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[UNLOCKED] When to Expect Charges in the Julian Willis and Mark Hein Investigations
New victims and investigations widen the Willis probe; Hein matter approaches two year horizon with former Lake Stevens coach still on administrative leave; Law firm asking questions of Mukilteo SD
EVERETT – A charging decision is imminent in the Mark Hein matter, according to a law enforcement source with knowledge of the case. However, charges are apparently not so close in the Julian Willis matter.
Willis, suspected by investigators of committing five felony sex crimes against a minor student at Kamiak High School, remains in the Lake Stevens area, free without charges or conditions of release, as prosecutors sort through a backlog of some 6,600 criminal charging decisions that predate the Willis matter. Willis approached his alleged victim through his role as an assistant football coach with the 2022 edition of the Kamiak High School football team; the victim was a student volunteer with the team.
And unlike Hein, whose gross misdemeanor charges fall under a two-year limitation and must be filed this calendar year, there is no such filing deadline for Willis as there is no statutory time limits on filing felony Sexual Misconduct with a Minor charges – so the forcing function impelling many Snohomish County charging decisions will not come into play in the Willis matter.
In other words, don’t hold your breath on those Willis charges. However: he’s far from clear. Stick with us for a complete update on new investigations and new victims coming forward in the Willis matter.
Updating the Mark Hein Matter
J425 can confirm that administrative and criminal investigations of the Hein matter continue with a law enforcement source telling J425 a charging decision is on the near horizon.
Hein, a Lake Stevens High School teacher and former LSHS basketball coach was arrested and booked into county jail in January 2023 after a Lake Stevens Police Department investigation yielded charges of Sexual Misconduct with a Minor, Assault 4 with Sexual Motivation and Communication with a Minor for Immoral Purposes.
Hein was arrested and charged on January 25, 2023 but the charges were dropped in a matter of days, with police insisting charges would be refiled at a later date. At the time of this report – the matter remains open and Hein remains on administrative leave from the Lake Stevens School District - a position Hein has occupied since LSSD placed him on leave August 15, 2022 -- the day LSPD interviewed him as part of their criminal probe.1
LSPD Detective Kristin Parnell’s wide-ranging investigation of the Hein matter began in June of 2022 and continues even as prosecutors mull a charging decision. Parnell has interviewed dozens of students and staff – including Hein – and subpoenaed troves of documents.2
Washington State law requires prosecutors to charge gross misdemeanors within two years of the date of the crime – and although a specific date isn’t stated in the charging narrative written by Detective Parnell, the probable cause packet lists a date of crime “on or around” November 4, 2021.
That said, it is clear that some of Hein’s behavior detailed in the probable cause narrative occurred in October and possibly September of 2021 - meaning that that the two year horizon is approaching quickly.
J425 has learned that an extreme case backlog at the Snohomish County Prosecutor's Office has contributed to the last-second charging decision in the Hein matter. More on that momentarily.
Updating the Julian Willis Matter
The backlog of criminal referrals at the Snohomish County Prosecutor's Office mentioned above is likely the reason Julian Willis remains free and uncharged at the moment, despite the fact that investigators believe Willis committed five felony sex crimes against a minor girl and that his latest suspected crimes come against the backdrop of new victims coming forward and details of rape allegations across the Western US surfacing in court documents.
Willis was arrested in Lake Stevens on June 29 after a Mukilteo investigation found evidence that Willis committed five felony sex crimes against a minor. Willis was arrested and booked into county jail before facing a judge the next day. In court, investigators detailed DNA evidence they say links Willis to the crimes.
The detective who investigated Willis said that Willis was both an imminent risk to society and a flight risk, stating that Willis has previously fled rape charges in three states. Court filings say police investigated rape allegations in Idaho after a family friend told police she’d been raped by Willis on multiple occasions. Willis allegedly fled similar allegations in Arizona.
Further, detectives told the court they’d located a Washington woman who said she’d been sexually assaulted by Willis while she was undergoing inpatient recovery at an area treatment center where Willis briefly worked. Police confirmed that the victim told management at the care facility about the alleged rapes, but management declined to inform authorities.
The judge found probable cause for the felony charges and placed a short-term hold on Willis, requiring him to post bond, surrender weapons and agree to certain conditions regarding school property and children.
Those conditions expired on July 5 when prosecutors failed to file charges before the end of the hold, and Willis remains free without charges or conditions of release. Willis has recently been seen in the Lake Stevens area near the location where he
allegedly pursued a 16-year-old Lake Stevens girl throughout a grocery story, through a parking lot and in a vehicle to a different location on Fathers Day morning.3
See J425 media packet and rate sheet.
So What Exactly Would it Take to Get Charged These Days?
If five felony sex crimes against a minor student (some occuring during the school day, in the classroom) aren’t enough to get a guy charged – with investigators calling the suspect a threat to society, a flight risk and the subject of rape allegations across three states – well…what exactly would it take to face charges in Snohomish County right now?
