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State v. Paul

February 10, 1997


Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 94-1-01773-6. Date filed: 08/15/94. Judge signing: Hon. John M. Darrah.

Authored by C. Kenneth Grosse. Concurring: Susan R. Agid, Faye C. Kennedy.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Grosse

GROSSE, J. -- Applying our recent decision in State v. Lee, *fn1 in which we upheld this stalking statute, we reject Benjamin Paul's vagueness, overbreadth, due process, and equal protection claims, and decide that sufficient evidence supports his conviction for misdemeanor stalking.


The victim in this case is Sherry Shefts. With her two daughters, ages four and one, she encountered Paul at University Village. She first noticed Paul after she left a shop, observing that a burgundy utility van was idling by her path and that a man was watching her cross in front of him on her way to a Bartells drug store. As she left the drug store she noticed the van again, idling in the space facing the entrance, with the same man watching her progress. She thought it was strange so she started to walk faster. She testified: "It scared me enough to grab my daughter's hand tighter and quicken my pace." She went into a Lamonts store to avoid him. While she was walking into the department store she could still see him watching her.

She then walked back to her car. She testified that he could not have directly followed her back to her car with his van on the route she was taking because it was a pedestrian walkway, rather he would have to choose a different route through the shopping complex. As she was putting her children into the car, she was startled to see that his van was parked head to head with her in the parking lot. The van was there before she arrived. When she saw the van, her "panic button went off" and she was "pretty scared."

Shefts looked up and noticed Paul was "making some odd movements" and was watching her. She testified that she realized he was masturbating. She could not see below his shoulders but she said that it was "obvious" to her what he was doing given his facial expressions. She quickly left, feeling sick to her stomach.

A few days later, she returned to University Village. As she was leaving, she noticed the van with the same man. The van got behind her. She panicked and did not want to leave the lot because the man might follow her home. In order to get his license plate number so as to scare him off, she turned back in an aisle to get behind his van. She became further alarmed when he did the same thing--making a U-turn in order to get behind her car. Taking the same route and making the same turns, the van followed her as she searched the complex for a security guard. At trial, Shefts elaborately detailed the route she took as she circled through the area, describing how the van managed to stay behind her.

After spotting a security guard, Shefts left her car and ran toward him. As she was telling the guard the story, she saw the van pull over with the man inside watching her through the rear view and side windows. According to her, he waited a minute and a half and then left rather hurriedly. She pointed him out to the security guard. The security guard at University Village testified that a "very agitated, almost hysterical, scared" woman told him "this guy is stalking me. I'm scared. He's been following me and my girls."

After talking with the security guard, Shefts went home and called the police. On November 4, 1993, an officer spoke with Paul about the incidents and warned Paul to not contact the woman again or he would be arrested. Three months later, Shefts saw the van at Northgate Mall, with the man watching her assisting her daughter from the car. The van was parked next to her car. Very upset, she called the police and talked to security. The police later arrested Paul.

At trial, defense witness Dr. Seyl testified that Paul suffered from dumping syndrome because part of his stomach was removed several years ago. This meant that he was periodically prone to sudden, uncontrolled bowel movements, and painful stomach cramping.

Paul testified that after he was arrested in February, he went over the events of the time period in question and remembered that he had a severe dumping attack. He did not report this incident during his earlier conversation with the police officer. He thought that sometime in October he had an attack at University Village when he was in his van, and that while he was under the influence of the attack he "writhed" and turned his head "from side to side." According to him, the attack happened outside of Bartells and when it subsided, he worked his way to Lamonts, stopping twice driving out of the mall when he felt another attack coming on.

Paul did not recall going to the mall on the second occasion, but said it was possible since he frequently went there. Denying following Shefts, he said he had never seen her before testifying in court.

On June 28, 1994, the court found him guilty of stalking based on the two University Village ...

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