Prairie student sentenced for sex offense

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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A registered sex offender was sentenced Friday to 14 months in prison for raping a 14-year-old Prairie High School schoolmate in April.

Even up to the sentencing, attorneys and the judge fought over the nature of the crime. The prosecution said the girl felt threatened because Jeremiah Thompson was carrying a knife at the Winco Store where they met. From there, she went with him to his house on April 12, where Thompson had sex with her.

The defense said the girl told investigators the sex was consensual.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Diane Woolard sentenced Thompson to the maximum penalty for the crime of third-degree rape of a child. In addressing the defense attorney's remarks, she was clear in her sentence:

"It doesn't mean there's any less trauma," the judge said. "Let's not forget these type of cases" and the trauma they invoke.

Defense attorney Lou Byrd wasn't finished with his argument. Showing newspaper clippings, he said the case had drawn "numerous publicity" and "I think there's trauma there, too."

A senior at Prairie at the time, 19-year-old Thompson had a long record of violations with the law. His case sparked media attention last spring because students and parents hadn't been made aware of his status as a registered sex offender while he was attending the school.

A state law precludes school officials from releasing information about a student's criminal record, though school administrators are informed by law enforcement about a student who is a registered sex offender. They share that information on a need-to-know basis with teachers and other staffers, as allowed by state law.

Thompson's criminal history includes a conviction in February 2010 for sexually assaulting his mother. He also accepted a plea deal that year -- to a misdemeanor charge of communication with a minor for immoral purposes -- relating to allegations he molested a 7-year-old girl.

The judge called Thompson's criminal past alarming and said she needed to sentence him with the high-range term to "make a point."

"The lack of taking responsibility and lack of insight is a concern for the court," Woolard said.

On paper, Thompson appears to have no felonies on his record. That's because his previous cases were either lowered to misdemeanors as part of a plea bargain or they didn't count as felonies because they were committed when he was a juvenile.

Sentences increase when a defendant has multiple felonies in his background.

Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Smith noted Thompson's turbulent past at the hearing. She said that in Thompson's past cases, he had serious mental health concerns, including manic depression and a head injury as a child.

"The reasons for the recommendation (of the 14-month sentence) is that this has had a major impact on the victim," she said. "The defendant's history is obviously a significant concern."

Thompson has credit for 149 days spent in the Clark County Jail. After his release from prison, he will be under community supervision for three years.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts;www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.