Convicted rapist Stephen Tyler Clayton of Kingston will spend the next 14 months behind bars after receiving the maximum sentence in accordance with a plea deal Jan. 23.
Additionally, Clayton was sentenced to serve 36 months of community custody, ordered to register as a sex offender and was ordered to not have further contact with any of his victims.
The case has been subject to major criticism following the acceptance of a plea deal in December that let Clayton to plead guilty to one count of rape and one count of assault instead of the previous three rape counts.
The plea’s acceptance infuriated several Kitsap residents, including local politician Rick Kuss, who has led Kitsap County residents in multiple demonstrations, including the morning of the sentencing. He and several protesters were seen wearing shirts with the message “Rape ≠ 12 Months.”
“We can’t allow this to continue,” Kuss said. “We need to stand up for what’s right. Stop blaming victims, and blame the people that created this culture and who are keeping it going.”
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Anna Aruiza reiterated her concerns shared in the omnibus hearing that the victims’ mental health and substance abuse, along with a lack of evidence, created a need for the plea agreement to secure a conviction.
Victims 1 and 3 have been outspoken against the plea deal since its acceptance, with Victim 3 previously saying it all but eliminated one of the three women from obtaining justice.
Victim 1 criticized Aruiza for the deal in her victim statement, saying it was a “sorry excuse for a plea deal” and again posed the question of who didn’t matter in accordance with the charges.
“Using our mental illness against us as an excuse for not going to trial is reprehensible and illogical,” she said Jan. 23. “Anxiety, depression and substance abuse disorders are natural reactions to rape.”
In a show of unity, Victims 1 and 3 read a statement prepared by Victim 2, who was reportedly unable to attend due to the death of her father the night before. In the statement, she describes Clayton as “a threat, not only to me, but to all other women in the community.”
Judge Jeffrey Bassett showed a great deal of comfort and support toward the victims, whom he commended for their testimony. However, he said his actions in adjusting the sentencing were severely limited. “I’m sickened by what I’m reading, but my hands are tied to an extent. There are things I can do, and there are things I can’t,” he said.
That didn’t stop Bassett from imposing the maximum sentence, despite the state and defense’s recommendation of 12 months and one day. He said that by doing so, he hopes that the victims were properly heard, and the mask has been ripped away to reveal the monster in Clayton.
“I get it doesn’t leave a good taste in your mouth, and it doesn’t in mine,” Bassett said, “and I’m sorry, but 14 months is the max I can give him, and I’m giving him the max for what little victory that gives to you.”
At the end, Clayton appeared to smile, causing several attendees to yell out. One man said, “They’re going to love those pretty teeth of yours,” while a woman yelled, “You broke your mom.”
Kuss said Clayton’s exit from the courtroom told everyone what they needed to know about this “sociopath. He’s going to commit multiple crimes in the future, and we’re going to hear more from him,” Kuss said.