A Spokane Valley teenager hopes a judge will do what prosecutors won’t: File charges against the woman who stabbed him.
Tim Buchanan filed a “citizens complaint” in District Court on Wednesday.
The complaint asks the court to charge Karen Beeman with assault, reckless endangerment, obstructing a law enforcement officer and making false statements to authorities.
State law allows citizens who have no faith in law enforcement to take their case directly to a judge, who then decides whether charges should be brought and a trial scheduled.
A hearing has not been scheduled.
The 18-year-old Buchanan and his family decided to try the seldom-used avenue after Prosecutor Jim Sweetser repeatedly refused to bring charges against Beeman, according to a press release issued by the teenager’s supporters.
Beeman stabbed Buchanan at least three times with a four-inch knife during a September 1996 brawl at the county fairgrounds. She claimed she was protecting her teenage son, Tristan, who had gotten into a fight with Buchanan.
Buchanan and his supporters claim the attack was malicious and should be prosecuted as an assault.
Sweetser has said there is not enough evidence to convict Beeman of assault.
“We’re just saying she stabbed a guy and should be held accountable,” said George Critchlow, a Gonzaga Law School professor who is helping Buchanan. “We’re just seeking that this woman be charged under state law.”
Local civil rights groups, including the NAACP and Unity in Action, claim racism is part of the reason Beeman has not been charged.
Buchanan is black. Beeman has a fair complexion and claims to be of Samoan descent.
“Failure to prosecute this case has caused elements of the community to question whether law enforcement applied racial stereotypes to its investigation, and whether prosecutorial standards are applied in a raceneutral fashion,” Buchanan’s supporters said in the press release.
County authorities have dismissed claims of racism. A federal civil rights complaint filed by Buchanan has not been resolved.
Sweetser had little to say about the latest turn in the case Wednesday.
“Good for them,” he said. “I think that’s an appropriate thing for them to do.”