A Montesano woman who pleaded guilty to molesting her 6-month-old son and sharing child pornography with a Spanaway man was sentenced Monday to at least 9 1/2 years in prison, and could remain there for the rest of her life.
Myriah L. Moreland, 21, was sentenced in Grays Harbor Superior Court to 54 months for possession of child pornography, 48 months for sending it, and a minimum of 114 months for first-degree child molestation, to be served at the same time.
The child molestation charge comes with an indeterminate sentence. After 9 1/2 years in prison, Moreland will go before an Indeterminate Sentence Review Board to evaluate whether she can be released safely. If she is released, she will be under community supervision for the rest of her life and have to register as a sex offender.
“These sex offenses are really the only ones left with indeterminate sentences,” prosecutor Katie Svoboda explained.
Moreland’s son remains in the custody of the state for now, and her parental rights may be terminated through civil procedures. Her sentence bars her from contact with her son or any unsupervised contact with minors.
Her attorney, Christopher Baum, requested what is known as a SOSA — Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative — that would have given her intensive treatment rather than a lengthy prison term. Svoboda advised Judge Mark McCauley against it, largely because of concerns about Moreland’s “amenability to treatment,” her financial ability to comply and because the usual purpose of protecting the victim would not be served in this case.
“In this case the child that was offended against was six months old, so that child was not going to be in court under any circumstances,” she said.
Because the boy was so young and Moreland had a position of authority as his mother, Svoboda said the charges could have been much more serious, and leniency had already been shown.
“I think it’s easy to try and minimize what happened, because it’s a child that’s so young, I’d say it’s a guaranteed he will have no memory. But I think it shows just how deep Ms. Moreland’s issues go,” she said.
“What further compounds this is she photographed what happened and sent this out to someone else. There’s really no way to know where that went. For this child, there’s always going to be these images out there and there’s no way to take them back,” Svoboda added.
“The gravity of these circumstances, the gravity of these charges, I think can’t be denied,” Baum said. He told the court Moreland was a victim of sexual assault herself, and had been nothing but remorseful and cooperative since her arrest.
“The state had a very good case against her mostly because of her own doing,” he said. “She is not happy with the things that she does, but she needs help and she admits that she needs help.”
Moreland’s statement to the court was brief and unemotional.
“I did want to say that I really do want to do the treatment. I don’t quite know how to demonstrate how sorry I am. I know you hear that all the time. But if I could go back I would have changed so many things. I would have never taken advantage of any situation like that,” Moreland said. “I’m very, very worried about what’s going to happen in the future for my family. I do want the treatment but I’m more worried about my family than I am about myself.”
“These are very serious crimes. I don’t know if I could say it as well as the prosecutor did,” McCauley said.
He agreed with Svoboda and denied a SOSA to Moreland, saying, “This age of a child can’t protect himself or herself, and I’m just not going to take the risk” of allowing her to remain out of prison.
“I think, frankly, the stable environment you’re going to have in prison, coupled with the treatment you’re going to have there, is going to give you the best chance,” McCauley said.
In August 2012, detectives from the Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children’s Task Force reported an investigation of Moreland and Christopher M. Dupea of Spanaway for exchanging sexually explicit photos of underage children, one of whom they believed to be Moreland’s infant son.
After Dupea’s arrest, tips came in leading to more alleged victims. He has since been charged with three counts of first-degree rape of a child, three counts of first-degree child molestation, four counts of possession of child pornography and five counts of sending child pornography. He is still awaiting trial in Pierce County.
Other than sexual contact with younger teens when she was a teenager, Moreland is not believed to have any other victims and has no criminal history.
Mead said Moreland and Dupea allegedly used a social networking site to exchange messages and images and also used text messages.
The social networking site, Skout.com, contacted the police.
“This service did absolutely the right thing and we appreciate it,” Lt. Ron Mead, Missing and Exploited Children’s Task Force commander, said in a press release. “They monitored how their system was being used, and took action when they found something that didn’t look right.”