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A judge found probable cause Monday to hold a convicted sex offender in custody for allegedly stealing a Victoria Clipper vessel Sunday on his 33rd birthday.

Samuel K. McDonough, of Preston, is being held in lieu of $200,000 bail for investigation of first-degree theft, theft of a vehicle and reckless endangerment in connection with the
joy ride. He is also being held on a warrant for failure to register as a sex offender.

McDonough appeared briefly during a hearing in the King County Jail courtroom but didn’t speak. Prosecutors have until Wednesday to file charges.

According to the document of probable cause that outlines the police case, and an official with Victoria Clipper, McDonough snaked through a very small hole in a security fence at Seattle’s Pier 69, where the Clipper docks its vessels, partially untied one of the boats and managed to start the vessel Sunday morning.

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Darrell Bryan, CEO of Victoria Clipper, called for help when he saw that the 132-foot Clipper IV was missing from its slot and appeared to be headed toward Harbor Island.

McDonough was arrested without incident about seven hours later when a police SWAT team was sent in after discussions between McDonough and a hostage negotiator faltered, according to police.

In the document of probable cause, police say McDonough told them he took the ferry because he wanted to go to Victoria, B.C. Police had earlier reported that McDonough had claimed to be trying to get to West Seattle.

Police and prosecutors also said that McDonough did not know how to control the $8 million, 478-gross-ton vessel or operate its lights. In the King County District Court hearing on Monday, prosecutors said the Clipper IV nearly collided with a Washington State Ferries vessel.

Court documents say that McDonough was under supervision by the state Department of Corrections (DOC) and was supposed to be wearing a GPS anklet.

DOC spokeswoman Norah West said McDonough has convictions for indecent exposure in King County in 2005, 2008 and 2012. The most recent conviction, a felony, came after he masturbated in front of two Issaquah coffee-stand baristas, according to court documents.

He also has convictions for drug offenses and burglaries, according to court documents.

West said McDonough, who is transient, had been tracked by DOC with a GPS monitor that was secured around his ankle on Nov. 27. However, police said the monitor was not on him when he was arrested Sunday.

West said that monitoring bracelets are normally reserved for sex offenders who are new to serving community supervision, this state’s version of probation. But, she said, they’re also used for offenders who can’t abide by the terms of their prison release.

She said McDonough has been jailed three times since May for breaking the terms of his probation — for using controlled substances, failure to comply with the terms of the ankle-monitoring system and failing to report to community supervision staff.

Bryan, the Victoria Clipper official,
said that in reviewing the incident, the company realized several mistakes were made.

For one, the company was aware of the hole in the fence but incorrectly thought it was too small to allow a person to enter.

For another, the wheelhouse on the Clipper IV was not locked.

“We’re embarrassed. Not to throw anyone under the bus — this is a good learning experience for us — but if the wheelhouse had been locked, this would have been a nonstory,” he said.

Bryan said the company has strung razor wire over the hole and sought the counsel of the Coast Guard and a maritime-security expert about enhancing security.

Seattle Times staff reporters Jennifer Sullivan and Sara Jean Green contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.

Christine Clarridge can be reached at 206-464-8983 or

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