Dannell Harris

AG’s Office Abandons Attempt to Keep Lewis County Sex Offender in Prison

By Natalie Johnson / njohnson@chronline.com

The state Attorney General’s Office asked a Lewis County judge Thursday to dismiss its petition to confine a Lewis County kidnapper and child molester indefinitely to the McNeil Island Special Commitment Center, saying a doctor’s evaluation no longer supports the request.

Dannell Harris was scheduled to be released from state custody Friday. His attorneys made living arrangements for him. 

Both the Attorney General’s Office, which filed the petition for civil commitment in 2016, and attorneys for Harris agreed the case should be dismissed. 

While the petition was filed by the state AG’s Office, Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer noted during Thursday’s hearing that the victim in the underlying case, a 1989 kidnapping in Lewis County, was in the courtroom and opposed to Harris’ release.

“She is obviously not happy about the result,” Meyer said. 

He added that she obtained a protection order in addition to the no-contact order included in Harris’ sentence from the kidnapping. 

The sentence also prohibits Harris from living in Lewis County. His attorneys on Thursday, who participated along with Harris by telephone, said their client does not plan to return to Lewis County. 

Harris was convicted of third-degree rape and second-degree robbery in separate cases in 1988. 

He was convicted in 1990 of breaking into a home on Thanksgiving morning in 1989 and kidnapping a 4-year-old girl who he later molested. 

Police later found the girl abandoned on a logging road.

Harris was sentenced to more than 27 years in prison. At 50 years old, he was scheduled to be released on June 26, 2016. 

However, on that day, the state Attorney General’s Office filed a petition to keep him in custody through the state’s civil commitment process for sexually violent predators. 

He made his first appearance in the case on July 29, 2016, in Lewis County Superior Court.

At that hearing, Harris’s attorneys Ival Gaer and Pete MacDonald objected to the rushed nature of the state’s petition, saying they had not had an opportunity to prepare. 

They also questioned the basis of the state’s petition, a 2009 doctor’s evaluation that provided the opinion that Harris could be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, “paraphilia” with sadistic and coercive traits, pedophilia, “frotteurism” and alcohol dependence, and supported civil commitment. 

The AG’s petition asked that Harris be held in the state’s Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island until he was deemed to be no longer a threat to society. 

Harris was transferred to the state’s Special Commitment Center for an evaluation and detention pending trial. 

On Thursday, Assistant Attorney General Joshua Studor said a new evaluation came to the conclusion that Harris no longer met the criteria for civil commitment. 

“We rely on our experts to provide the evidence,” he said.