A 43-year-old man was sentenced Friday to over eight years in prison for raping a teen in 2017 when he was a houseguest at her family’s home.
William David Harris had known the teen her whole life and was even there when she was born, her mother said at Harris’ sentencing. He’d been found guilty earlier in a two-day trial of first-degree rape and was sentenced to 100 months in prison.
Harris had five non-person felony convictions, and eight non-person misdemeanors, said Leslie Wolf, chief deputy district attorney for the Wasco County District Attorney’s Office.
“The state believes, based on his criminal history and the relationship between the criminal and victim, this sentence does not shock the conscience of reasonable people,” Wolf said.
The victim’s mother said the first sign that something was wrong was when her teen began cutting herself. She would cut her flesh so that the physical pain would drown out the emotional pain.
She had depression and would cry uncontrollably. Her grades went from straight As to straight Fs.
It wasn’t until she was contacted by a police officer that the mother learned her daughter “was raped by one of our friends,” the mother said. “It just crushed me.”
She said her own intuition, and “everything I knew about him had failed me.”
Her daughter went on to have anxiety, and tried counseling, but simply couldn’t talk about the rape. “She just was not ready. It was too painful to bring up.”
She said her daughter “has no desire to have a physical relationship with a man,” and she cannot tolerate being touched by anyone unless it is someone she trusts. She also can’t walk into a building with multiple people.
“I just want it to be known these effects are going to be with her for the rest of her life,” her mother said.
She said that as a mom, “you do everything you can to protect your children.”
“Dave wasn’t a stranger. I’ve known him since I was a teenager. He was there when my babies were born.” She had no concern when he moved into her ex-husband’s house.
She said she hoped Harris would use his time in prison to reflect and rehabilitate “so he will not permanently alter the course of another human life like he has done to my child.”
Wasco County Circuit Court Judge Janet Stauffer found the 100-month sentence did not shock the conscience of reasonable people, the standard needed to impose the sentence, which is mandatory under Ballot Measure 11.
Harris was also convicted on a charge of second-degree sex abuse, which was merged into the rape charge.
The rape occurred in August 2017, Wolf said. It came to the attention of police in February of 2018 “when the effects of the rape resulted in emotional reaction from the victim to a mandatory reporter.”
A pretext conversation was conducted over Facebook in which Harris believed he was speaking with his victim. He agreed to meet her in Troutdale, and that’s where he was arrested, Wolf said.
The Dalles Detective Sergeant Eric Macnab said the pretext of the meeting was she was going to “hang out” with him. Instead, he was met by detectives from The Dalles Police Department and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
Wolf said the rape “happened out of the blue” and was not preceded by a period of grooming the victim. “He claimed he was blackout drunk, but remembered certain parts of things.”
She said the victim did report to friends, but it never got to police attention until she told a mandatory reporter.
Wolf said Harris has known the victim’s dad since the dad was 16.
“The testimony at trial was the evidence,” Wolf said. “In addition to the Facebook messages that corroborated certain things and other witnesses corroborating the victim’s story.”
Macnab said Harris’ interview with police was also used as evidence at trial. Wolf said, “He admitted certain things. His story was different at trial.”
He faced four charges at trial and was found guilty of the rape and sex abuse 2 charges and found not guilty on charges of first-degree sodomy and another charge of second-degree sex abuse.
Wolf said, “The hardest part of the trial was she said she tried to block a lot of it out and she had to relive everything.” She said the teen testified for 90 minutes.
Wolf added, “I will say, on a positive note, the victim had constant support from her family and friends throughout the trial.”
Wolf said going to trial on a first-degree rape case is “pretty rare” in Wasco County.
Wolf said the national statistic is one in four women will be raped in their lifetime, and for 92 percent of them, the rapist is someone they know.
She said, “It is so hard for victims to come forward with abuse, especially from people they trust, especially for children.”
Wolf thanked The Dalles Police Department. “They did a fantastic job investigating this crime, particularly Detective Sergeant Macnab and Officer Chris Simonds.”
Wolf added, “Critics of the #me too movement fail to realize the impact it has had in the arena of child sex abuse. The voices of children in cases against the Catholic Church and against the USA Gymnastics Association have led to offenders being held accountable.
“The effects of child sex abuse last a lifetime for victims. Because people are talking about sex abuse in organizations more, challenging such institutions becomes more feasible. Child victims have been given a voice.”
The #me too movement has highlighted the widespread prevalence of sexual harassment and assault, with victims coming forward to say that they, too, were victimized, often by powerful people.