WENATCHEE — Jeremy Douglas Pedersen was convicted of child rape Friday, but acquitted of child molestation.
A Chelan County Superior Court jury deliberated for about three hours before returning with a guilty verdict for first-degree child rape and a not guilty verdict for first-degree child molestation.
Pedersen was accused of inappropriately touching a girl in 2011 or 2012 and later forcing her to perform oral sex. She was about 6 years old at the time. The girl brought the accusations to authorities in July 2018 and Pedersen was arrested in December 2018.
In May 2019, he chose to forgo a public defender and instead represent himself at trial.
Pedersen, often emotional during the three-day trial, stared blankly and shook his head slowly after the verdict was read.
The jury also found Pedersen guilty on two special verdicts: that he used his position of trust to facilitate the crime and that he knew or should have known the victim was particularly vulnerable. The finding allows Judge Lesley Allan to sentence him beyond the standard range.
Pedersen is expected to be sentenced March 26. Deputy Prosecutor Julia Hartnell said he’ll spend at least a decade in prison. The sentence will also be indeterminate, meaning he won’t be released from prison without approval from the state Department of Corrections Indeterminate Sentence Review Board.
Hartnell and Pedersen presented their closing arguments Friday morning.
“When you strip away all the noise and the theatrics, what matters most is what you heard in that witness chair,” Hartnell said.
That included testimony from the girl, her mother, a cousin and her grandmother.
The grandmother and cousin were the first two people the girl told about the alleged incidents, and the grandmother testified that the girl had self-harmed.
Hartnell said the girl was especially vulnerable, having been shuffled between the homes of her mother and grandmother. Her mother was using drugs and focused on her own relationship with the defendant, Hartnell said.
“She has chaos,” Hartnell said of the alleged victim.
The defendant also abused the trust the girl’s mother had in him, she said. “He used that position of trust to keep it secret, to make sure that he could abuse” the alleged victim, she said.
Pedersen, 47, was emotional throughout his closing arguments, his voice shaky. He at times looked up at the ceiling or bowed his head, and a couple of times broke down crying.
He reiterated how he’d asked the girl about where exactly the alleged incidents had occurred, casting doubt on her account based on inconsistencies.
“Obviously. she’s lying about one thing,” he said. “She’s got to be lying about these other things.”
The girl had also testified that she was lying in bed when one alleged act occurred. In an interview, she said she was sitting. “Which is it: Sleeping or awake?” Pedersen asked the jury.
He alleged that she made up the story because she got in trouble for bringing marijuana to school. “This child was lying this whole entire time,” he said.
Hartnell said it didn’t matter that the girl may have suppressed details about where exactly the alleged incidents occurred, but rather that she was clear on the specific acts.
For the girl, who twice faced questions from her attacker, and her family, three of whom testified, the conviction brought relief and closure.
“I’m thankful for my friends for keeping me here,” the girl said after the trial. “For the support.”
“I feel like (my daughter) can finally heal,” the girl’s mother said after the trial. “Everyone can move on.”
The girl said it was nerve-wracking to testify against Pedersen. “It felt scary, but, I mean, I just didn’t look at him,” she said.
The girl’s grandfather said she was excited after testifying. “She was pretty wound up afterward, saying how great she felt, like a weight was lifted,” the grandfather said.
He doesn’t believe Pedersen should have been able to question the girl at trial. “I don’t think it’s fair that a perpetrator can actually do this to their victim,” the grandfather said.
Prosecutor Doug Shae said it was Pedersen’s right since he was a pro se defendant, choosing to represent himself in court.
“That’s kind of one of the things that happens when you represent yourself,” Shae said. “We can’t stop him from asking questions, and he chose to represent himself.”
The scenario — a young sex abuse victim fielding questions directly from her rapist at trial — rarely presents itself. “I can’t think of case in my 30 years where we had a pro se sex case,” Shae said.
Before the trial, Allan ordered Pedesen to control himself when he was questioning the girl. He also wasn’t allowed to personally hand the girl documents during her testimony. That was instead done by a deputy.
Hartnell applauded Sage, an agency that helps crime victims, for their support of the girl and her family. That support included a service dog named Hank who sat beside the girl during her first testimony.
“I think that was a really important part of her strength,” Hartnell said. “I just want to honor her strength as far as being able to go through something that is incredibly difficult as part of this process.”