Bainbridge pool molestation

A 44-year-old Bainbridge man allegedly molested a young girl in a bathroom at the Bainbridge Aquatic Center last week. Prosecutors are seeking a minimum sentence of 25 years. Read police and legal affairs reporter Josh Farley’s report below.

New ‘Predatory’ Sentence Possible in Bainbridge Pool Molestation
By Josh Farley

Utilizing a new law, Kitsap County Prosecutors Wednesday filed enhanced molestation charges against a Bainbridge man who allegedly followed a young girl he didn’t know into a bathroom at the island’s aquatic center, according to documents filed in Kitsap County Superior Court.

If convicted of the charges, Michael J. Gaffney, 44, faces a 25-year minimum sentence. It would be the first time Kitsap County Prosecutors have filed such charges under the law, passed by the State Legislature in 2006.

Arrested by Bainbridge Island Police Tuesday, Gaffney remains in the Kitsap County jail on $100,000 bail.

Detectives’ reports say the girl, who is under five years old, went into a bathroom near the center’s lobby March 26. According to a probable cause statement, the 44-year-old followed her in, where he took her bathing suit off and observed her using the restroom.

The girl’s mother, who was at the facility’s front counter, thought her daughter had been in the bathroom too long. She walked into the bathroom and encountered a man, later identified as Gaffney, standing near a paper towel dispenser. When she confronted him about why he was in the bathroom, the man “froze” and quickly left, reports said.

A tip to detectives identified Gaffney as a possible suspect. Following his arrest Tuesday, the 44-year-old was interviewed and admitted he had followed her into the bathroom and removed her bathing suit.

Kelly Montgomery, deputy prosecutor who charged the case, said a records check at the prosecutor’s office showed Gaffney’s case to be the first Kitsap County had filed under the new law. The enhanced penalty requires that the defendant committed the crime “under predatory circumstances,” that the victim is a stranger under 15 years of age, and that the contact was for sexual purposes, Montgomery said.

Jamie Whitney, manager of the aquatic center, said staff “do everything we can to make sure this pool is a safe place,” and that life guards and employees are always walking the facility and on alert.

“They’re always watching out for everyone’s safety,” she said, adding that cameras — including one that allegedly spotted Gaffney going into the restroom — are there to be an extra layer of security.

Mark Duncan, Bainbridge Island’s interim police chief, said the arrest can serve as a wake up call.

“We all need to be aware that there are people inside our communities that we shouldn’t trust,” he said.