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State v. Ellison

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

March 31, 2015

The State of Washington, Respondent ,
William H. Ellison, Appellant

Appeal from Pierce County Superior Court. Docket No: 11-1-01768-2. Judge signing: Honorable Frank E Cuthbertson. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 05/31/2013.

Sarah McNeel Hrobsky (of Washington Appellate Project ), for appellant.

Mark E. Lindquist, Prosecuting Attorney, and Thomas C. Roberts, Deputy, for respondent.

Authored by Thomas R Bjorgen. Concurring: Rich Melnick, Lisa Worswick.


Page 854

[186 Wn.App. 781] Thomas R Bjorgen, A.C.J.

[¶1] Following a bench trial, the trial court found William H. Ellison guilty of second degree rape and second degree child molestation based on conduct against AE,[1] the minor granddaughter of Ellison's former wife. The court imposed a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of early release, based on a finding that Ellison had previously been convicted of two crimes defined in RCW 9.94A.030 as " most serious" offenses under the Persistent Offender Accountability Act (POAA), RCW 9.94A.570. Ellison appeals, arguing that the trial court denied him the right of allocution and that increasing his punishment based on the judicial finding, not expressly made beyond a reasonable doubt, that Ellison had two prior qualifying convictions violated his rights to due process of law and to equal protection of the laws under the federal constitution.

[186 Wn.App. 782] [¶2] Ellison also submits a statement of additional grounds for review (SAG) under RAP 10.10, claiming that the trial court violated his right to a speedy trial and that his attorney denied him the right to participate in his own defense, refused to present exculpatory evidence, and denied Ellison his right to a jury trial. Ellison further contends in his SAG that the trial judge and the prosecutor committed misconduct. We affirm Ellison's convictions and sentence.


[¶3] In January 2011, AE accused Ellison of forcing her to have sexual intercourse on one occasion and fondling her breasts on several occasions. AE alleged that the sexual abuse occurred between September 2006 and July 2008, while she lived with her grandmother and legal guardian, Joan Ellison, who was married to William Ellison at the time.[2] Based on AE's accusations, the State filed charges against Ellison in April 2011. The State subsequently notified Ellison that second degree rape qualified as a " most serious offense" under RCW 9.94A.030(37) and that if he had previously been convicted on separate occasions of two other such offenses, he would be sentenced to a term of total confinement for life without the possibility of release under the POAA. 1 Verbatim Report of Proceedings at 8; Clerk's Papers at 6.

[¶4] Ellison remained in custody from April 2011 throughout the proceedings. On October 9, 2012, the day trial was set to begin, the prosecutor requested a continuance, informing the court that she had developed a medical problem that required surgery and rendered her unable to proceed as scheduled. Against Ellison's wishes, defense counsel did not object. The trial court found good cause and granted the continuance.

[186 Wn.App. 783] [¶5] In November 2012, against his attorney's wishes, Ellison filed a pro se motion to dismiss the charges against him. Ellison based the motion on, among other grounds, violation of the time-for-trial rule and his constitutional right to a speedy trial. After reviewing the scheduling orders in the case, the trial court denied the motion.

[¶6] The parties completed voir dire on January 7, 2013. The next day, following an extensive colloquy, Ellison waived his right to a jury trial. The court began hearing testimony on January 9.

[¶7] The State presented the testimony of Joan, AE, and David Duralde, MD, a child abuse expert. Ellison testified on his own behalf, and the defense called no other witnesses.

[¶8] The trial court found Ellison guilty of one count of second degree rape and one count of child molestation and entered written findings of fact and conclusions of law. The State presented certified copies of the judgment and sentence evidencing Ellison's

Page 855

history of felony convictions, as well as an affidavit from a forensic technician stating that Ellison was the same person identified in those documents.

[¶9] The court concluded that Ellison was a persistent offender based on the current convictions and its findings that Ellison had two robbery convictions from 1994 and 1997. Ellison did not object to these findings, and the record does not reveal what evidentiary standard the court applied in making them.

[¶10] After hearing a statement from Joan and argument from counsel, the sentencing court invited Ellison to allocute. Ellison sang a short religious song and spoke about various topics not clearly related to the sentencing proceeding. After making extensive remarks, Ellison began to protest his innocence and accuse his trial attorney of lying to the court. At that point, the court cut Ellison off, explained that the matters he related were irrelevant to the issues at ...

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