Thursday, September 28, 2023

A Thing Of Value

The Washington State Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals on the definition of a "thing of value"

A jury convicted Vanessa Valdiglesias LaValle of two counts of criminal solicitation after she told her minor son, S.G., that he could be with her “forever” if he poisoned his father. The Court of Appeals reversed the conviction on the ground that Valdiglesias LaValle’s offer to live with S.G. “forever” if S.G. killed his father did not constitute a “thing of value” within the meaning of RCW 9A.28.030(1). State v. Valdiglesias LaValle, No. 101442-2.

We reverse the Court of Appeals. The plain meaning of “money or other thing of value” in RCW 9A.28.030(1) unambiguously includes both money and things that are not money but that, like money, possess utility, desirability, significance, and/or economic value. Nothing in the plain language or context of the statute indicates that “other thing of value” must be limited to things with a traditional economic or market value.

The plot

In June 2020, while at Valdiglesias LaValle’s house for visitation, 10-year-old S.G. heard her and J.G. talking in another room. VRP (Apr. 6, 2021) at 284. He decided to enter the room and secretly record the conversation because he heard Valdiglesias LaValle talking about “bad stuff” and “rat poison.” Id. at 284-85. In the recording, Valdiglesias LaValle told the children that she loved them and that they could decide when they were older whether they wanted to live with her. S.G. asked what Valdiglesias LaValle would do if she “gave food to dad.” State v. Valdiglesias LaValle, 23 Wn. App. 2d 934, 937-40, 518 P.3d 658 (2022). Valdiglesias LaValle responded that she would not put anything in Grady’s food, but that she would teach S.G. what to do. She told S.G. he could put rat poison in Grady’s wine, wait for Grady to drink it and collapse, “wait a long, long time,” then call the police. Id. at 939. Valdiglesias LaValle said that if S.G. did this, “we are forever (inaudible) live together (inaudible).” Id

S.G. sent the recording to his friend, and his friend’s mother contacted Child Protection Services and the police. VRP (Apr. 6, 2021) at 288, 313; VRP (Apr. 7, 2021) at 363-64, 372.

(Mike Frisch)

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