record at the time, according to documents prepared for the sentencing hearing, included only two misdemeanor convictions from the mid-’90s, negligent driving and hit-and-run. In April 2001, Judge Michael Hayden sentenced him to the state’s recommendation, 26 months in prison, with credit for the six months he already had served in jail. He also was ordered to be in community custody – probation – for at least three years afterward. Probation came with a list of 15 requirements, including getting sexual-deviancy therapy and abstaining from drug/alcohol use.
A document we obtained from the file alleges that he had a hearing in November 2002 – seven months after he got out of prison – for allegedly violating his probation by using cocaine in October 2002. The circumstances were not detailed. He pleaded guilty to the violation and was ordered to attend three 12-step meetings weekly.
One final document we obtained was a progress report on the treatment he received from a Seattle firm specializing in sex offenders, addressed to his probation officer with a West Seattle address. That document included a note that he went back to jail for a month in early 2003 after disclosing more probation violations involving alcohol, drugs, and pornography. It summarized him as “present(ing) a significant reoffense risk.”
At some point, he moved out of the area and lived for a while in Idaho; records there show a misdemeanor drug conviction in 2009. Investigators here say he returned to Seattle in late 2010 but did not re-register as a sex offender as he is required to do. He has appeared on the register since the filing of charges in this case.
His next hearing is set for 1 pm September 16th, a routine “case-setting hearing.” While the initial charging documents in this case said prosecutors expected to charge him soon in connection with alleged threats against a longtime acquaintance, that hasn’t happened so far.
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