Blog

Legal news and analysis from the largest criminal defense firm in Southwest Washington, Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.

Anderson, Kauffman win felony assault trial

Attorneys Neil Anderson and Katie Kauffman won a trial Nov. 28 for a client accused of first-degree assault in the February 2021 shooting of a Vancouver man in the parking lot of an apartment complex.

The client, who has been in custody since the incident on $300,000 bail, was acquitted on all charges and released from the Clark County Jail after Anderson and Kauffman successfully argued that the shooting was in self-defense.

A jury returned the verdicts after deliberating approximately three hours.

Jurors heard testimony last week before the Thanksgiving holiday, and then returned to court Nov. 28 for closing arguments and deliberations.

The client was initially charged with attempted murder. Prosecutors amended the charge down to first-degree assault, a class A felony, with a firearm enhancement less than a month before trial. He was also charged with drive-by shooting, a class B felony. If convicted he faced between 14 and 17 years in prison.

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Swisher wins District Court bench trial

Attorney Matthew Swisher won a bench trial Oct. 27 for a client charged with physical control of a vehicle while under the influence, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

Clark County District Court Judge Chad Sleight acquitted Swisher’s client of the charge, ruling that Swisher had proven his client had been safely off the roadway at the time of his arrest.

Swisher’s client was arrested in 2021 after a Cowlitz Tribal Police officer noticed a car in the parking lot of the Cowlitz Crossing convenience store that was not in a parking space. It was 4 a.m. and the officer saw a male asleep in the driver’s seat. The officer could also see empty bottles of alcohol in the front passenger seat. The officer knocked on the driver’s window and asked the client to step out of the vehicle. He said when the man got out of the vehicle and spoke to him he could smell the odor of intoxicants and observed the man’s bloodshot, watery eyes, flushed face and slurred speech.

The client admitted he had been drinking. He refused to perform field sobriety tests.

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Back-to-back wins for Askanas

Isabelle Askanas got a back-to-back wins in Clark County District Court last week. On Sept. 8 she got a client acquitted of assault and malicious mischief and on Sept. 9 she won a quick not-guilty verdict for a client charged with racing.

Askanas and Eliza Haggerty represented a client who was cited last year by a Clark County sheriff’s deputy who had been parked near Northeast 55th Avenue and Northeast Padden Parkway. About 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2021, the deputy wrote that two vehicles passed him traveling east on Padden Parkway “at a high rate of speed.” Both vehicles stopped at a red light, with the deputy now behind them. The deputy wrote that when the light turned green, “both vehicles’ wheels squeeled and the vehicles accelerated in a speed contest.”

The deputy pulled over both drivers and cited each for racing, a type of reckless driving, which is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

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Askanas, Swisher win District Court trial

Isabelle Askanas and Matthew Swisher won a trial Sept. 8 for a client charged with misdemeanor assault and malicious mischief.

A Clark County District Court jury deliberated about 40 minutes before returning not-guilty verdicts on charges of fourth-degree assault and third-degree malicious mischief, both gross misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail.

At the time of his arrest, the client was living in the alleged victim’s house. She was upset that he had a friend over and went to his bedroom to ask him when he was going to move out. She said the client got upset and shoved her so hard she fell down and got hurt. She also said he broke off a door knob, which was why he was charged with malicious mischief.

At the time of the client’s arrest, the homeowner told police officers that she had wanted the client to move out of her house and she even hesitated acknowledging that he had been living there because she knew that if he had established residency it would be more difficult to get him to move out. One officer even noted that both the client and alleged victim appeared to be giving “self-serving” statements about what happened.

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Anderson, Askansas win felony DV trial

Attorneys Neil Anderson and Isabelle Askanas won a domestic violence trial this week in Clark County Superior Court for a client charged with felony harassment and misdemeanor assault.

The client was arrested last year after a woman he’d recently met called 911 and told responding Vancouver police officers that our client had forcefully shoved her and threatened to kill her with her own gun. 

A conviction would have carried a sentence of up to eight months in jail.

