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

Did a Clark County prosecutor overstep his bounds? Maybe, says the Court of Appeals

The Washington Court of Appeals this month cleared the way for the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to be sued for false arrest and false imprisonment.

The ruling reversed Clark County Superior Court Judge David Gregerson, who last year tossed a family’s lawsuit against Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik on the grounds that the prosecutor’s office had absolute immunity from liability stemming from a 2014 arrest of a mother for attempted murder. (The criminal charge was subsequently dismissed, and the family, represented by attorney Roger Bennett, sued the county.)

The Court of Appeals based its reversal on a “dispute of material fact as to whether the prosecutor’s office was acting within the scope of its normal prosecutorial function,” according to the Jan. 17 decision.

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Multiple felonies reduced to single misdemeanor

Attorney Katie Kauffman’s client was facing 10 years to life in prison if convicted on the felony domestic violence charges leveled against him earlier this year: first-degree kidnapping, second-degree assault, stalking and felony violation of a no-contact order.

The most serious charge was first-degree kidnapping. A conviction requires the defendant to go before the state’s Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board at the end of a court-ordered prison term, and the board members can decide to keep the person in prison for life.

Instead, Kauffman’s client was released this week from the Clark County Jail.

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No defense necessary

Occasionally you can win just by going to trial and forcing the state to prove its case – no defense necessary.

That’s what happened Wednesday to attorney Neil Anderson, who got his client’s misdemeanor domestic violence assault and harassment charges dismissed with prejudice (meaning charges can’t be refiled) because the prosecution was unable to get a witness to show up to testify.

A Clark County District Court judge granted the dismissal after refusing an assistant city attorney’s request to extend the trial to a second day. The prosecutor needed a Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA) employee to lay the proper foundation to introduce a 911 call into evidence, but nobody from the agency was available. 

Anderson had a strong defense. His client’s stepson called 911 and said his stepfather and threatened to kill him and his new puppy. The stepson also said he believes that his stepfather had hit his mother, but he couldn’t be sure because he was in his bedroom and his stepfather and mother were arguing in the kitchen.

However, the stepson recanted during a pre-trial defense interview. He said he made up the allegations because he was tired of hearing his stepfather yell at his mother.

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Jurors acquit client accused of pulling niece's hair

Attorney Whitney Hawke won another not-guilty verdict on Nov. 9.

Jurors told Hawke after the verdict was read they hadn't though much of her client or his claim of self-defense. But they didn't have high opinions of what the victim or the witness had to say, either, so they voted to acquit.

They agreed with what Hawke said during closing arguments: If you're not convinced you know what happened, you vote not guilty because the prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Hawke's client was charged in Clark County District Court with fourth-degree assault. He was accused of pulling his 17-year-old niece's hair and putting her in a headlock during an argument over her decision to testify in a gang-related shooting in Multnomah County. The uncle was concerned that his niece was putting the family in danger.

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Kauffman wins third trial in a row

Defense attorney Katie Kauffman won her third trial in a row on Oct. 28, when she successfully defended a man accused of assaulting his wife.

The jury deliberated approximately 30 minutes before returning the not-guilty verdict.

Kauffman's client was arrested in July and charged with fourth-degree assault domestic violence for spitting in his wife's face outside of a bar, where he'd gone to tell her she needed to come home. His wife was intoxicated and accused her husband of threatening her and threatening a guy who'd been buying her drinks.

Kauffman's client denied making threats but admitted to police officers to spitting.

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Trifecta Thursday

Allison Widney’s dismissal on Oct. 20 was followed that day by wins from fellow criminal defense attorneys Katie Kauffman and Whitney Hawke, who each won not-guilty verdicts for clients in Clark County District Court.

In Hawke’s trial, her client was charged with charged with fourth-degree assault domestic violence for allegedly kneeing his girlfriend in the face. Hawke argued to jurors the alleged victim’s black eye was caused by her client accidentally hitting his girlfriend in the face with his knee while he was struggling to get away.

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Judge dismisses case, rips prosecutor for wasting tax dollars

A Clark County District Court judge ripped an assistant Vancouver city attorney Thursday for wasting taxpayer money on a trial when he knew there was a good chance the key witness wouldn’t show up to testify.

Judge Darvin Zimmerman said jury trials cost $1,000 a day. He dismissed the charge “with prejudice,” meaning the case can’t be refiled.

Defense attorney Allison Widney’s client was charged with malicious mischief in the third degree for allegedly punching a window out of her parents’ home. Her father was listed as the victim, and before the trial he refused to be interviewed by either the prosecution or the defense.

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Domestic violence charge dismissed following hung jury

Attorney Allison Widney had a case of violating a domestic violence no-contact order dismissed Oct. 6. The prosecutor opted to dismiss rather than go to trial a second time.

The first trial in Clark County District Court ended in a mistrial because the six jurors couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict.

As an assistant Vancouver city attorney noted in court records, he was dismissing the misdemeanor charge for “judicial economy” because the first trial resulted in a hung jury and the victim said he didn’t want the case to be prosecuted.

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Client acquitted of damaging utility pole, driving while suspended

Criminal defense attorney Roger Priest recently won "not guilty" verdicts for a client charged with hit and run unattended and driving while suspended.

The allegations were that Priest's client struck a Clark Public Utilities pole while driving on a suspended license and then fled the scene without reporting the accident to police or informing the property owner of the damage.

After a one-day trial on Sept. 30 in Clark County District Court, a jury acquitted the client on both charges.

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Fight ignited over fireworks fizzles out for prosecutor

Allison Widney won a trial on Sept. 30 for a client charged in Clark County District Court with domestic violence harassment and assault.

It was a he-said, she-said case. 

On July 1, the alleged victim called 911 and said her estranged husband had just tried to run her over after they got into an argument over fireworks.

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