Client found not guilty of assault in DV case
Washington has a mandatory domestic violence arrest law, meaning law enforcement officers don’t have discretion. If they have probable cause to believe that a crime may have occurred, they must make an arrest.
From that point, it’s difficult to get prosecutors to dismiss the case – even when the evidence is incredibly weak.
For example, jurors on March 8 needed only 30 minutes before they unanimously voted to acquit one of attorney Allison Widney’s clients in Clark County District Court.
Her client had been charged with one count of fourth-degree assault domestic violence and one count fourth degree assault non-domestic violence, a gross misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in jail.
He was accused of assaulting the mother of his three children and her mother.
The prosecution’s case was weak to start with, but an assistant city attorney from the Domestic Violence Prosecution Center took it to trial even with the knowledge one of the alleged victims wasn’t going to show up to testify.
Widney’s client was arrested in December on one count of assault. The mother of his children claimed he punched her in the chest.
The Clark County sheriff’s deputy who responded to the scene last year didn’t arrest Widney’s client for the second claim of assault, which was made by his baby mama’s mother. In regards to that claim, the deputy wrote in his report that even though the woman claimed she’d been pushed to the ground, “it appeared her own hasty actions were most likely the cause of her fall to the ground. I saw she was a large woman with limited agility. The room in question was small and congested with four people in it who all had jostled for position. She could not articulate a specific action by (the suspect) that had caused harm to her. Rather, it was the fall to the ground and into the closet doors that had caused any injury she may have sustained.”
The deputy sheriff referred the woman’s claim of assault to the Domestic Violence Prosecution Center, which went ahead and filed the charge. The woman, who was visiting from Chicago during the alleged assault, wasn’t planning to return for the trial at her own expense and the assistant city attorney told a judge and jury it was too expensive for her office to pick up the tab.
In addition to failing to secure the presence of one of the alleged victims at trial, the prosecutor also failed to subpoena any of the potential witnesses. She was left with one alleged victim to testify and the deputy sheriff who’d responded to the 911 call.
The alleged victim’s testimony at trial wasn’t compelling, Widney said. She came across as hostile and told jurors that she was merely restraining the defendant because if she wanted to assault him, she would have put him in the hospital. She acknowledged that at the time she made the allegation she’d been upset with the defendant because she’d found out he’d been seeing another woman.
The prosecution fell way short meeting the legal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, Widney told jurors during closing statements. And the six jurors needed only 30 minutes to unanimously agree.