The client testified that he met the woman through an online dating site. About a week after they met she picked him up in Portland and brought him home to Vancouver. He said they had got into an argument because he wanted her to drive him home, and she wanted him to stay at her residence. He said it was late, and after she told him she wasn’t going to drive him home, she said she was going outside. It was a cold October evening and he said he didn’t want her to go outside because she was barefoot and wearing only a nightgown.

A video from an interior security camera, which a deputy prosecuting attorney told jurors showed our client pushing the alleged victim, was really him trying to keep her from going out in the cold, he said. He did not intend to hurt her.

The client also testified he never threatened to shoot her. He was calm on the stand, even when the deputy prosecutor sarcastically asked if his memory of events was clearer now than it was ten months ago.

“Yes, because I’m fighting for my freedom now,” he replied.

As Anderson told jurors during closing arguments on Aug. 9, they didn’t just have two versions of what happened that October night: they had three.

The first version was what the alleged victim testified to at trial. The second version was his client’s and the third was what the alleged victim told responding police officers.

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Three attorneys, two hung juries and -- finally -- one dismissal

A Clark County deputy prosecutor who was told by two different juries his case wasn’t strong enough to warrant a conviction finally dismissed a felony theft charge this month against our client, but only after his supervisor was notified of the flaws in his case.

Our client, a home health aide with no criminal history, was accused in March 2021 of stealing $6,750 from an elderly client. She was charged with one count of theft from a vulnerable adult in the first degree, a class B felony. She has been unable to work while the case was pending.

The case went to trial twice in Clark County Superior Court. Attorney Katie Kauffman and Marina Spencer handled the first trial, in September 2021. Spencer and attorney Owen Sutanto handled the second trial, which was in May.

Each trial lasted one week and was declared a mistrial after the juries failed to reach an unanimous decision.

The deputy prosecutor was preparing to take the case to trial a third time, but Spencer sent a lengthy email to one of the deputy prosecutor’s supervisors, detailing the negative feedback provided from jurors.

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Anderson, Mellen win felony DV trial

Attorneys Neil Anderson and Daniel Mellen were successful this week in getting a client acquitted of felony domestic violence charges in Clark County Superior Court.

Their client was found not guilty on June 14 of second-degree assault, a class B felony, and harassment, a class C felony. If convicted he faced a minimum of one year in prison.

The jury did find him guilty of fourth-degree assault domestic violence, a misdemeanor charge the defense attorneys convinced the judge should be given as an option for jurors to consider. The client will be sentenced next month. With credit for the time he spent in the Clark County Jail after his arrest, it’s unlikely he will receive additional jail time.

The client, 24, was accused of choking his girlfriend and threatening to kill her in 2019, when he was 21. His girlfriend, who was 19 at the time, told Vancouver police officers that she and her boyfriend were arguing and he was trying to provoke her by tapping her on the forehead and calling her names. She said she took a swing at him, and he grabbed her wrist and told her to stop. She said they did stop arguing and she left the room, but when she returned he grabbed her, threw her on the bed, straddled her and put his hands around her neck and started to squeeze. She said while he was squeezing her neck he threatened to kill her. She said two roommates came in and separated the couple.

When the client’s ex-girlfriend testified this week, however, she did not mention the threat, which had been the basis for the felony harassment charge. After she finished testifying Anderson asked the judge, outside the presence of the jury, for a directed verdict on the harassment charge since the state failed to introduce any evidence. The judge granted Anderson’s request.

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Askanas wins District Court trial

Attorney Isabelle Askanas won a trial June 2 in Clark County District Court for a client charged with physical control, a gross misdemeanor.

A conviction for physical control carries the same penalty as a DUI, including a mandatory minimum two-day jail sentence.

Her client was cited by a Clark County Sheriff’s deputy about 3 a.m. on May 10, 2020. Her client had been on the way home from a friend’s house when he lost control of his vehicle and struck a curb, ending up in the middle of the road with a flat tire.

