In February of 2017, shortly after Jace was arrested, my sister and I interviewed an attorney by the name of Steve Thayer to handle Jace case. He had a private practice in downtown Vancouver, WA with his daughter Jacy.
Mr. Thayer assured us that he had handled these cases before and been successful. He touted his contacts within the community, and his prowess in the courtroom. He said Jace appeared to have a ‘very defensible’ case and that this should not be a problem. I was turned of by his pompous attitude toward us – he clearly liked to brag. But I figured his confidence should be an asset in the courtroom, and if he truly did have contacts, well, I wanted those for my son.
Throughout Jace case Mr Thayer continued to state how defensible Jace case was, and that he was not overly concerned. He attempted to get Jace case dropped, and then worked toward a plea bargain. He told us he wanted to get the charges dropped to misdemeanors to keep Jace off the registry – saying Jace might have to do something like up to 90 days. To me, at the time, that was outrageous. I kept trying to understand what exactly the police thought they had on Jace, it didn’t make sense for them to prosecute, I couldn’t wrap my head around how this could be possible.
Mr. Thayer was a very difficult man to work with, he would often scream at us to ‘shut up’ – and others in his employ – like we, the clients, were bothering him. He was extremely forgetful, to the point where I question his faculties as a practicing lawyer. I often had to prompt him to remind him what we had discussed and decided upon.
In fact, the biggest disagreement we had was whether to use a bench or jury trial. Mr Thayer said he usually used bench trials for these as to avoid jurors implicit bias whenever sex with a child is discussed. While I understand that reasoning, I also felt that there would be at least a few men on a jury who would see this as a thought crime, unworthy of sending a 20 year old to prison! It is this very argument that is the basis of Jace appeal. We never did agree to a bench trial. After I argued back and forth with Mr. Thayer, he took it upon himself to sign the jury waiver. When in court, Mr Thayer told the judge ‘bench trial’. The judge did not ask Jace, violating his sixth amendment rights of the U.S. constitution.
Mr. Thayer also did receive a plea deal offer for Jace, which we discovered through his daughter Jacy at the end of the first day of trial. It was never presented to Jace and myself, a fact to which I complained to the Washington Bar about. Mr Thayer’s first response was that he knew we wouldn’t take it so he didn’t present it. Then later tried to say he presented it to Jace alone – which is a lie. I believe he felt he could win in court, a feather in his cap, and didn’t need the plea deal.
It is true that we were not thinking of taking any deal that included the registry, but I cannot say for sure if we would, or wouldn’t have taken the deal had it been presented. Regardless, not presenting the deal to us was only one of a number of unethical things that occurred in the state of Washington.