Port Orchard, WA – A serial rapist will serve just 14 months in prison for raping three women due to a plea agreement with Kitsap County prosecutors that required him to plead guilty to just one of the three rape charges he was facing.
Stephen Tyler Clayton was accused of raping three women in separate incidents occurring between 2017 and 2020, the Kitsap Daily News reported.
Investigators said all three of the victims were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they were sexually assaulted.
The three victims remained quiet about the rapes until one of them came forward in March of 2021, the Kitsap Daily News reported.
The other victims followed suit, and a fourth victim came forward on Jan. 9 after news of Clayton’s lenient plea deal spread, according to KIRO.
Clayton was originally charged with three counts of rape, but Kitsap County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Anna Aruiza later struck a deal with him to plead guilty to one count of rape and one count of assault in exchange for her dropping the remaining rape charges, the Kitsap Daily News reported.
Aruiza also agreed to recommend a sentence of just 12 to 14 months behind bars in exchange for Clayton’s plea.
The prosecutor told the court she was concerned about the likelihood of convicting Clayton at trial due to the “mental instability” and lack of cooperation with some of the victims involved in the case, according to the Kitsap Daily News.
She reiterated during the hearing that the victims were difficult to work with at times, and noted that one of the victims nearly died from an overdose earlier in 2022.
Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Tina Robinson said that if prosecutors were to proceed to trial and failed to get a conviction, Clayton wouldn’t face any punishment at all, the Kitsap Daily News reported.
“If they are not able to prove their case, what that means is that the defendant could walk, and the victims would, in essence, receive no justice for what they believe has happened to them,” Robinson said during the court hearing.
But at least two of the victims said they believed the plea agreement was nothing more than a slap on the wrist for their attacker, the Kitsap Daily News reported.
“I don’t think that it’s right to apply one count of rape and one count of assault across three people,” the first victim to come forward told the paper. “There should be at least three counts because it makes you feel like you don’t count or somebody else doesn’t count if you do.”
They said the plea agreement should acknowledge each of the victims.
“Who’s the rape (charge), who’s the assault (charge), and who doesn’t exist?” the third victim asked the Kitsap Daily News.
She accused Aruiza of taking “the easy way out” by not pushing on to trial.
“That was the easy way out, especially when you already know what we all said,” the third victim told the Kitsap Daily News. “We all said ‘if we’re going forward, it’s going to traumatize us more. So, if we’re going to go, we’re going to try to go as far as we can.’”
“I wish I had come forward right away when there was hard evidence,” one of the victims told the paper. “For anyone out there who has a lot to lose if they come forward, you’re going to lose it in the end anyways, so you might as well come forward right away when there is still evidence.”
It is unclear whether Clayton will face new charges now that a fourth victim has come forward, KIRO reported.
The fourth victim said she was 17 years old when Clayton raped her 10 years ago.
The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office said it was reviewing the latest case, KIRO reported.
Clayton was sentenced to 14 months behind bars on Jan. 24.
The judge also ordered him to serve 36 months under community custody and register as a sex offender, KIRO reported.
The victims were furious at the final outcome.
“This case has consumed our lives, and what do we have to show for it other than a sorry excuse for a plea deal?” Alissa Drowns, one of Clayton’s victims, told the judge at the sentencing. “Nothing is ever going to be the same for our family.”