Spokane man acquitted in stabbings
He stood crying, embraced in the arms of his girlfriend just moments after a Spokane County jury gave him most of the rest of his life back.
The jury deliberated just over a day and acquitted 52-year-old Tommy J. Villanueva of two counts of first-degree assault after he plunged a knife into the necks of two men during a fight on June 20, 2010, that was instigated by erroneous rumors that he was a wife beater.
“I believed in the system,” Villanueva said. “That’s why I didn’t run away. I knew I was innocent.”
Defense attorney Timothy Note said the verdict avoided a potential 26 years in prison for Villanueva, who had no previous criminal history. In his closing argument Wednesday, Note pointed out inconsistencies in the statements of victims Conal Blanchard and Robert Amicarella, who both had levels of alcohol in their blood that were more than three times the legal limit to drive.
Amicarella initially testified that he had three or four beers on the night of the incident after arriving at the home sober. After he suffered a slash to the neck that cut his jugular artery, medical personnel recorded his blood alcohol content at 0.272.
“They were victims of their own lifestyle choices. These are men who like to drink themselves stupid on a regular basis,” Note said.
He added that Amicarella didn’t join the party – which started in Idaho earlier in the afternoon and later moved to Spokane – until 9 p.m. “He played catch up … and exceeded Mr. Blanchard in his rocket ride to stupidity.”
Blanchard, who suffered a puncture wound to the neck that initially paralyzed his left side, was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.264, Note said. Villanueva “didn’t know these people. He didn’t know what they were capable of. What he did know was that they were drunk and he was in fear for his life,” Note said.
However, Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Deric Martin provided a completely opposite view of Villanueva. At one point during his closing argument, Martin suggested that Villanueva got a blood stain on his pants as he knelt over Blanchard and continued to stab him as he lay incapacitated.
“When you have considered all the testimony, the only explanation to this was that it was an ambush,” Martin said. “Mr. Villanueva … was angry, a little drunk and took that aggression out on both Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Amicarella.”
The jury will continue today deliberating whether Villanueva’s actions were lawful. If 10 of the 12 jurors agree, the county will have to pay for Villanueva’s defense and lost time from work while defending himself.