A 56-year-old former nursing assistant has been sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to abusing elderly victims at an Anacortes assisted living facility.

Willie Orlando Lawton III of Ferndale was sentenced to one year and one day in prison after pleading guilty in Skagit County Superior Court to two counts of second-degree assault and two counts of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation. An investigation showed he inappropriately touched several residents of San Juan Assisted Living Center, formerly San Juan Rehabilitation Center.

Because the sentence is more than one year, he will serve his sentence in prison rather than jail.

Anacortes police in early 2018 opened an investigation into Lawton after a former resident of the facility stated she did not wish to go back because a man, later determined to be Lawton, had kissed her.

He was charged in April 2019 with one count of second-degree rape of a frail, elderly or vulnerable adult, one count of indecent liberties with a frail, elderly or vulnerable adult, and two counts of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation. The charges were reduced as part of the plea agreement.

While officials believe there were likely more victims, Lawton was only charged with the assault of four of them because others had died or were no longer able to give statements.

Upon his release, Lawton will serve 18 months of community custody and must obtain a sexual deviancy evaluation and follow through with all treatment recommendations and successfully participate in a certified sex offender treatment program.

According to court documents, he also must “refrain from direct or indirect contact” with residents of residential or in-home care facilities including nursing homes, inpatient rehabilitation and end-of-life facilities, as well as hospital patients who are not direct family members.

Lawton was fired from San Juan Assisted Living Center days after the initial allegations against him were made in February 2018, and his nursing assistant license was revoked by the state Department of Health in October 2019.

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