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Mellen, Cognata win assault trial

Attorney Daniel Mellen won a trial Aug. 10 for a client accused of tasing his roommate with a stun gun.

Attorney Amber Cognata assisted Mellen during the one-day trial in Clark County District Court, and her help went beyond jury selection and questioning witnesses. In an effective move, Mellen had Cognata help demonstrate for the jury why the alleged victim’s claims didn’t make any sense.

The alleged victim said Mellen’s client jumped on his back and then tased him while hanging onto him.

That would suggest the injuries should have been higher on his body, Mellen said. And since his client is right-handed, he would have likely tased his roommate around his right shoulder.

But the alleged victim’s wounds were on the lower left part of his torso.

During closing argument, Mellen stood behind Cognata and showed the jury where he would strike her from that position.

His client’s story was that the roommate, who was taller and heavier, tackled him, pinned him to the floor and was punching him when he deployed his stun gun.

Mellen and Cognata got on the ground in the courtroom, facing each other, and Mellen acted out jabbing her with his right hand and the area most accessible, which was her left hip and the left side of her stomach.

The injuries, he told the jury, fit his client’s story better than the alleged victim’s story.

The client and the alleged victim, both men in their 50s, had been roommates for a decade and each have a teenaged son who lived with them. In September 2022, the client’s son called 911 and said his dad and his dad’s roommate were fighting. The son later told a Vancouver police officer that both men frequently drink and argue but their fights don’t typically turn violent.

Mellen’s client, who had visible injuries to his face, was arrested and charged with assault in the fourth degree, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. 

During a pre-trial motion, Mellen successfully argued a police officer should not be able to testify that his client tased the alleged victim while the alleged victim was trying to get away. A prosecutor had been planning to have the officer say that the alleged victim’s wounds showed that he had been fleeing when he was tased. Mellen questioned the officer how he could know that, and got the officer to acknowledge the only thing he could say with any certainty was that the alleged victim had been moving when he was tased. That movement could have been anything, Mellen argued, including charging at his client.

The judge agreed the officer could not say the wounds suggested that the alleged victim had been trying to flee.

Jurors deliberated about an hour before returning the verdict of not guilty.

Tags: criminal law, not guilty, assault, Clark County, District Court

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