Man who stole from kids jailed, banished
The Lake Stevens man gets 4 years in prison and is banned from the county for 10 years. He says his dog told him to do it.
By Diana Hefley
LAKE STEVENS -- A Lake Stevens man who admitted to stealing backpacks from children on a school bus because he believed they were smuggling drugs has been banned from living in Snohomish County for a decade.
A judge ordered the banishment Thursday when she sentenced James Gilligan, 47, to more than four years in prison. He stole from children, assaulted deputies and broke out a police car window last year.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair also agreed to create a "James Gilligan-free zone," that prohibits Gilligan from stepping foot near the victims and their families for 10 years.
The zone stretches from I-5 in Everett to the Centennial Trail in Snohomish and from Highway 92 in Granite Falls to Marsh Road in Snohomish.
"The area is roughly where these families spend most of their lives," Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Mark Roe said.
The children deserve to grow up and play without fear of bumping into this defendant for 10 years, Roe wrote in court records. Gilligan is afflicted by some mental health and drug problems, and that's all the more reason to prevent him from having contact with the children he terrorized, Roe wrote.
Gilligan stole a boy's backpack at a bus stop and then forced his way onto a bus full of children. He took a 10-year-old girl's backpack and fled. He allegedly told investigators his poodle, Peaches, told him the kids were transporting drugs on the bus.
The girl's father spoke at Thursday's hearing. He told Fair he was angry that his daughter is now afraid to ride the bus, afraid something bad will happen again. He urged the judge to create a protective zone around his family and the rest of the neighbors.
"The kids in the neighborhood and bus driver have already suffered enough," the man said.
Gilligan's attorney public defender Gabriel Rothstein asked the judge to consider Gilligan's mental health. Rothstein said he is skeptical about the results of a mental health evaluation that found Gilligan competent to stand trial.
"He still firmly believes he acted properly ... that he was acting to protect the children on the bus," Rothstein said. "He was surprised he was arrested and not congratulated by police."
Rothstein also opposed imposing the Lake Stevens-area restriction zone. Gilligan will not be able to visit his elderly parents. They live in the same neighborhood where Gilligan committed his crimes.
His mother, Evelyn Gilligan, apologized to the children and their families during her son's hearing. She said she and her husband love their son. They believe that he thinks he was doing the right thing.
Gilligan spoke at length to the judge. He detailed how he remembers the events unfolding that day.
"I had all the reason to believe I was acting in good faith as a Good Samaritan," he said.
Gilligan said if he had known how things would turn out, he wouldn't have tried to help anyone.
"I'd mind my own business now," he said.
Gilligan had asked to visit his parents at their home before he was sent to prison. The judge denied him a visit but granted his request to be able to hug his mother and father before he returned to jail.
Fair said she has a responsibility to keep the community, including the victims, safe from Gilligan. She said his unrelenting belief that he didn't do anything wrong that day concerns her.
Parents may worry about their children being involved in a crash while riding in a school bus but they would never imagine that a stranger would push his way onto a bus and steal their children's backpacks because he believed they were carrying drugs, the judge said.
Fair said she hopes that parents in Lake Stevens will have some comfort knowing that Gilligan will not be able to freely move around their community for a decade.
Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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