A Spanaway man is suing Pierce County, contending the Sheriff’s Department forced him for years to put his name and address on a registry for sex offenders and kidnappers when he had no duty to do so.
Vernon Vance, 43, contends the forced registration and the public dissemination of his photograph and address damaged his reputation and led to him receiving death threats and losing job opportunities and girlfriends.
He seeks unspecified damages in the suit, filed last week in Superior Court by his attorney, Sunni Ko.
“For 14 years, the defendant forced the plaintiff to live with constant fear that he and his family would suffer bodily injury or death,” the lawsuit states. “For 14 years, he had to defend himself to friends and coworkers that he had not kidnapped a minor child.”
That bit about “a minor child” is the trouble.
Vance is a convicted kidnapper. In 1989, he pleaded guilty in Colorado to first-degree kidnapping for abducting a bank president for ransom. He served his time and moved to Washington in 1998.
“When I arrived in Washington I was told by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department that I had a duty to register as a kidnapping offender,” Vance said in court documents. “When I pointed out that the kidnapping statute did not apply to me since the victim of the offense was not a minor, I was told I was wrong and had to register.”
His protests got no traction with local deputies.
“Defendants summarily dismissed plaintiff’s contentions and threatened that he would be arrested and prosecuted if he did not register,” his lawsuit states. “Under duress and the threat of arrest and prosecution, starting in 1998, plaintiff registered as a kidnapping offender in Pierce County.”
Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said last week that “It’s undisputed that he is a convicted kidnapper. Our primary interest was and is to protect the public.”
Vance continued over the years to protest, his suit states. Each time he was rebuffed.
Things got particularly bad for him in 2010, he contends, when his photo was included with his address and name on the sex offender and kidnapper registry, which is available for review at the Sheriff’s Department website.
“Anonymous persons began calling his home, telling him his home would be burned down if he did not move immediately, that he would suffer bodily injury, and/or that his life would be in jeopardy if he did not move away from the neighborhood,” his lawsuit states.
The issue came to a head in February, when Vance, who apparently did not update his address with authorities, was charged with a felony count of failing to register as a sex offender.
Ko took his case and filed a motion to dismiss, arguing her client had no duty to register because his victim was not a minor.
In April, deputy prosecutor Jessica Giner agreed to dismiss the case, writing in court papers that Vance “does not have a duty to register as a sex offender” because his victim was not a minor.
Giner went on to say that if Vance still lived in Colorado, he would have no duty to register there, either.
“Defendant’s Colorado conviction is not comparable to a Washington state kidnap offense that would require registration,” she wrote.
Superior Court Judge Katherine Stolz signed the dismissal but left open the possibility that prosecutors could refile if they found evidence Vance does indeed need to register.
“We are having the prosecutor’s office review the case to see if there are any loopholes in the registration requirement,” Troyer said.Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644