State v. Valdeglesias Lavaldecided by the Washington Supreme Court on Thursday (in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Cheryl Gordon McCloud), relates to Washington’s criminal solicitation law, which makes it a crime,
With the intention of promoting or facilitating the commission of a crime,…the offer To give or give Money or anything else of value to another person for engaging in specified conduct that would constitute such an offense.”
(Many states do not require that something of value be shown or given.) Here’s the court’s summary and fact sheet:
A jury convicted Vanessa Valdeglesias Lavalle of two counts of criminal solicitation after she told her minor son, S.J., that he could be with her “forever” if he poisoned his father.
Valdeglesias Lavalle moved from Peru to Skagit County in 2008 to marry Timothy Grady, whom she met online. The couple has two children, SG and JG. The relationship was volatile and marked by domestic violence.
After the separation, Valdeglesias Lavalle retained custody of the children. However, by 2019, Grady gained full custody of the children. Valdiglesias LaValle paid child support to Grady and had weekly four-hour visits with the children without supervision.
In June 2020, while at Valdeglesias Laval’s home for a visit, 10-year-old S.J. overheard her talking to J.J. in another room. He decided to enter the room and secretly record the conversation because he heard Valdeglesias Laval talking about “bad things” and “rat poison.” In the recording, Valdeglesias-Lavalle told the children that she loved them and that they could decide when they grew up whether they wanted to live with her. The Secretary-General asked what Valdeglesias Laval would do if she “gives food to her father.” Valdiglesias LaValle responded that she wouldn’t put anything in Grady’s food, but she would teach SG what to do. She tells SG he could put rat poison in Grady’s wine, wait until Grady drinks it and collapses, “wait a long, long time,” and then call the police. Valdeglesias Laval said that if SG did this, “we will live together forever (inaudible) (inaudible).”
S.J. sent the recording to his friend, and his friend’s mother contacted child protective services and the police….
S.J. testified that he did not like going to visit his mother because it was “terrible” and “sad.” When he was there, his mother did not let him go out, and talked to him mostly about his father and the court. SG’s friend gave him the idea to record his mother. SG felt “deeply offended” when his mother talked about praying for his father’s death. He took his mother’s request to poison his father seriously. But he testified that he never heard his mother offer to give him anything if he poisoned his father.
JG testified that he heard Valdiglesias LaValle say to SG “[t]”Put rat poison in my father’s drink or food.” He said he was worried about his father’s death. Neither party asked JG if he heard his mother offering to give SG anything in exchange for poisoning Grady. The jury convicted Valdeglesias Lavalle of solicitation to commit first-degree murder and solicitation to commit first-degree assault.
Valdeglesias-Lavalle argued for a reduced sentence based on her lack of criminal history and her status as a domestic violence survivor.
The court denied this request and sentenced Valdeglesias Laval to 180 months in prison for solicitation to commit first-degree murder. The court overturned the conviction of incitement to commit assault to prevent double jeopardy.
the The Washington Court of Appeals overturned the convictionconcluding that Valdeglesias Lavalle had provided “nothing of value,” but the Washington Supreme Court disagreed:
Based on well-established principles of legal interpretation, the answer to this question is no. The obvious meaning of “money”. or “Something else of value” includes things that do not have economic value in the traditional sense but nevertheless possess some other kind of value, utility or importance. The legislature did not limit “other thing of value” to other things of “economic value”; in other words, the law does not require the state to prove the marketability of the thing offered…. [I]In the context of the phrase “money or anything else of value,” an “other” thing of “value” is naturally understood as something different from money but having either a “market value” or some other “value or utility.” Or importance.”
This natural reading makes sense when considering the nature of the crime of seduction. “We have made that clear.”[t]The evil criminalized by the law of solicitation is the inducement to commit a criminal act.” As the State notes, “One can think of any number of things that have no monetary value and which might be of great value to a number of people: marriage, companionship, love, acceptance or Input[y] In a given social group, the prevention of physical or mental harm to oneself or another, the opportunity to, and the promise to refrain from revealing or publishing a secret.” Any of these intangible, non-monetary things can tempt someone to commit a criminal act.
In other similar contexts, courts have often held that things that lack traditional exchange value in the market can nonetheless be “things of value.” For example, a federal law makes it a crime to extort “any money or other thing of value.” While the defendant was facing sex trafficking charges, he threatened one of his victims that he would distribute pornographic images of her to her friends and family if she testified against him. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the defendant was trying to extort the victim’s silence and that her silence was “something of value.” The court explained that “the mere fact that the value cannot be easily translated into a monetary figure does not affect its character” for purposes of interpreting the law in question. See also… United States v. Girard (2d Cir. 1979) (holding that intangible information is a “thing of value” and bringing together the cases interpreting “a thing of value” in various criminal statutes to cover “entertainment,” “sexual intercourse,” and “a promise to reinstate an employee,” And “agreeing not to run in the primary elections”…
If we read in the context of the law, the phrase “other thing of value” is not ambiguous – it plausibly includes things that share with money the qualities of value, desirability or utility but are not money. Depending on the facts of the case, those are “things.”[s]“They can include community, protection, companionship, or silence. Just like money, the prospect of obtaining any of these intangible assets may prompt someone to commit a crime….