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Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Everett

Pastor sues city, says police violated teenage son's rights

Times Snohomish County Bureau

An Everett-area pastor is suing the city, alleging that his teenage son's civil rights were violated when a police detective interviewed him alone for more than two hours in January 2004 without parental notification.

Paul Stoot Sr.'s son was questioned at Voyager Middle School regarding the molestation of a 3-year-old girl.

The boy, who was 13 at the time, was charged with molestation, but a Snohomish County judge dismissed the case, citing a lack of evidence.

State law allows authorities to question children ages 13 and up without notifying their parents.

But Stoot called the charge, hearings and trial a "holy year of fear and terror."

In a lawsuit filed last week in Snohomish County Superior Court and expected to be moved this week to U.S. District Court in Seattle, Stoot and his wife, Tammie, are suing Everett for $5.8 million in damages, alleging civil-rights violations.

"It's not a joy" to sue the city, but this is part of trying to get closure for the family, Stoot said.

An attorney for the city said the police detective who questioned the boy had complied with state and federal laws.

Robert Christie, the city's attorney, said he expects to ask a judge to dismiss the case "as soon as reasonably possible."

The complaint for damages alleges that the Everett police detective used a "high-intensity" interrogation technique to get a confession from Stoot's son. The document also says Stoot's son did not know he could remain silent or stop the interview.

The lawsuit isn't about the money, Stoot said, but about justice and a law that needs to be changed.

"Money can never compensate the loss we have endured," said Stoot, the pastor at Greater Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in the South Everett area. "Our priority is for rest and peace and closure."

Stoot took the issue of parental notification to state legislators this year, asking them to change the law so police would be required to make a good-faith effort to contact a parent before attempting to interview a child. The bill would have given children the right to confer with their parents before being questioned.

The state Senate passed a parental-notification bill unanimously, but it died in the House.

Stoot said he will go back to Olympia next year with similar proposed legislation, and this time a well-publicized Seattle case could give the legislation more momentum.

A 13-year-old West Seattle baby-sitter had been accused of murder in the alleged shaking death of a 19-month-old girl, but the charge was dismissed after a judge sharply criticized the Seattle Police Department for its interrogation techniques, which included not letting the sitter speak to her parents.

The King County Superior Court judge also found that Seattle police had violated the girl's Fifth Amendment rights by not properly informing her of a suspect's Miranda rights.

Brian Alexander: 425-745-7845 or balexander@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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