Indefinite Commitment


Nineteen year-old Zachary Nelson of Shoreline, Washington says he deserves a second chance and should be released from juvenile detention. So do his grandparents.

The King County Prosecutor’s Office has asked that Nelson be indefinitely committed and kept in custody for life because he’s a violent sexual predator.

King County is spot on. According to KOMO News, Nelson started molesting children when he was four and is currently serving time for an unconscionable act. When he was 15, he unlawfully entered a neighbor’s home, pulled their four year-old son from his bed, and sexually assaulted him.

Nelson has exhibited an almost lifelong pattern of pathological behavior and has victimized innocents repeatedly. A psychological evaluation says that he has serious psychiatric issues and cannot control his actions. This is who he is, and who he has always been.

There is no evidence to suggest that a violent sexual offender can be rehabilitated. They may talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk. This is another case in which the public should not fall for the offender’s sincere-sounding words or family’s compassion for their loved one. Society needs to be protected from this psychopath and those who’ve already been terrorized by him do not need the trauma of seeing him loosed.

Ignore his age. Ignore his intelligence. Ignore the apologies. The King County Prosecutor’s Office is exactly right to try to keep Nelson locked up for good. I heartily applaud their efforts– it is refreshing to see this matter being taken so seriously. Too often our criminal justice system functions under the illusion that sex offenders can be reformed through therapy, treatment, love, drugs, and/or supervision.

One comment on a news website I read suggested that Nelson should not be punished if he were molested. Others suggested that he was simply curious or playing doctor. If they or their children were the victims, I’m sure they wouldn’t be so merciful.

People don’t turn 18 and suddenly become predators. They develop, and if you look back at their childhood, you can probably find a series of red flag behaviors that speak to their brokenness. In this case there are not just red flags, but a series of victims whose lives will never be the same.

It must stop here. There can’t be more victims. No matter what happened to Zachary Nelson, if anything did, it doesn’t excuse his repeated victimization of other human beings. Many victims of sex crimes go on to lead productive lives and even advocate for other victims. He just created more victims and the viciousness of his attacks escalated. I’m with King County; if released, he won’t stop and I believe he’d escalate.

With this type of offender, reoffending isn’t a gamble. It’s a given. Age is not an excuse. He’s been doing this for fifteen years already and society can’t afford to give him the benefit of the doubt. Giving him a “second chance” (it’s far beyond that already) may seem merciful, but it is the worst possible thing that could happen in this case based on studies of other such predators. King County is acting in the best interest of the public– and of the offender.


History is a vast early warning system. -Norman Cousins


©2011 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

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