Friday, July 13, 2007


Sent to court while serving time at the sex offender treatment program on McNeil Island WA

Principal convicted of rape

A popular Tacoma middle school principal is expected to submit his resignation Monday after being convicted of sexually assaulting a young woman at an after-hours party three years ago.
A Pierce County jury found Harold Wright Jr. guilty of third-degree rape Thursday in the assault on the woman, who was 19 at the time. The jury deliberated for about a day and a half before reaching its verdict.

Wright, 36, served as principal at Baker Middle School from 2002 until he was placed on administrative leave from his $98,000-per-year job in February after being charged in the case, Tacoma School District spokeswoman Leanna Albrecht said.

Albrecht said the district is ready to fire Wright if he doesn’t quit voluntarily. Vice principal Steve Holmes is set to serve as interim principal for the coming school year, pending approval of the School Board, she said.

Wright is to be sentenced Aug. 31 by Superior Court Judge Lisa Worswick. He faces a standard range of six to 12 months in jail.

His co-defendant, Richy Carter, 33, was convicted of the same charge Thursday. Carter, who has a previous felony conviction, faces about 14 months in state prison. He is to be sentenced Aug. 31 as well.

Both will have to register as sex offenders.

Wright shook his head and Carter’s eyes became moist after the jury announced its verdict about noon. Many of the nearly 20 people there to support the men began to cry.

“Stunned is a fair word to use,” Wright’s attorney, Wayne Fricke, said of his reaction to the verdict.

Superior Court Judge Lisa Worswick ordered both men taken into custody.

Wright was released until his sentencing after posting $10,000 bail a short time later. Carter was being held on $20,000 bail until his sentencing.

Both men exchanged handshakes and hugs with supporters before they were led to jail.

Wright and Carter were accused of sexually assaulting the woman at the town house of a friend after meeting her and two of her friends at a Puyallup bar.

The victim, now 23, attended Spanaway Lake High School while Wright worked there as an assistant principal before he joined the Tacoma School District in 2000.

The woman testified she was held down and raped by at least one man, possibly two, in an upstairs bedroom. She couldn’t remember many specific details of the attack during her testimony but was adamant that she did not consent to sex and believed Wright was in the room at the time.

Carter’s DNA was found inside her vagina during a sexual-assault exam later that day, and forensics technicians found DNA consistent with Wright’s on the woman’s breast area.

Carter testified during the nearly three-week trial that he had consensual sex with the woman. Wright testified that he had no sexual contact with her whatsoever. He said his DNA might have gotten on her when he pushed her away from him as she danced close to him wearing only jeans and her bra.

Deputy prosecutor Lori Kooiman, who tried the case along with colleague Kevin McCann, said Thursday it was one of the toughest cases she’s ever brought to trial.

The men initially were charged with second-degree rape. To convict on that charge, jurors would have had to believe Wright and Carter used force or the threat of force to compel the woman to have unwanted sex with them. A conviction on that charge carries a minimum sentence of 61/2 years in prison.

The third-degree rape charge is a lesser crime but still a felony. It required the jury to find only that the men had sex with the victim without her consent or aided someone in such a crime.

Fricke, who talked to jurors after the verdict, said they believed Wright acted as an accomplice.

Judge Worswick allowed jurors to consider the lesser crime at the request of prosecutors. Fricke said that might have been improper and that he might appeal Wright’s conviction on those grounds.

Efforts to talk to Carter’s attorney, Rob Freeby, were unsuccessful.

Jurors – four women and eight men – declined to talk to a reporter as they left the County-City Building.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644