The sentencing of a longtime Lynden police officer who pleaded guilty to having pornography of a teenage girl on his work phone has been delayed after a judge asked for more medical records proving the former officer is unfit for jail.
Donald Merle Glunt, 58, agreed to a plea deal in March offering 45 days of house arrest, well short of the standard sentencing range of three to nine months in jail. Prosecutors said the deal would save taxpayers from covering medical costs associated with Glunt’s stomach cancer and other health problems.
The lighter recommended sentence provoked some members of the public, who started an online petition calling for more severe punishment. At Glunt’s sentencing hearing Friday, May 15, Deputy Prosecutor Eric Richey said he felt the prosecuting office was “under fire” for agreeing to the plea deal. He directly addressed the petition and any concerns from the public that the recommendation unfairly favored the former police officer.
“He is not a police officer. He is a criminal, by definition,” Richey said. “I just want to make it clear to everyone that this is no different than we would treat anybody else based on the circumstances.”
A state Department of Corrections investigator completed a pre-sentencing investigation earlier this month that detailed those circumstances:
In April of last year, Sgt. Russell Martin met with Glunt to discuss Glunt’s report writing and his excessive use of texting on his police-issued cell phone. Glunt, who had been a Lynden police officer for 34 years, admitted that he sent hundreds of text messages to two women with Texas area codes. He asked Martin for his phone so he could delete some pictures. Martin refused and turned it off. Martin later found naked pictures on the phone of a teenage girl in Texas who had just turned 16.
Washington State Patrol troopers took over the investigation and discovered Glunt had texted the girl from his personal phone telling her not to speak with law enforcement. Detectives said she told Glunt she was 17; Glunt maintains he thought she was 19.
Glunt was a speaker for a group at his church that taught about the dangers of sex predators. When detectives found thousands of suggestive and pornographic images on his electronic devices, some of which appeared to show children engaged in sexual conduct, he said he had been saving them for a PowerPoint presentation on the subject.
Glunt resigned in light of the charges last year, allowing him to collect his pension from the city of Lynden.
The mother of the 16-year-old victim told the pre-sentencing investigator earlier this month that her daughter has dropped out of school and was seeing a counselor.
Police later cleaned out Glunt’s locker and found 75 to 100 pictures of teenage girls from the Lynden area believed to be taken from their Facebook accounts.
During Friday’s sentencing hearing, Judge Ira Uhrig referenced one passage written by an investigator that said, “in my conversation with Mr. Glunt it was apparent he does not know how or is unwilling to take any personal responsibility for his own behavior.”
Uhrig then questioned the length of the suggested sentence, and asked if Glunt’s Internet access would be cut off during his 45 days of house arrest.
“Is home detention in this case just like being grounded really bad?” Uhrig asked.
Defense Attorney Mark Kaiman quickly assured Uhrig that the Department of Corrections would make sure his Internet access was cut off.
Kaiman, like Richey, wanted to make clear that this was not a “sweetheart deal.” He described people calling for more severe punishment as a “high-tech lynch mob,” and urged the court to ignore “social media vigilantes” trying to dictate the sentence.
He added that the case has cost Glunt his marriage, his career, and his standing in the community.
“This is a shattered, broken man who has paid a heavy price for what he’s done,” Kaiman said.
Richey said adding more time to the sentence would not make much of a difference. He said Glunt will still register as a sex offender, and will serve three years probation following house arrest. His main concern with recommending a jail sentence had to do with Glunt’s medical condition.
Uhrig was provided with medical records that indicate Glunt’s cancer is treatable but incurable. The records suggest Glunt might live for a few more years, but his life will be significantly shortened. He has a pre-cancerous condition in his esophagus, suffers from sleep apnea, and recently had abdominal surgery that removed part of his liver.
“The people of Whatcom County would be obligated to pay for the treatment, and I don’t believe that Mr. Glunt should receive the benefit of medical care paid for by the citizens of Whatcom County,” Richey said.
But Uhrig, while making sure to not accuse anyone of favoritism, said the medical records did not prove Glunt was unfit for jail. He asked the attorneys to provide more documentation of Glunt’s medical issues.
“This is the type of sentence that I would expect to see from the state in any similar case,” Uhrig said. “The difficulty I’m having is I don’t see the justification in the limited records that I have.”
A new date for sentencing had not been set Friday.