April 1, 2005 in City

Jurors unsure whether teenager instigated or escaped assault

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A Spokane jury was unable to decide Thursday whether an 18-year-old was committing an assault or trying to avoid being assaulted when he ran over a dog with a car last July.

Charles Price Dimit was charged with second-degree assault for allegedly trying to run over William Abbott and with first-degree animal cruelty for running over Abbott’s dog, Tiffany, at a skate park near Fourth and Bernard.

The jury deliberated all day Thursday before declaring itself deadlocked. Dimit may be re-tried.

Abbott, who is in his mid-40s and says he’s an alcoholic, testified he was homeless at the time and hanging out at the skate park because police stayed away and didn’t interfere with drinking, drug use and prostitution.

“I just figured it was a safe place,” Abbott said. “The cops didn’t go there. They left the kids alone.”

He and Dimit agreed that they drank beer together and talked until the conversation became unpleasant, although they differed about why they fell out.

According to Abbott, who said he drank 18 to 24 cans of beer, Dimit refused to give him a ride to buy more beer. Abbott said he, in turn, refused to give Dimit any of the beer he had to walk to a store to get.

Dimit said he was “creeped out” when Abbott, who had been jailed for larceny, began talking about sex among prisoners.

Abbott thought, but wasn’t sure, that Dimit threw the rocks that smashed out the windshield of his van. Dimit said someone else must have done that.

Abbott said he was injured when Dimit drove his car toward him, forcing him to roll onto the hood to avoid being run over. But defense attorneys Dave Hearrean and Tim Note said Abbott appeared uninjured in police photos. Dimit said he was just trying to get away because Abbott was coming at him with a large knife.

But Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz pointed out that Dimit was acquainted with several other teenagers at the skate park and failed to produce any of them to corroborate his story.

Abbott told jurors that Dimit deliberately drove over his 14-pound, knee-high dog several times. Dimit said he didn’t see the dog and ran over it only once, by accident.

“I hit the gas and tried to get out of there, and next thing I know, I’m over his dog,” Dimit testified.

Jurors weren’t told that Dimit allegedly lied about where he had been when police went to his home to investigate Abbott’s tearful complaint.

Superior Court Judge Robert Austin ruled that police couldn’t use Dimit’s statements against him because he hadn’t yet been read his rights.

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