A responding officer said when he contacted Askanas’ client he was slurring his speech, had bloodshot watery eyes and smelled of intoxicants.

The client agreed to perform field sobriety tests and had difficulty keeping his balance, an officer wrote in his report. The client refused to take a preliminary breath test, admitted to drinking three or four beers earlier in the evening and told an officer, “I shouldn’t have drove drunk.”

Those facts were all heard by the jury during the one-day trial.

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Anderson, Spencer win felony DV trial

Attorneys Neil Anderson and Marina Spencer won an acquittal March 9 in Clark County Superior Court for a client charged with trying to strangle his girlfriend.

A 12-member jury deliberated an hour before returning a “not guilty” verdict on two charges of domestic violence.

The client was charged with assault in the second degree, a felony, and assault in the fourth degree, a gross misdemeanor. Had he been convicted he would have received a minimum sentence of three months in jail, and a maximum sentence of nine months in jail.

The client, 41, has no criminal history.

On Nov. 27, 2020, he called 911 and told the dispatcher that his girlfriend had hit him during an argument and he needed her to leave the house. The alleged victim called 911 after he called. She told the dispatcher, after a few minutes, her boyfriend grabbed her hand and neck.

Responding officers from the Vancouver Police Department arrested our client after speaking to his girlfriend, who claimed her boyfriend had grabbed her around her neck and tightened his grip during an argument about money. She said she had not been able to breathe for 30 seconds, and had been scared. She was crying when she spoke to officers.

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Cognata successfully argues against post-conviction GPS monitoring

Attorney Amber Cognata recently convinced a Clark County District Court commissioner to reconsider ordering an indigent client to pay for post-conviction GPS monitoring.

Commissioner Todd George initially granted a Vancouver assistant city attorney’s request for the GPS monitoring during a Jan. 31 sentencing hearing, but said his order would not go into effect until Cognata had a chance to argue it.  Cognata’s client had pled guilty to one count of harassment and one count of violating a civil antiharassment protection order, both gross misdemeanors.

At the time of the plea, her client had served 34 days in jail. The city prosecutor did not ask for additional jail time even though gross misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of 365 days in jail.

In her subsequent motion contesting the judge’s decision, Cognata wrote that the GPS monitoring authorized by state lawmakers was meant for pre-trial monitoring and not to be imposed as part of a sentence.

The pre-trial GPS monitoring was part of the Tiffany Hill act. Defendants pay for the monitoring and domestic violence victims are notified if their alleged abusers come within a certain distance.

In Clark County, the service is provided by 2 Watch Monitoring. Defendants pay a $100 setup fee and $20 a day, Cognata wrote. Imposing GPS monitoring for six months would cost her client approximately $3,700 while a year would cost approximately $7,200.

For clients such as hers, who are given court-appointed attorneys because a judge finds they cannot afford to hire one, paying thousands of dollars for post-plea monitoring would often be impossible, Cognata wrote.

“There is no statutory authority to impose GPS monitoring post-plea,” Cognata wrote. “The agreed upon sentence was an offer for credit for time served, which totaled 34 days in jail. GPS monitoring was not a condition imposed in lieu of earned release time or imposed as part of his sentence, but instead an additional condition of his sentence. The protected parties in this case received the benefit of GPS monitoring while (her client) was out of custody and his charge was pending. Now that he has served his sentence, he should not continue to be monitored for the entirety of his two-year probation. Post-plea, the victims in this matter will still be protected through anti-harassment orders and a no-contact order.”

If her client was ordered to pay for monitoring and unable to afford it, he would likely be penalized for violating probation and be sent back to jail. “This kind of outcome was not the intent of the legislature when this bill was created,” Cognata wrote.   

The assistant city attorney argued the court has broad discretion to impose conditions of probation, and that includes conditions meant to prevent the future commission of crimes.

During a Feb. 10 hearing Commissioner George found that the client’s indigency was good reason not to order monitoring and removed it as a condition of probation.  

Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.: Vancouver Defenders Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.
Vancouver Defenders