Kristina M. Auckland consults with her defense attorney today in Lewis County Superior Court.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – There will be no trial for the Cedar Creek Corrections Center counselor accused of committing a crime by spending nights at a Centralia motel with a former inmate, including the day he was released from prison.
Lewis County prosecutors dropped the charge of first-degree custodial sexual misconduct they had filed last autumn against Kristina M. Auckland.
They also dismissed a charge of witness tampering and offered Auckland a deal.
Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Sheila Weirth told a judge today it was because of problems with evidence that would have made it difficult for the state to proceed. Weirth instead charged Auckland with two gross misdemeanors; attempted tampering with a witness and suggested Auckland’s contact with the alleged victim was the reason prosecutors may not have been able to prove their case.
“It would have depended upon (the alleged victim’s) truthfulness at trial,” Weirth said.
The 31-year-old Castle Rock woman was arrested Nov. 19, spent one night in jail and was charged with a felony prosecutors said was because she supervised the inmate in prison and that even after his release, she would have influence over his treatment while he was on community custody.
The 33-year-old man was released from confinement on Oct. 18. After Auckland’s arrest, he told detectives the relationship was completely consensual, according to court documents.
Centralia attorney Shane O’Rourke defended his client vigorously before Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler this afternoon.
He said he didn’t think he’d ever been a part of a case where the two sides were so far apart in their interpretations. Auckland wasn’t in a supervisory position over the former inmate, he said.
“We believe no crime was committed in this case,” O’Rourke said. “This is a product of hours of investigation.”
O’Rourke told the judge that even though he believed his client would have been exonerated at trial, because she couldn’t be certain of that and because of her children, she wanted to go along with the plea deal.
Auckland made an Alford plea this afternoon to two counts of attempted tampering with a witness.
She doesn’t admit guilt, but agreed if a judge or jury heard the facts as presented by prosecutors and believed them, it would be highly likely they would find her guilty.
O’Rourke asked the judge to defer her sentence for as long as two years and said if it were up to him, he’d give her zero jail time.
Weirth recommended she spend 30 days in jail and have the rest of a 364 day sentence suspended.
“Her behavior was very, very serious,” she said. “Especially after she was ordered by the court and admonished by the court not have contact.”
Weirth also asked that Auckland be prohibited from contacting the former inmate for as long as she works for the state Department of Corrections; not for his protection, but for the protection of the state agency.
Judge Lawler said no to a no-contact order, unless the former inmate requested it.
Lawler sentenced Auckland to 364 days in jail, with all but 30 of the days suspended. He said she could do her time on electronic home monitoring.
“That’s a break you’re getting,” Lawler told her. “If you violate that, you’re going to get a bunch more time.”
The trial which was to begin next week in Lewis County Superior Court was stricken from the calendar. Auckland has until the evening of March 15 to begin her month of house arrest.
As of today, she remained on administrative leave from her job, according to her lawyer.
For background, read “Prosecutors: Littlerock prison employee recommends early release for inmate, meets him at motel” from Friday November 20, 2015, here