Crime

Bail set for ex-Ferndale wrestling coach accused of raping student and two others

Bail set at $50,000 for ex-Ferndale coach accused of raping three

Bail was set at $50,000 for Dalton Jacob Cristelli, 20, a former part-time assistant wrestling coach for the Ferndale School District, on May 31, 2019, in Bellingham, Wash. He was arrested May 30 on suspicion of three counts of rape.
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Bail was set at $50,000 for Dalton Jacob Cristelli, 20, a former part-time assistant wrestling coach for the Ferndale School District, on May 31, 2019, in Bellingham, Wash. He was arrested May 30 on suspicion of three counts of rape.

Bail was set at $50,000 for a former part-time, assistant wrestling coach for the Ferndale School District who was arrested for allegedly raping two underage girls — one of them a 15-year-old Ferndale High School student — and a female incapable of giving consent.

Whatcom County Superior Court Commissioner Leon Henley Jr. set the bail for 20-year-old Dalton Jacob Cristelli during his first appearance on Friday, May 31.

The Ferndale resident was booked into Whatcom County Jail on Thursday, May 30, on suspicion of second-degree rape, third-degree rape and third-degree child rape.

Branden Platter, deputy prosecutor for Skagit County, was brought in as a special prosecutor for the case.

Platter asked for bail to be set at $100,000, saying there had been over the last few years “a continuing pattern of inappropriate sexual behavior.”

“We have multiple victims over a few years,” Platter said.

Bob Butler, Cristelli’s defense attorney, said the $100,000 bail was “excessive,” adding that his client had no criminal history, that he wasn’t a flight risk and that his family was known to the court.

Butler said Cristelli was a lifelong resident of Whatcom County and from an “established family in the community,” adding that was the reason for a special prosecutor in this case.

Henley asked Butler what he meant by the family was known to the court.

“You’re assuming I know his family,” Henley said. “Is that what you’re saying?”

Henley said he wasn’t familiar with the family.

Butler responded: “I prefer to not go farther if your honor is not aware.” He added that he would “prefer not to make a record” of how the family is well known to the court.

The Bellingham Herald asked Platter as well as Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Richey why a special prosecutor was brought in.

Richey couldn’t be reached late Friday afternoon.

Platter responded to The Bellingham Herald’s question in an email.

“The purpose of a Prosecutor’s Office appointing a special deputy is to avoid the potential or even the appearance of conflict, impropriety or favoritism in any given case,” Platter told The Herald.

“I have not spoken to Mr. Richey about the full nature of why he sought a special deputy in this case, nor do I intend on having such a conversation. The nature of any conflict is not relevant to my duty to prosecute this case and the intent of appointing a special deputy is to ensure the case is prosecuted by someone without any potential conflict,” Platter said.

“That intent could be undermined if I were to have extended discussions with Mr. Richey or any other members of the Prosecutor’s Office as to the full nature of any potential conflicts. Mr. Richey has sought assistance from outside his office and that is enough for me,” Platter added.

“As to your question regarding Mr. Cristelli’s relation to other members of the community, if any, it would be improper for me to comment on such matters as they have no bearing on this case,” he said.

Butler also declined to speak about Cristelli’s family ties.

“I am not able to confirm or comment on family relations or speak on anyone’s behalf beyond Dalton,” Butler said to The Bellingham Herald in an email on Friday.

“I will be representing Dalton who is maintaining his innocence,” Butler said. “We look forward to a full investigation into these allegations and a fair trial.”

Ferndale police were alerted on May 23 to a sexual relationship between Cristelli and a 15-year-old female student at Ferndale High School, according to a release from city of Ferndale spokesman Riley Sweeney.

Two others came forward during the investigation, according to the release.

The investigation reportedly showed:

▪ Cristelli had sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old female student in March 2019. He was 19 at the time.

▪ Cristelli had non-consensual sexual intercourse in spring 2016 with a girl who was 15 or 16 at the time.

▪ About three to five years ago, Cristelli has sexual intercourse with a female who was incapable of consent.

None of the incidents are believed to have occurred on school property, according to the release.

The school district no longer employs Cristelli.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.
David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
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