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May 7, 2014 at 8:58 AM

Attorney pleads guilty to 5 reduced charges of third-degree rape

Seattle attorney Danford Grant, right, avoided trial on rape charges by pleading guilty to five reduced charges of rape this morning in King County Superior Court. Defense attorneys Cooper Offenbecher, center and Richard Hansen confer with Grant during the plea. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Seattle attorney Danford Grant, right, avoided trial by pleading guilty to five reduced charges of rape this morning in King County Superior Court. Defense attorneys Cooper Offenbecher, center, and Richard Hansen confer with Grant during the plea. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Seattle attorney Danford Grant avoided trial by pleading guilty to five counts of third-degree rape this morning in King County Superior Court for sexual attacks on five different women.

He also pleaded guilty to one charge of first-degree burglary.

Grant faces 25 years in prison, 5 years for each rape, when he is sentenced May 19. The burglary sentence will run concurrently with the rape sentences. He will get credit for time served on electronic home detention. Grant will also serve 18 months on community supervision and must register as a sex offender. He will remain on home detention until his sentencing.

Opening statements in the trial were set to begin at 9 a.m., but court convened an hour early so Grant could enter guilty pleas to the lesser charges.

The plea deal, which enabled Grant to avoid an indeterminate sentence of up to life in prison, also ensured his five victims won’t have to testify about the details of their rapes, said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, who called Grant a violent serial rapist.

“Frankly, they didn’t want to be in the same room with this guy again,” Satterberg said of the victims at a news conference in his office following Grant’s guilty plea. Noting that Grant is a white man of “power and privilege,” Satterberg said he preyed upon vulnerable women, some of whom live on the margins of society. By Grant pleading guilty to one rape charge per victim, it sent the message that the women — who didn’t know each other yet told strikingly similar accounts — were believed by the community, he said.

“We believe you. Even somebody who works in a massage parlor can be raped,” Satterberg said.

Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Richard Hansen seemed to minimize his client’s conduct, saying the women simply didn’t consent to sex with Grant.

“I don’t want to disparage the women in this case,” he said, but there was “no force, no weapon, they just didn’t want to do it but did it anyway. That’s what he pleaded guilty to, and that’s closer to the truth.”

He said his client, who suffers from depression and sex addiction, “is a good person” and has the support of his wife and family.

Grant declined to comment following his plea hearing, but said he will make a statement at his sentencing.

Satterberg said that while the defense has attempted to paint Grant’s crimes as “commercial transactions gone awry,” Grant’s conduct — “kicking in doors, and pulling knives on them” — was really about power and intimidation, not sex.

Grant, 49, was originally charged with seven felonies in connection with rapes or attempted rapes of five massage therapists in 2011 and 2012. Last month, King County prosecutors added two felony charges, but then on Monday dismissed four of the nine felonies he faced involving three of his alleged victims over evidence concerns, according to court records.

Grant was arrested in September 2012 after a series of sexual assaults on the Asian massage therapists, according to police and prosecutors.

It took almost three weeks to seat a jury from a pool of more than 500 people to hear the case against Grant, who was to stand trial on two counts of first-degree rape, two counts of attempted second-degree rape and burglary in connection with alleged attacks on a 46-year-old Bellevue woman and a 54-year-old Shoreline woman.

After weeks of pretrial motions, the case was transferred to King County Superior Court Judge William Downing after Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week that he was appointing the original trial judge, Mary Yu, to the state Supreme Court.

On Monday, Yu filed a number of orders based on pretrial arguments, ruling that jurors would get to hear about Grant’s online searches for “rape scenes” as well as the discovery of a knife sheath and a bottle of Cialis, an erectile-dysfunction drug, in his vehicle following his arrest in September 2012.

However, she ruled jurors would not hear testimony about Grant’s attraction to Asian women or allegations he sexually harassed his co-workers, court records show.

It was expected that Grant was going to present a defense that he engaged in paid, consensual sex with his alleged victims.

Grant, a married father of three, has been on electronic home detention since posting $1 million bail in November 2012. He was a partner in a private law firm in Seattle before his arrest.

An employment and business litigator, Grant once worked in the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and coached Little League baseball, according to his profile on the social-media site LinkedIn.

RELATED

Timeline of the Danford Grant case

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Danford Grant, King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, rape

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