Senate Bill Named After Forks Woman Passes Committee
4th District State Mike Padden R- Spokane Valley introduced Senate Bill 5033 (SB 5033) after seeing a report on a Seattle area TV station regarding their investigation into a guard who was convicted of sexual assaulting female inmates.
The guard, John Russell Gray, was convicted of sexually assaulting four women that were in custody in the Forks Correctional Facility. Gray was sentenced to serve 20 months in prison...he served 13 months and was released. The early release and light sentence may be enough to make most ask "how and why? It was the aftermath regarding one of Gray's victims that helped push this bill forward.
Kimberly Bender was in the Forks Correctional Facility in late 2019, being held on a Department of Corrections violation. While there Bender was sexually assaulted by John Gray. She would report the sexual assault to law enforcement officials. Kimberly Bender was later be found unresponsive in her cell, taking her own life via hanging.
Bender's mother, Dawn Reid, would file multiple federal lawsuits against the City of Forks, jail employees, Forks police chief, and Gray himself. Eventually the Forks City Council would vote to unanimously settle the lawsuit against them for $1 million in November of last year.
Sen. Padden said that testimony from Bender's mother, Dawn Reid, was the inspiration for naming SB 5033 "Kimberly Bender's Law" Padden went on to say in further remarks about the legislation "Hopefully it will be a deterrent, I'm a big supporter of law enforcement, but everybody is accountable in some way."
The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee on February 2nd, and if passed, would raise the current maximum sentence for custodial sexual misconduct from five years to ten.