Globe and Mail

Lawyer in jail-sex case 'got carried away'

By ROD MICKLEBURGH
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
Wednesday, August 21 – Online Edition, Posted at 2:10 AM EST
The Globe and Mail

Vancouver — "I was just giving him a hug and it got carried away."

That was the only explanation that startled defence lawyer Theresa Olson could offer when a guard burst into the small prison conference room where witnesses say she had sex with Sebastian Burns, her Canadian client charged with a triple murder near Seattle.

According to a series of statements released Tuesday in a Seattle courtroom, Ms. Olson's alleged sexual escapade turned into a prison peep show, with guards clustering around windows and looking in from the upper tiers of the city's King County jail.

"They're still doing it, Sarge," one officer reported as he peered into the room.

"I looked through the window and observed Ms. Theresa Olson and inmate Burns holding each other. Ms. Olson was standing facing the door," he wrote in his report.

All four guards who took in the scene believed the pair were having sexual intercourse.

"As Sgt. [name blanked out] entered the room, both proceeded to cover themselves," a prison summation of their reports said.

"When asked 'What was going on?' Ms. Olson responded by saying, 'I was just giving him a hug and it got carried away.' "

After that, the prison sergeant said Ms. Olson grabbed her belongings and asked the officer if he needed anything else. "I said 'no.' She left the room and proceeded off the floor."

The witnesses' accounts of Ms. Olson's alleged in-prison encounter with Mr. Burns were contained in documents made public during a court hearing that ordered a new legal team for the 26-year-old Canadian.

The allegations have caused a new uproar in a case that has already been spawning headlines on both sides of the border for the past seven years.

Ms. Olson, an offbeat but respected defence lawyer, was removed from the case last week. She is currently on leave from her job with the Seattle Public Defendants Association. She has not commented publicly since the alleged incident surfaced two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, Judge Charles Mertel ordered Neil Fox, Mr. Burns' other lawyer, also taken off the long-running case. The judge said Mr. Fox was in a potential conflict of interest because of the sex charges involving his legal partner and Mr. Burns.

The scandal will no doubt further delay the trial of Mr. Burns and fellow Canadian Atif Rafay, who are accused of murdering Mr. Rafay's parents and his 20-year-old sister in a savage attack at the Rafay family home near Seattle.

The attack took place while the two were still teenagers. They fled to West Vancouver but were not charged until the next year. Their long fight against extradition to the United States made Canadian legal history, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled they could not be deported to the United States to face the death penalty.

Washington State authorities eventually agreed not to seek capital punishment for the two men, and they were sent back for trial last year.

Ms. Olson, 43, has been Mr. Burns' lawyer since 1999.

According to the guards' statements, they believed that the lawyer had been having sex with her tall, 26-year-old client for at least three or four months without being caught.

This time, a guard said he thought something might be going on when the two "seemed startled" as he walked by the interview room escorting another prisoner.

He alerted other guards, who took up positions on the upper tier and elsewhere outside the room.

"We have suspected for the past few months that inmate Burns and Ms. Olson have been having sexual contact, but have been unable to confirm anything," his report said.

"Once out on the upper tier I could see down into the side interview room and I could see Ms. Olson facing the window in the door of the room and I could see that inmate Burns. ..." The remainder of the description was deleted.

A strip search of Mr. Burns discovered a small plastic bottle of Vaseline in his shirt pocket.

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