Wash. firefighter-paramedic's child rape trial ends in mistrial
A juror said that most of panel wanted to convict Anthony Spada, who remains on leave from the Walla Walla department
By Jeremy Burnham
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
WALLA WALLA, Wash. — The jury in the child rape trial of Anthony Spada was far from evenly split on its verdict, according to one of the jurors who sat through the three-week trial in Walla Walla County Superior Court that ended in a mistrial.
That jury member has spoken out after the panel was unable to agree on a verdict and said the majority of the jury was ready to convict Spada.
The woman — who was known as Juror No. 7 during the trial — agreed to talk but did not want her name published.
The Union-Bulletin confirmed her identity and confirmed her status as a juror through the Walla Walla County Superior Court.
"I don't want people to think that we went in there and talked about it for a few minutes and twiddled our thumbs," Juror No. 7 said. "We all ... poured out heart and soul into this. We went home and did not sleep. We went home in tears. It was rough. We poured everything we had into this ... Nobody wanted to walk out of there with no verdict."
Juror No. 7 said in the last ballot the jury took, the jurors voted 10-2 in favor of convicting Spada, a Walla Walla firefighter.
She also said that one of the not-guilty voters, who described themself as "undecided" through much of the deliberations, had indicated near the end their willingness to vote guilty, which would have made the count 11-1 to convict.
The lopsidedness of the vote might play into the Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney's Office's decision on whether to try the case again.
Spada, 47, is charged with second-degree child rape, first-degree child molestation, second-degree child molestation and communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
Because this was a mistrial and he was neither convicted nor acquitted, these charges still stand against him, and the prosecutor's office can retry the case.
Walla Walla County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jennine E. Christensen, the lead prosecutor during the trial, indicated in court — before the decision of the mistrial was finalized — that the state would likely retry the case.
Afterward, she added in court that she would need to consult with others in her office and the victim before deciding.
Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney Gabe Acosta told the U-B on Friday, Feb. 10, that his office is moving to set a date for a second trial.
According to court rules, Spada's new trial would have to start within 90 days of the mistrial.
The jury deliberated for more than 20 hours over several days. Closing arguments in the trial finished about 3:15 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2.
The jury only deliberated Thursday for about 10 minutes. Then, they met Friday, Feb. 3, and Monday, Feb. 6, for full workdays. They also deliberated much of Tuesday, Feb. 7, before the mistrial was declared just before 2:30 p.m.
Juror No. 7 said a lot of progress was made early on before things came to a grinding halt.
"When we walked in Friday morning, we were pretty split. Even when we left Friday," she said. "I think the weekend was helpful. Monday morning, I would say by 10 or 11 in the morning, (the vote) was 10-2."
Juror No. 7 said the panel almost reached a verdict on a single charge. One ballot, she said, was 12-0 to convict on one of the lesser charges, though she did not indicate which charge.
Then, the same person who was a holdout on the other charges, had a change of heart on that lesser charge as well.
Juror No. 7 said her reasoning for guilty — and she thinks others had the same reasoning — came down to believing the victim's testimony more than the defendant's.
"The victim had such a strong testimony," she said. "And the defendant, yes, he had a strong testimony, but it wasn't as strong. And all the answers were 'No, no, no.'"
She also said the victim's consistency in her story from the time she made the accusation to the time she was on the witness stand also was impactful.
"Her story was 100% dead on, every single time," she said. "She never faltered and there were never details that were not exactly the same. How do you not believe that? How does that not stand true."
Juror No. 7 said she can't speak for the juror who held out but said that person appeared to have a hard time accepting the word of someone so young and did not believe the state's burden of proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt was met.
She said not reaching a verdict was frustrating.
"It was very emotional — very, very emotional — for a lot of us in that room," she said. "By the end of it, I think had we gone back in there, and had the judge asked us to try a little bit longer, I don't think we could have. It reached the point where it was very, very tough."
When the verdict was announced, Judge Brandon L. Johnson said Spada's pre-trial release conditions would remain in place.
On Thursday, Feb. 9, Johnson modified the release conditions to allow Spada to go into Oregon.
Spada has been on pre-trial release with no bail since the day after he was arrested March 23, 2022.
Spada was placed on paid administrative leave from the Walla Walla Fire Department after he was arrested. Later in the year, the Washington State Department of Health suspended Spada's paramedic license, Walla Walla city spokesperson Brenden Koch said, making him ineligible for paid leave.
Since then, he has been paid using accrued paid time off.
Koch confirmed Friday, Feb. 10, that Spada's status with the city has not changed after the mistrial.
"Mr. Spada will remain on leave using his leave accruals, or in leave without pay status, pending the result of the criminal process," Koch said.
Koch said he could not disclose how close Spada is to running out of accrued leave.
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