Former Pastor Gets 18 Years for Sex Crimes

By Barb Owens
Daily Record
October 30, 2010

Former pastor James L. Watkins, 51, of Cle Elum was sentenced to 18 years in prison Friday after pleading guilty to four counts of sexual abuse earlier this month. Watkins was found guilty of first-degree child molestation, first-degree rape of a child, second-degree rape of a child and third-degree rape of a child on Oct. 11.

Watkins was arrested on July 13 when he turned himself in and confessed to the Cle Elum-Roslyn-South Cle Elum Police Department after the victim reported the crimes to police. The victim was concerned that Watkins was grooming another possible victim for sexual abuse, said deputy prosecuting attorney Paul Sander.

The crimes took place between 1997 and 2003 when the victim was between the ages of 9 and 15, Sander said.

The victim, who is related to Watkins, is now an adult.

In court Friday, Watkins’ defense attorney Richard Young told Judge Michael Cooper that his client has showed a tremendous amount of remorse. Young said sometimes with these types of cases, the defendant can tend to minimize what’s happened, but Watkins never eluded to that.

“He is ready and willing to accept responsibility for his actions,” Young said.

Watkins thanked Young as his lawyer and also thanked the prosecution for their compassion.

“I shamefully and wrongfully did these things,” Watkins said.

He asked for forgiveness from the victim, from his church, from the community and from the court.

“I deserve everything this court gives me,” Watkins said.

He turned to the victim.

“I ask you to forgive me for putting you through all these things over the years,” Watkins said. “I do pray that you’ll be able to get the support you need.”

The prosecution recommended a sentence of 13 1/2 years to 18 years.

Simon Barr, a state Department of Corrections agent, told the court that Watkins abused his power as a pastor and the trust of his victim.

The victim addressed the court, explaining that there were two objectives in filing the police report. The victim wanted to protect a specific person from also becoming a victim and for Watkins to get treatment to “conquer his immoral behavior.”

The victim said the minimum sentence — 13 1/2 years — would accomplish that. The victim asked the court to show mercy on Watkins.

Judge Cooper sentenced Watkins to 216 months in prison — the maximum of the standard-range sentence. Cooper said legal mercy has already been given and said that the outcome for Watkins could have been much worse.

“I’m quite aware of my own feelings of this type of crime,” Cooper said, adding that he didn’t want them to interfere with his ability to judge.

“You’ve taken responsibility for years of immoral behavior and I hope this is the end of it,” Cooper said. “Just because you’re behind bars doesn’t mean you can’t be a productive member of society.”

Sander said the resolution that was reached was a direct response to the victim’s wishes.

“As in every case, there was an effort to achieve justice by balancing both the community’s interest and the victim’s interest in formulating this resolution,” Sander said.


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