Blaine man sentenced to 31 months for sex abuse of autistic teen

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 24, 2013 

BLAINE - A Blaine man must serve two years and seven months in prison for sexually abusing a mentally disabled teenager.

Since his arrest, Dustin Edward Banks, 38, has maintained that he had sexual contact with the autistic teen once, in the shower, while he bathed him. It lasted "about two seconds" before the boy cried out in pain, and Banks stopped, he told authorities.

The teen's grandparents, however, don't believe it was an isolated incident. The boy - who is now an adult - struggles to speak and has the mental acumen of a young child. Asked how often Banks molested him, he most consistently replies that it happened four times, according to a statement written by his new caregivers.

"Considering (his) math capabilities," the grandparents wrote, "that could be anything between 2 and a hundred."

The statements go on to describe how, these days, the victim struggles with violent outbursts, a general lack of trust in adults and confusion over sexual boundaries.

At the outset of an investigation in March, Banks denied any abuse. But later that month he confessed to a single instance from about five years ago, according to charges filed in Whatcom County Superior Court.

The family and Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Eric Richey were reluctant to have the victim take the witness stand. Because of his severe autism, he would have had an extremely difficult time conveying to the jury what happened to him, Richey said.

So the prosecutor offered a plea deal, and Banks formally admitted guilt this month to first-degree incest and indecent liberties, a state law that bans sex with people too mentally disabled to consent.

During a Department of Corrections evaluation, Banks confided that his father molested him as a child and served time behind bars for the abuse. The evaluator noted that Banks still doesn't seem to grasp the impact the abuse will have on the victim.

At his sentencing hearing this week, Superior Court Judge Deborra Garrett ruled that Banks can contact his biological children - if they want to talk with him - when he gets out of prison. The victim has a no-contact order against Banks, and he no longer lives in the area.

Banks had a history of driving with a suspended license, disorderly conduct and third-degree theft, but he had never been convicted of a felony. He will need to register as a sex offender when he is released.

Reach Caleb Hutton at caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2276. Read his Dispatcher blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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