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Convicted sex offender arraigned on new child sex abuse charges

Prosecutors: Alleged abuse occurred just months after probation ended in 2010

Posted: August 5, 2012 - 12:09am
Russel S. Griffin listens to court proceedings during his arraignment in Juneau District Court on Thursday for multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Russel S. Griffin listens to court proceedings during his arraignment in Juneau District Court on Thursday for multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor.

A judge ruled last week that a convicted sex offender accused of sexually abusing minors, be held on a $250,000 cash bond.

According to prosecutors, the alleged offenses took place during a sleep-over party and a camping trip.

Shackled and wearing orange prison garb, 47-year-old Russel S. Griffin made his first court appearance Thursday in Juneau District Court before Judge Keith Levy.

Prosecutors allege that Griffin began sexually abusing two girls, now ages 10 and 11, just months after he was let off of supervised probation in 2010. That probation stemmed from an earlier 2004 sexual abuse conviction.

Assistant District Attorney Amy Williams described Griffin as being “extremely dangerous” and posing public safety concerns, especially since his wife is a Girl Scout leader, Williams added.

Levy agreed that Griffin could be “dangerous to the community” and ordered that if he posts bond, Griffin not be allowed to contact any of the alleged victims in the charging documents as well as their families, or any child under 18.

Griffin was arrested on a warrant Wednesday by the Juneau Police Department and charged with seven counts of sexual abuse of a minor.

According to criminal information filed by the District Attorney’s office, the first four charges (three counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor — an unclassified felony that can carry up to 99 years in prison — and one count of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor — a class ‘B’ felony) relate to the 10-year-old girl. The documents allege the abuse began in December 2010 when she was 9 until September 2011.

An affidavit states police interviewed the girl’s parents who suspected their daughter was abused during a sleep over at Griffin’s house on New Year’s Eve 2010.

Forensic investigators at the Child Advocacy Center interviewed the girl the next day, and she described what had happened and said it [had} occurred numerous times before, the affidavit alleges.

The remaining criminal charges — three counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor — relate to the second alleged 11-year-old victim.

Charging documents say the sexual contact in that case occurred three times in July 2011 when she was 10. Once was allegedly during a camping trip, she told investigators, according to the affidavit. She described another incident at a sleep-over party as well as grooming behavior such as tickling.

The affidavit states JPD conducted a recorded conversation between Griffin and the stepfather of one of the alleged victims wherein Griffin apologizes and vows, “It will never happen again.”

During the Thursday’s court hearing, Williams said if convicted, Griffin would be a presumptive offender facing at least 40 to 60 years in prison.

Williams described these alleged incidents as being “strikingly similar” to the instance in 2003 that led to his conviction.

In that case, Russel was accused of abusing a 10-year-old latch-key child in her house after school while her mother was still at work, according to court documents. He and the mother, a new neighbor, were friends, documents show.

A Juneau grand jury indicted him on five counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor in October 2003, and he later pleaded guilty to one consolidated count of attempted second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.

In March 2004, then-Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks sentenced Griffin to serve four years with two years and six months suspended, and imposed five years of probation after his release.

Court documents show Griffin was released on probation a year later on March 2005 and that probation term expired March 2010.

Court documents from the 2003 case describe Griffin as an “opportunistic offender.” In a Lemon Creek Correctional discharge summary, a probation officer wrote about Griffin’s alleged victim seeking and grooming habits. Grooming is a term used to describe the actions offenders use to draw children into a secret physical relationship.

“His pattern is to spend time with the victim and his grooming may involve tickling and wrestling,” the documents reads. “... Many grooming strategies used by child molesters look like a normal and even caring interest in children. A common mistake would be to perceive Mr. Griffin’s interest in female children as normal and helpful. On the surface his behavior may look innocent but the underlying motive is not.”

Two defense attorneys appeared in court Thursday to represent Griffin: Public Defender Eric Hedland and Jeffrey Sauer, who represented Griffin in 2003.

Hedland told the judge he would reserved bail arguments for a later time.

Judge Levy did not ask Griffin to enter a plea, and he scheduled a preliminary hearing in the case for Aug. 18. That hearing will be vacated if Griffin is indicted before then.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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