That’s the question many locals are asking as Julian Willis remains free and uncharged in Lake Stevens – the city where Willis was investigated for a stalking incident involving a 16-year-old girl that occurred AFTER Willis was fired from Kamiak as a result of the very-public sex crimes investigation.
Those responsible for pursuing convictions say it's not that simple.
The responsibility for prosecuting alleged sex crimes lies with the county prosecutor. This is an elected position in Washington – voters selected Jason Cummings in Snohomish County – and the voter-selected top law enforcement official is then responsible for making charging decisions on criminal referrals – as well as defending the county in civil matters and supervising a department of attorneys known as deputy prosecutors (or DPAs) and their associated support staff.
In Snohomish County, over 6,600 criminal referrals currently await charging decisions by a prosecutor. Because of this unprecedented backlog, more and more criminal referrals, including instances like the Willis and Hein matters, are going uncharged.
“Too many cases, not enough time,” said one deputy criminal prosecutor, describing an environment in a prosecutor’s office that “always seems understaffed”.
Even in the cases where charges are pursued – the decision often occurs against the forcing function of an imminent deadline.
“We are at a place now where we’re having to make decisions about charging cases just purely to survive and to keep the backlog at a manageable level, that we didn’t before,” the deputy told The Herald in May.
Charging data shows county prosecutors declined to charge over 3000 criminal referrals in 2022. This means that two out of every three criminal referrals went without charges – but as recently as 2018, county data shows that over 60 percent of criminal referrals were charged. In other words, prosecutors are declining almost 60 percent more cases than they did as recently as five years ago.
The problem, prosecutors told The Herald, is a backlog caused in part by the pandemic and related staffing issues; recent supreme court rulings, investigatory issues with criminal referrals and inaction by the previous prosecutor. Additionally, one deputy prosecutor pointed to staffing issues within the office.
And recent controversy within the office probably hasn’t helped efficiency either.
Cummings recently fired one prosecutor over “past criminal activity and fetishistic behavior” which Cummings described as “having sexual intercourse with a woman without her permission”, “scouring the internet for pictures of children’s feet for sexual gratification,” bringing a gun into a Federal Courtroom and entering an ex-girlfriend's home without permission.
Cummings told the prosecutor that these instances could affect the man’s ability to prosecute sex crimes against women and minors. The DPA failed a lie detector test and was let go, but a parallel state patrol investigation ended without charges.
So what would it take for prosecutors to take immediate action against someone like Willis? Additional reports of misconduct, say prosecutors. With additional information, a prosecutor could in theory go to a court and ask for conditions of release or confinement. Even so, it’s unconstitutional to detain someone without charges so until the prosecutor’s office either clears the backlog or begins triaging certain cases, it appears highly unlikely that action will occur before deadlines impose decisions upon prosecutors.
Victims Continue to Come Forward, Area Law Firm Begins Willis Investigation
“Why did officials at Kamiak tolerate this open, obvious misconduct? Why was it left to members of the community, to protect students from grooming by a teacher and coach?”
- Ian Bauer, partner attorney at PFAU Cochran Vertetis Amala (PCVA) in Seattle. PCVA has opened its own investigation into the Willis matter.
The fact that Willis remains free and uncharged in the face of so many allegations of serious crimes does not lead victims to feel safe about identifying themselves, particularly those that live in the Lake Stevens area. And for those that monitor the months and sometimes years of delays and apparent prosecutorial inaction that follow initial allegations – the entire process can seem futile.
Why subject yourself to the publicity, criticism and negative attention that goes with a public accusation – especially on top of the life altering damage they’ve often already suffered at the hands of the suspect – when we’ve already seen others come forward to no avail?
That’s how one rational argument against coming forward might go.
With that said, it’s been our experience in the Willis and Hein matters that victims show a lot more bravery and concern for others compared to certain parts of the community that prefer inaction as opposed to intervention, or are perhaps more concerned with “risk management” or collective bargaining relationships as opposed to clear, transparent public responses and swift, victim-centric decisions when it comes to alleged crimes involving children.
To whit, J425 has spoken with multiple victims that came forward after reading our initial reporting on both the Hein and Willis matters – and in nearly every instance the victim had yet to speak with law enforcement and held reservations about identifying themselves to law enforcement. J425 has spoken with at least four different named individuals alleging instances of misconduct involving Mark Hein.
J425 has also heard from at least three named individuals with allegations naming Willis, none were party to the initial investigation pertaining to Willis’ recent actions at Kamiak High School. In two cases, the victim later decided to file a report. One victim was detailed in investigatory documents provided to the court in the Willis matter, and their ordeal was described in an argument backing up the statement that Willis was a danger to society.
Another victim came forward after Willis was arrested and released in late June, detailing an extremely credible allegation of sexual assault in communications with J425. This individual later decided to contact police, and J425 can confirm that one area agency is in receipt of her allegation.
