An Aberdeen man was convicted by a jury in Grays Harbor County Superior Court Friday for his role in the 2015 rape of a Tacoma woman, according to Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott.
Tanner Jamy Scott Birdsall, now 21, was 19 when he and another Aberdeen man, Joel Krebs, lured the victim to a residence to play beer pong, according to the victim’s initial report to investigators. According to court documents, the 19-year-old woman told investigators the drinks seemed particularly strong and after four she was unsteady and confused. She said she remembered waking up unable to move with Birdsall and Krebs in the room with her, sometimes on top of her, but had difficulty piecing together the events of the night.
Evidence collected by the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office led to the arrests of both men on Feb. 11, 2015. Krebs was convicted of the crime of second degree rape in July of 2016. He was sentenced to seven and a half years to life.
In Birdsall’s case, “The jury was out less than an hour,” said Erin Riley, who prosecuted the case for the Grays Harbor County Prosecutor’s Office. “This is a Class A felony, so he is looking at between seven and a half years to life in prison.” Riley is the prosecuting attorney who handles sex offense cases for the county.
The victim — “I prefer to look at her as a survivor,” Riley said — testified at this trial and two more that came before it. With Birdsall’s conviction despite his argument that the sex was consensual, Riley is hopeful more victims will shake off the stigma of sexual assault and report such incidents to the authorities.
“Some of the comments I got on this case were shocking,” she said. “There are people in this community that believe if the victim is drinking it’s her own fault. Here we had a survivor standing up for what happened to her and going through this whole process. I think it sends a powerful message to the community that these kinds of cases will be tried and the perpetrators will be held accountable.”
The current flurry of media activity surrounding alleged sexual assaults may be changing the landscape, Riley said.
“We are seeing more sexual assaults being reported in the media, so hopefully it will no longer be thought of as something to be ashamed of,” she said. “We, the police, and partners like Beyond Survival and Connections work hard to prosecute these cases and give support to the victim and affected families.”
Krebs and Birdsall made the news in late December 2015 when a night of joyriding in Krebs’ pickup ended with a train derailing as it tried to stop for the vehicle, which was parked in a crossing on the Monte Elma Road. Several cars were derailed in that December 2015 incident, and both men were arrested.
“They did this crime (the sexual assault) when out on conditional release (for the derailment) at the time,” Riley said. Krebs, who was driving, has been charged with a crime for the joyride, but to Riley’s knowledge Birdsall, the passenger in the vehicle, has not.