Charges in Bellevue Murder Case
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has rush field two charges — Assault in the First Degree and Attempted Murder in the First Degree — against a man accused of attacking and murdering a man in Bellevue.
From the public charging documents:
“On July 10, 2022, at 12:21am the defendant was at the downtown Bellevue transit center at the same time as the victim. The victim is an amputee in a wheelchair. The defendant approached the victim and began punching him rapidly until he fell out of the wheelchair onto the cement. Then the defendant then began kicking him, primarily in the head for about 35 seconds, but also stomped on his head approximately two times. Then the defendant began the most brutal part of his assault. He lifted the victim’s head and smashed it into the cement. The defendant repeated this about thirteen times in total, at times dragging the victim forward and then continuing to smash his head into the ground. As he did this what is presumably blood splattered out from the victim’s head/face onto the sidewalk. The entire attack lasts for one minute and thirty seconds and is captured in its entirety on surveillance video.”
Less than two days before this attack, the defendant was released from the King County Jail. He was charged by our office in 2019 and sentenced by a judge to 15 months. Normally the statewide sentencing range would be 1–3 months for such a sexual assault conviction. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office argued for the maximum of an enhanced sentence: 15 months.
Those ranges are set by state lawmakers, not by prosecutors.
The 2019 case was initially charged as Rape in the Second Degree. Before that case went to trial, police and prosecutors were unable to locate a corroborating witness who initially was available when the case was filed. That impacted the ability to prove the case. Our options at that point were to move forward with a Rape in the Third Degree case, which had a statewide sentencing range of 6–12 months, or handle the case as a sexual assault with an enhanced sentenced. Because prosecutors argued for an enhanced sentence with that sexual assault charge, this sentenced carried a range of 12–15 months. We argued for the longest available sentence with the information we had from police investigators. Without the enhancement, the range set by state lawmakers for the sexual assault conviction is 1–3 months.
Prior to this sexual assault conviction, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office met with the victim and her family and included an advocate from the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. The victim, members of her family, and the investigating detective agreed with the sexual assault plea agreement and with the sentence recommendation.
We filed both of these cases immediately. In the 2019 previous sexual assault case, we argued for the defendant to be held at every opportunity, and argued for the highest possible charge that we could prove. We are thankful for the work of police in both cases, both in the investigation and the repeated efforts to find the witness.
Below is a timeline of recent felony cases and convictions involving the defendant and our office.
Nov. 4, 2019: The defendant was charged in a felony case (and later convicted/sentenced in 2022 for sexual assault; details in the three questions at the bottom of the email). The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office had argued that he be held on a high bail, $500,000. The first appearance judge set bail at $200,000.
May 17, 2021: The case preceded with routine hearings and pre-trail continuances. On May 17, 2021, the defendant’s defense argued for pre-trial release.
July 21, 2021: A judge granted the defense’s motion for electronic home detention instead of jail. That move to electronic home detention was done over the objection of prosecutors.
July 29, 2021: King County Prosecutors requested a warrant after the defendant failed the follow the terms of his release from jail to electronic home monitoring, ordered by a judge.
Aug. 3, 2021: The defendant was arrested and re-booked.
Oct. 6, 2021: The defendant defense raised the issue of competency and the defendant underwent an in-jail competency evaluation conducted by the Department of Social and Health Services.
April 6, 2022: He was found competent, and the case moved forward.
May 25, 2022: The defendant pleaded guilty to felony assault with sexual motivation with an enhancement to the standard range sentence — a range that’s set by state lawmakers. Prior to this sexual assault conviction, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office met with the victim and her family and included an advocate from the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. The victim, members of her family, and the investigating detective agreed with the sexual assault plea agreement and the sentence recommendation (the range set by state lawmakers).
June 24, 2022: Because the defendant had no criminal history, the standard range set by state lawmakers for that sexual assault conviction is 1 to 3 months, but with that enhanced sentence that range increased to 13 to 15 months.
On June 24, 2022, a judge sentenced the defendant to the high end of the enhanced range: 15 months. He also was required to have an additional 36 months of community custody with the Department of Corrections, have a substance abuse and mental health evaluation and successfully complete programs for substance abuse and mental health.
That conviction required him to register as a sex offender and submit his DNA to the statewide criminal database. He also was ordered to report to the Department of Corrections.
Because the case was charged in 2019 and the sentencing guidelines set by state lawmakers — even for the enhanced sentence in the sexual assault case — was 12 to 15 months, the defendant served his time after the 15 months sentence and was released by the separate King County Jail staff in early July 2022.
July 10, 2022: The defendant was re-arrested by Bellevue Police for an assault investigation and expected to have a first court appearance on July 11. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged him with Assault in the First Degree and Attempted Murder in the First Degree. Both charges were rush filed, as the earlier case was. Prosecutors argued that he should be held on $750,000 bail.
Why was the earlier charge moved from rape to felony sexual assault?
We filed that case immediately, asked for the him to be held in custody at every opportunity, and argued for the highest possible charge that we could prove. This was charged as Rape in the Second Degree, but before this case went to trial police and prosecutors were unable to locate a corroborating witness who initially was available when the case was filed. That impacted the ability to prove the case. There was a potential that the case could be proved as Rape in the Third Degree. But a conviction for Rape in the Third Degree, which we believe we could have proved, had a statewide sentencing range of 6–12 months. If we charged it as a sexual assault, prosecutors had the ability to argue for an enhanced sentence that was 12–15 months. We did that and argued that he should be held for the maximum time available, set by state lawmakers. In other words, a rape conviction may sound like it would bring more time, but it wouldn’t have — the sexual assault conviction with the enhanced sentence brought the longest possible sentence with the evidence we had from police.
What message does this reduction in charges send to the victim and police?
Prior to this sexual assault conviction, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office met with the victim and her family and included an advocate from the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. The victim, members of her family, and the investigating detective agreed with the sexual assault plea agreement with the sentence recommendation.
Why are the sentence ranges for sexual assault cases so short? What about the maximum under state law?
State lawmakers have set sentencing guidelines statewide, and those are based on a person’s offender score. The more felony convictions you have, the higher your offender score, and the higher your sentencing range. But in a case like this, state lawmakers have determined someone with no felony history and a 0 offender score — even someone convicted of a sexual assault like this — is on the low end of the sentencing range. When people hear that the maximum for a Class A felony can be life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine, that is true but only when a person has a high offender score in some cases. In the overwhelming majority of cases, judges are bound by the sentencing guidelines set by state lawmakers. That’s why the defendant would have faced a sentencing range of 6–12 months if convicted for rape, or would have faced 1–3 months if convicted for sexual assault without an enhanced sentence. Because prosecutors got an enhanced sentence, we were able to have him sentenced to 15 months in jail.