Crime

Here's why this rapist's prison sentence was shortened

Former Seattle firefighter explains his rehabilitation in prison

Michael James “Suey” Sulak, 56, who pleaded guilty in 2016 to three counts of third-degree child rape and one count of unlawfully harboring a minor, talks about how he has spent his time in prison.
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Michael James “Suey” Sulak, 56, who pleaded guilty in 2016 to three counts of third-degree child rape and one count of unlawfully harboring a minor, talks about how he has spent his time in prison.

A former Seattle firefighter who repeatedly raped a Lynden teenager was to be released from prison Wednesday, after successfully appealing his sentence.

Michael James “Suey” Sulak, 56, was sentenced in 2016 to 3 years and 10 months in prison for three counts of third-degree child rape and one count of unlawful harboring of a minor.

At his first sentencing hearing in 2016, Sulak was to receive a plea deal as part of a special sentencing alternative for sex offenders, but the prosecutor at the time mentioned her hesitation with the light sentence of only a year, according to Whatcom County Superior Court records.

She expressed concerns about details that came to light from a pre-sentence investigation report, including a second woman who came forward and said Sulak allegedly raped her in the '90s when he was a youth pastor, the current victim’s lack of support for the plea agreement and his lack of progress with treatment, the records state.

Sulak’s defense attorney, Bob Butler, argued the prosecution undermined the deal and requested that Sulak be allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas.

Eventually a second sentencing hearing was held and Judge Charles Snyder denied the motion to withdraw the guilty pleas. He gave Sulak a sentence about three times longer than suggested in the deal.

Butler appealed. In late January, the Washington State Court of Appeals agreed the prosecution undermined the plea deal and gave Sulak two options: He could withdraw his guilty pleas and start over, or he could make the prosecution uphold the plea deal.

However, neither of those happened. Instead, both Butler and Deputy Prosecuting attorney Dona Bracke crafted a deal that allowed Sulak to be resentenced to the amount of time he’s already served — 2 years and one month.

On Wednesday, Judge Deborra Garrett upheld the deal and resentenced Sulak to the time he’s served, with three years probation. He was to be released later the same day.

Bracke said because the victim involved in the case was OK with the new deal, she agreed to it.

Because Sulak was so close to finishing his original prison time, it didn't make sense to start a special sex offender sentencing alternative over, Butler said. There were also many reasons, including victim concerns, to not withdraw the guilty pleas and start the case again, he said.

Before being resentenced, Sulak told the judge he had taken advantage of recovery programs while in prison and participated in worship. He also said he received an associate business degree through the Edmonds Community College extension program.

“I was trying to make the most of my time while I was there to better myself so that when I do get out I will be more successful in making the transition into society,” Sulak said.

Sulak has to register as a sex offender and comply with any treatment required. A sexual assault protection order is also in place for the victim.

The case

In 2013, Sulak meet a then 15-year-old girl at a theater group in Lynden. The pair began flirting and exchanging messages with one another.

Eventually, Sulak convinced the girl they were in love and they planned to get married when she turned 18. She ran away in late December of that year to be with him, according to court records.

Over four days, as her family frantically searched for her, Sulak raped the girl in a trailer outside his Ferndale home and in a pickup in a parking lot near his Queen Anne firehouse, the records state.

There were previous sexual encounters between the two, as well, according to the records.

Sulak was later arrested and admitted to sexual contact with the girl.

Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt

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