Don’t let offenders revictimize their victims

The News TribuneJanuary 21, 2014 

For Paula Henry, closure didn’t come when the man who murdered her husband in 1995 was finally convicted in 2001 – after years of harassing her.

Although Larry Shandola is serving a 31-year sentence for shooting Robert Henry to death in a Tacoma parking lot, he continues to cause grief for the victim’s widow. He filed suit against her, two of her friends and a victim’s advocate for $100,000 each, alleging that they violated his privacy rights and inflicted emotional distress. The four had opposed Shandola’s request to serve out his sentence in his native Canada.

Although his case was dismissed last April, it cost Paula Henry more than $15,000 in legal fees. And her ordeal isn’t over: Shandola has appealed, so Henry’s heartache – and costs – continue. Which is probably what Shandola is really after.

It’s not right that he be allowed to continue tormenting Henry. Legislation proposed by state Rep. David Sawyer, D- Lakewood, would help prevent something similar happening to another crime victim.

lthough House Bill 2102 wouldn’t help Henry, she flew in from out of state to support the legislation in hopes of sparing future victims. In emotional testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Thursday, she told of her anguish at being harassed and sued “by the person who blew my husband’s head off.”

HB 2102 would require those convicted of violent offenses to get a judge’s permission for filing most court actions against a victim of their crime or a family member. A lawsuit could be denied if the judge determines it to be frivolous or malicious. That judicial review strikes the right balance by preserving inmates’ legitimate access to the court system while also protecting victims’ rights.

The legislation was first proposed in 2013, but it came too late in the session for it to get very far. We hope that’s not the case this year. And we also hope Shandola’s latest attempt to compound the injury to his victim gets summarily dismissed.

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