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Exclusive: Snohomish County prosecutors charge 11-year-old autistic child with felony assault in May incident with deputies

Charges were filed despite serious questions about the police report and the child’s mental capacity.

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[EVERETT, Wash] – (MTN) Snohomish County prosecutors have charged an 11-year old autistic girl with two felony counts of assault 3 after a May 17 incident in Everett. In a police report, officers claim that although they were no visible injuries to either officer, the child’s words and actions warranted the charges against her. Despite the child not being of the age of culpability in Washington, flaws in the police report, and documentation of significant mental impairment, prosecutors continued to move forward with the criminal charges. Malcontent News is not identifying the child by name because this is a juvenile case.

An altercation with the child involving a school bus driver and an assistant resulted in a 911 call when she boarded the bus to go to school. When Snohomish County deputies arrived, the child was in the home with her mother, Lori Helmy. Deputies claim that the child charged at them, kicking one in the groin. The report says, “Due to [the child’s] size, it did not cause Deputy Watts to be immobilized.”

The report goes on to say the child struggled with both officers, called them “animals” and “pigs,” and said if she had a knife, “she would stab them with it.” The report adds, “Deputy Watts and Deputy Carson both did not have marks from the assault on them, but both had transient pain well after the incident.” 

“Watts said due to [the child’s] actions, he believed she would carry out the threat of stabbing the Deputies with it,” a deputy claims.

According to a report issued by the Snohomish County Sheriff, the justification for referring the child for criminal charges was, “Due to [the child] being 12 years old and her actions (verbal and physical) I believe she knew she was using unwanted force against both Deputies.” But there are significant problems with the case. 

The child involved is 11 years old, not 12, and had only recently had her 11th birthday at the time of the incident. In Washington state, the age of culpability is eight years old per RCW 9A.04.050. In the section called People capable of committing crimes – Capability of Children, the law states, “Children under the age of eight years are incapable of committing crime. Children of eight and under twelve years of age are presumed to be incapable of committing crime, but this presumption may be removed by proof that they have sufficient capacity to understand the act or neglect, and to know that it was wrong.

In the charging documents sent to the parent, the child’s birthday is correctly listed as April 12, 2010, making her 11 years old at the time of the incident. She is listed as 4’10” tall and weighing 115 pounds. Deputies claim they had significant challenges in restraining the child as she kicked and yelled at them.

At no time did she possess a knife or attack deputies with any physical item. The report does say that she grabbed keys at one point and claimed she would stab deputies. Her mother was able to restrain her per the police report, and the child relinquished the keys without contacting the officers or requiring their intervention. According to Ms. Helmy, deputies escalated the situation due to their conduct, would not listen to her advice on assisting her daughter, and ignored her statements that she is 11 years old.

In addition to the questions raised about age of culpability per Washington law, medical records released to Malcontent News show the child has significant impairment due to autism.

A report from Northwest Neuropsychology Learning and Behavioral Services of Bellevue from February 25, 2020, concludes that there is a “significant issue with perceptual reasoning” and “significant sensory issues that include easily hyper aroused which triggers dysregulation.” The report further states that she is “severely impaired in all aspects of community living.”

Despite the police report having her stated age wrong and her established medical history, Snohomish County prosecutors moved forward with the felony charges. The first hearing was scheduled for July 19, but the incident has put Ms. Helmy’s child into an emotional spiral, and the juvenile is currently hospitalized.

The court would only delay the initial hearing for two weeks, pending the child’s release from the hospital. At the time of publication, the public defender’s office has stated that a motion to dismiss is with the court.

Upon hearing the news from the public defender’s office, Ms. Helmy said, “Dropping charges is not good enough. Had my daughter known what she was doing, there would be real consequences. The cop knew what he was doing and there needs to be real consequences.”

According to Mental Health America, Washington state ranks 43rd in the nation for youth mental health while ranking number 3 (including the District of Columbia) for the number of mentally ill residents. According to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, 58% of inmates in Washington state are in treatment for mental illness when they are incarcerated. 

The Snohomish County Prosector’s Office and Snohomish County Sheriff Department did not respond to our request for a statement. At the time of publication, the child’s public defender had not provided any additional information.

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Juvenile Charges

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