The Washington State Supreme Court overturned the conviction today of a Spokane man who was convicted of rendering criminal assistance after investigators alleged that he refused to tell them who shot him.
The split decision erases the conviction, in which a judge sentenced Kenneth R. Budik to spend more time in prison than the two men who pleaded guilty to the 2007 shooting that injured him and killed 28-year-old Adama R. Walton.
After suffering a gunshot wound to the leg and another that shattered his shoulder, Budik told Spokane Police detective Kip Hollenbeck that he did not know who shot him and Walton. But the detective suspected Budik was withholding information and eventually charged him with first-degree rendering criminal assistance.
After a jury convicted him, Budik was sentenced to 13 months in prison.
“Mere false disavowal of knowledge is insufficient to sustain a conviction for rendering criminal assistance,” Justice Susan Owen wrote for the majority.
The decision reverses both the jury’s verdict and a decision by the Division III Court of Appeals to uphold the conviction.
Chief Justice Barbara Madsen ultimately agreed with her counterparts on the final decision to reverse the conviction, but she didn’t agree with the other justices’ reasoning. And Justice James Johnson dissented, saying the conviction should have been upheld.
“The issue was whether to believe Budik or believe the other witnesses,” Johnson wrote in his dissent. “The jury considered all the evidence, and it unanimously found Budik guilty. For the foregoing reasons, I respectfully dissent.”
Hollenbeck could not be reached Thursday for comment. But he told The Spokesman-Review in 2009 that the investigation was frustrating because none of the witnesses would cooperate.
“Kenny Budik is probably the most uncooperative witness we had in the entire case, and he’s a victim,” Hollenbeck said in 2009. “That’s a perfect example of how this case went.”
The shooting occurred outside of a party. Walton was driving his girlfriend’s gold Chevrolet Avalanche when he was shot through both lungs and Budik was also hit twice. Walton drove a block and a half before the vehicle rolled with the injured Budik inside.
Later at the hospital, Budik told Hollenbeck that he didn’t know who shot him. Since an empty shell casing was found in the vehicle, Hollenbeck reportedly believed Budik should have been close enough to the shooter to provide the person’s identification.
As it was, Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla eventually charged Freddie J. Miller and Titus T. Davis with first-degree murder. But Miller pleaded guilty to a reduced charged of rendering criminal assistance. And, a jury later could not reach a decision during the trial for Davis.
He later pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was released on the day of his guilty plea, having been given a reduced sentence of time already served.
“Those guys are out walking the street again,” said Hollenbeck in 2009, referring to Miller and Davis. “I hate to say it … but there’s nothing we can do.”