Ricky Lee Lewis, a Level III sex offender who was to stand trial this month, faced a potential life sentence as a “persistent offender” under the state’s two-strikes law for serious sex crimes.%
But in a plea deal struck last week, the 56-year-old pleaded guilty to reduced charges. In exchange, the state and his defense team are jointly recommending Lewis serve seven years in prison for separate assaults on two women, court records show. He is to be sentenced June 27.
Lewis’ case caused a public furor in March 2013: A King County Superior Court judge released Lewis on personal recognizance after he was charged with failing to register as a sex offender. Six days later, Lewis was arrested on investigation of kidnapping and rape, accused of dragging an 18-year-old woman into his van, taking her back to his travel trailer in North Seattle and sexually assaulting her.
Although the woman later changed a key part of her story and admitted to being a heroin addict and working as a prostitute, court records in the case show that Lewis has engaged in a pattern of preying on vulnerable women — including a now-44-year-old who was 23 when Lewis lured her to his mother’s house with a promise to sell her heroin and sexually assaulted her.
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“He preys on women that are vulnerable, that have lifestyles that are transient,” said the woman, who was addicted to heroin for a decade but has been sober for the past 20 years. “It’s easy for him to get away with it because … he’s not preying on women with an address and a full-time job who you can go to and say, ‘Can you testify next Tuesday?’ ”
The woman — who is now living out of state and working on her master’s degree — testified against Lewis in 1993. He was convicted of second-degree rape in her case and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
She and five other women — four of whom were 12 to 15 years old when they were sexually assaulted between 1985 and 1990 — were prepared to fly to Seattle to testify against Lewis about his alleged prior sexual misconduct during his trial, court records show.
In one case involving a 15-year-old girl in 1985, Lewis pleaded guilty to statutory rape and served six months in jail. Prosecutors declined to file charges involving three other girls; and a jury acquitted Lewis of second-degree rape in a 1992 case involving a then-20-year-old woman.
The plea deal in Lewis’ recent criminal case was struck before a trial judge could rule on whether those six women would be allowed to take the witness stand.
Lewis, who was originally charged with first-degree kidnapping and first-degree rape in the 2013 case, was to stand trial on two counts of second-degree assault with sexual motivation, unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation and indecent liberties for sexually assaulting the 18-year-old woman and a woman who is now 24.
Lewis pleaded guilty May 30 to second-degree assault and two counts of unlawful imprisonment. Because the charges aren’t classified as serious or violent sex offenses, he avoided a life sentence as a persistent offender.
“We were able to hold him accountable for attacking two very vulnerable woman that he had picked up on the street — and we were glad to be able to do that,” said Mark Larson, the chief criminal deputy in the King County Prosecutor’s Office. “These crimes also represent a continuation of a pattern of behavior that dates back a long time with Ricky Lee Lewis.”
He said “the tragic life circumstances of the victims,” coupled with the “nature of the evidence” in cases involving commercial-sex transactions led prosecutors to agree to a plea deal.
Defense attorney Juanita Holmes declined to comment because the case is pending sentencing.
Lewis’ 18-year-old victim in the 2013 incident changed part of her story when she was confronted with video surveillance footage that showed her willingly getting into Lewis’ van, court records say. She admitted she had agreed to a sex act for money but withdrew consent when, back at the trailer, Lewis claimed he had only $20, according to the records. She said he prevented her from leaving, clamping a hand over her mouth and forcing her to perform a sex act before she could escape, according to the records.
The video of the second woman showed her fighting with Lewis because he wanted to pay her with dimes and quarters instead of bills; he then slapped and hit her, threw her on the bed and threatened her until she performed a sex act on him, the records say.
The threats and violence in the most recent cases are similar to what Lewis’ now 44-year-old victim remembers of her sexual assault.
“I can remember crystal clear every detail and nuance of what happened,” she said.
He offered to sell her heroin and she went with him to his mother’s house, she said.
When she tried to leave, Lewis pulled her arms behind her back and threatened to tie her up and lock her in a closet, she said.
“I could tell he was getting mad, like violent mad,” she said. “ I just did what I had to do.”
She reported the attack to police. Sometime later, she was arrested and learned Lewis was in custody in the King County Jail, too. She said she had no idea officers had been looking for her to testify against Lewis.
Over the years, she’s kept track of Lewis, searching for him in King County’s sex-offender registry. After reading about Lewis’ 2013 arrest, she contacted the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
“This man is a danger to women and girls,” she said. “It frightens me that he’s going to be released … (but) I know it has nothing to do with the process. They would’ve thrown away the key if they could have.”
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org