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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Terrorized Public Defender Sues Her Office

TACOMA, Wash. (CN) - A serial stalker terrorized his public defender and broke into her home after the county assigned her his case despite warnings that he had done it to his previous female defender, the attorney claims in court.

Sheila LaRose endured months of harassment from the pseudonymous"John Smith," who was sentenced in January to seven years in prison for felony stalking.

LaRose sued King County and the Public Defender Association dba The Defender Association on Monday, in Pierce County Court.

Smith had a history of stalking charges and required public defenders. His previous appointed attorney, who represented him on a felony charge of stalking women, asked to be removed when Smith started calling her and "telling her repeatedly that he loved her," LaRose says in the complaint.

Supervisors agreed Smith should be represented only by men, but when he was charged again with stalking a few months later, they assigned LaRose the case.

"At the time the new felony stalking case was to be assigned, the male public defender that had taken over the prior stalking case, advised management not to assign the new stalking case to a female public defender," the complaint states.

"Nevertheless defendants assigned Ms. LaRose to be Mr. Smith's appointed attorney on the second charge of felony stalking of women." And they did it without warning her that he had stalked his previous attorney, LaRose says.

Smith immediately began harassing her, repeatedly calling her and saying he loved her and wanted to marry her. LaRose says she was not trained on how to respond to sexual and violent threats from clients, and her direct supervisor "did not acknowledge that this was really a problem and that he had assigned her a known stalker."

Smith's harassment escalated when he was released from jail in November 2013.

"By February of 2014 it was necessary for Ms. LaRose to make emergency calls and incident reports requesting police aid. Mr. Smith was coming repeatedly to her home, hid out in her backyard, appearing at her bedroom door (glass divided) repeatedly in the middle of the night - breaking her bedroom window. She did not sleep for days due to fear," according to the complaint.

LaRose says she did not learn about Smith's harassment of his previous attorney until after he was arrested for breaking into her home.

"In February of 2014, Ms. LaRose learned of Mr. Smith's prior history, his stalking of his prior female attorney and his reassignment to a male attorney. She learned not from management but from the prior 'stalked' female attorney. By then, Mr. Smith had been stalking Ms. LaRose and her daughter for nearly a year including

"work phone calls with sexual messages;

"tracking Ms. LaRose to her parking space;

"placing lingerie on her windshield;

"jumping out of a stairwell at her in the dark after work;

"surveilling her and her family at her home for over 3 months;

"leaving gifts for Ms. LaRose including a pamphlet describing how to convert non-Muslim women to the Muslim faith;

"repeatedly coming to Ms. LaRose's house and yard when her daughter was present, requiring removing her daughter to a safe house;

"hid[ing] in her back yard watching her dress and undress for over 3 months;

"appearing at her back bedroom door numerous times in the middle of the night;

"bashing in her bedroom window;

"on multiple nights, when the police came, he fled and later returned and continued to watch her;

"terrorizing her the following mornings by leaving messages about having watched the police arrive and leave, and expressing his sexual intent toward her;

"threatening to find and shoot and kill a family member who attempted to assist her when Mr. Smith was stalking her at her home;

"breaking into her home."

LaRose says she has suffered "continued harassment, terror, public humiliation and different treatment," economic harm, retaliation, loss of emotional health and "will more likely than not continue to suffer the damage to her financial security, peace of mind and enjoyment of life into her elder years and retirement."

She seeks lost wages, future wages and compensation for psychological trauma, counseling and medical care, pain and suffering and diminished enjoyment of life and retirement.

She is represented by Mary Mann, with Mann & Kytle in Seattle, who did not immediately return a request for comment.

Leslie Brown, communications manager for the King County Department of Public Defense, said she could not comment on pending litigation.

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