PLEA TO REMOVE KIDS FAILS; JUDGE RULES THEY STAY WITH ACCUSED LAWYER
Author: Arthur C. Gorlick P-I Reporter
A Port Townsend judge hearing a Clallam County case by telephone yesterday refused to order the removal of three adopted children from the home of a lawyer accused of sexually abusing a blind, 12-year-old Guatemalan girl.
Judge William E. Howard of Jefferson County Superior Court issued the ruling in a case involving Port Angeles attorney Theadore E. Ripley. He has been charged with second-degree statutory rape in the related criminal proceeding.
Ripley, who is free on personal recognizance, has insisted he is innocent.
Howard told Julie Dalzel, a social worker for the state's Department of Social and Health Services, that he doubted Ripley would do anything that might further jeopardize his career.
The judge said he would keep the children in the family's sprawling home in a rural area south of Port Angeles unless he was shown compelling evidence that they were in danger.
''We will follow the judge's instructions,'' said Denise Thomas, Child Protective Services social work supervisor in Port Angeles. ''Our investigation will continue and if additional information comes up we will present (it) to the court for consideration.''
Ripley, 46 ((age)), and his wife, Merrily, who runs an adoption agency from an office in a converted garage next to their home, have received national recognition for bringing children from other countries into their home, adopting 18 of them.
Merrily Ripley has not been charged or mentioned in any court documents on record in the case.
Howard, in his Port Townsend chambers, heard Dalzel's request over a special telephone hook-up that originated in the office of Mollie Lingvall, Clallam County Superior Court administrator, in Port Angeles. Dave Johnson, a Port Angeles attorney, represented Ripley at the hearing.
Dalzel, a practicing attorney before becoming a social worker, turned to Howard with her request after Clallam County judges disqualified themselves because of their association with Ripley.
Judges Grant S. Meiner and Gary W. Velie placed signed statements in the court record that hearing contested aspects of the case might violate the judicial code of ethics.
In an interview in his chambers, Meiner explained that he hears no cases involving attorneys who appear before him.
Dalzel appeared earlier in the day before Court Commissioner George Wood, a Port Angeles and Sequim attorney hearing cases in Velie's absence.
He said he too felt he had to excuse himself because of his association with Ripley in this Olympic Peninsula city's small legal community.
The county's public defender office, in the same two-story building across from the county courthouse as Ripley's, excused itself from representing Ripley's German-born adoptive son, Kori, 30, when he was charged last month with taking indecent liberties with the same girl.
Kori Ripley is scheduled to stand trial March 17 before Meiner. He has pleaded not guilty.
Another of Ripley's adopted sons was found guilty last July in Juvenile Court of molesting the Guatemalan girl. He served six months in a juvenile institution.
The girl has been made a ward of the state and is living in a foster home, Thomas said.
Prosecuting Attorney David H. Bruneau said in court documents that other children in the home had told of sexually abusing children there or of being sexually abused by them.
The prosecutor and defense attorney are trying to find a temporary judge to hear the criminal case against Ripley in Port Angeles.