Judge dismisses case against Bainbridge child molestation suspect

A Kitsap Superior Court judge Monday determined prosecutors had insufficient evidence to continue their case against a Bainbridge man charged with molesting a 4-year-old girl at the Aquatic Center in March.

Michael Joseph Gaffney, 44, was released following the morning hearing, in which Judge M. Karlynn Haberly upheld his defense's motion to dismiss the case.

Gaffney had been charged with first-degree child molestation, with an allegation of sexual intent that carries a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Gaffney was arrested by Bainbridge Police April 1. According to the statement of probable cause filed at Gaffney's April arraignment, his arrest came after an acquaintance of his told police that Gaffney had said he had touched a girl in an Aquatic Center restroom March 26.

Police used surveillance video of Gaffney entering the restroom that day to identify the 4-year old Bainbridge girl as a potential victim. According to the statement, the girl's mother told police that she had allowed her daughter to use the restroom on her own, while she waited in the lobby.

The mother said she became worried after her child did not return for several minutes and entered the restroom where she confronted a man standing by her daughter. The man left the restroom, but the mother later identified him as Gaffney from a line up of photographs, the statement said.

The girl told a Kitsap County child-abuse interviewer that she had been followed into the bathroom by a man who helped her use the toilet. According to the statement, Gaffney admitted to a Bainbridge Police officer that he had followed the girl into the bathroom and removed her bathing suit, but denied any other touching.

Gaffney was booked into Kitsap County Jail on $100,000 bail.

In a June 23 child hearsay hearing, it was determined that the girl was too young to testify in court and that the statement she had made to the interviewer was inadmissible because the defense did not have the opportunity to cross-examine the testimony.

Statements the child made to her mother following the incident were found insufficiently corroborated to be admissible.

At the Monday hearing Haberly determined that without the testimony the prosecution did not have enough evidence to take Gaffney to trial.

Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Cure, who handled the case, said prosecutors will appeal Haberly's decision.

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