When I asked the victim why they’d decided to come forward now, they stated that they were motivated to act in order to prevent others from falling victim to the attacker, especially children.
Faulty Reporting Narrative at Kamiak Under External Investigation
J425 previously reported that within the Kamiak football program, knowledge of Willis’ alleged crimes dates back to the Fall of 2022 - some five months before officials were first informed of Willis’ sexual relationship with a minor Kamiak student.
Our reporting examined the manipulated narratives and troubled fact patterns surrounding the source of the information that started the Willis probe.
“Who looked away, or laughed, when Willis was flirting with and grooming underage students?” And, perhaps, more importantly – why didn’t they intervene?”.
- Attorney Darrel Cochran, PCVA.
Quick review of the initial story timeline, with respect to our initial reporting: A spokesperson for the Mukilteo School District told J425 (ahead of our initial reporting in May) that the Willis matter first came to the attention of administration March 31, 2023 when Dean of Students (and then-football coach) Bryant Thomas fielded a call about Willis from an external community member who wished to remain anonymous. Thomas then told a principal, a principal involved police.
In reality, as detectives later learned, the anonymous tip did not exist.
In fact, a fellow adult football coach had informed Head Coach Bryant Thomas about allegations against then-assistant football coach Julian Willis after multiple players were heard discussing the matter during the season. For whatever reason, Thomas initially told school administrators that he’d learned of the Willis matter in March 2023 via the anonymous tip described above instead of detailing that he’d been informed of the matter by an assistant coach that reported to him in the football program.
Per Washington State mandatory reporting law, an adult volunteer or coach has just 48 hours to report any information about sexual misconduct to administrators or law enforcement. Note the term information not proof.
The exact date when Thomas was informed by the coach of Willis’ behavior is not known to J425, but our previous reporting demonstrated that at least one adult within the football program and multiple players were aware of Willis’ behavior during the 2022 season.
Four of the five felony sex crimes against a minor occurred in 2023, well after the end of the football season. The mandatory reporting law is in place so predators can be swiftly confronted.
The fact that Willis enjoyed another five months to commit another four sex crimes against a student on campus should be a scandal that isn’t let go until a full, transparent timeline and accounting is presented to the community of Mukilteo, all of whom fund the district where this occurred.
Bryant Thomas stepped down from the Kamiak Head Football Coach position some time in early 2023, taking a job at Portland State University. Administrative investigations are ongoing within the Mukilteo School District.
Meanwhile, A Seattle law firm has begun an investigation of Willis and his crimes – activity that likely precedes a civil action against Willis and his former employer. The law firm is now asking very public questions about the situation at Kamiak High School.
“Who looked away, or laughed, when Willis was flirting with and grooming underage students? …And, perhaps, more importantly – why didn’t they intervene?” asked PCVA partner Darrell Cochran, a leading attorney at the firm investigating the Willis matter.
The Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office has yet to file formal charges against Willis or Hein.
Willis was fired by the Mukilteo School District in May, hours after the initial J425 report. Mark Hein remains employed by the Lake Stevens School District, on paid administrative leave drawing a salary of over $115,000.
School begins in Lake Stevens on September 4 and Hein will not be on campus, but several of his alleged victims likely will.
The Kamiak football team begins its season Friday under the leadership of a new coach. At Wesco media day ahead of the 2023 football season, no one – including J425, to be fair – spoke of the Julian Willis matter or asked the new coach a single question about the fact that a judge and investigators believe a student volunteer was victimized by a Kamiak football coach last season. I did ask the new coach whether he feels members of the football program have a responsibility that extends past the chalk lines of the playing field. The coach and players all stated that there is an inherent responsibility to look out for others, demonstrate leadership and act in a manner that reflects well on the school and the community.
An initial internal LSSD investigation into Hein’s behavior led to a finding that Hein violated district policy regarding student-teacher boundaries. Hein was presented with a non-disciplinary letter stating as such and instructing him not to contact the student in question. As J425 has previously reported, Hein proceeded to ignore the written directive (Hein told a detective the letter was unfair to him) and serially pursued contact with the student until the student began suffering stress-induced seizures and was effectively forced off campus. It was these seizures that ultimately prompted the criminal investigation into Hein: it wasn’t the victim, the district or the victim’s family who contacted police, but instead a therapist subject to the state’s mandatory reporting law. The therapist contacted social services, who triaged the report to the Lake Stevens Police Department.
Earlier J425 reporting looked at how Parnell’s detailed reporting proved that Hein had likely violated numerous LSSD policies, even after LSSD investigators found that Hein had initially violated the boundaries of Jane Doe 1 – one of two initial minor victims in the Hein matter. If the Lake Stevens School District Board of Directors is interested in getting to the bottom of this matter, they’d do well to obtain the transcripts of the numerous interviews Parnell has compiled as part of her investigation.
Lake Stevens Police investigated the matter and turned it over to Mukilteo Police, who included the incident in their criminal referral, citing the incident as a reason for Willis’ conditions of release.