No charges will be filed against four people arrested last year in connection with an incident that left a Washington State University instructor with severe brain injuries, authorities said today.
“We had insufficient evidence,” said Bill Druffel, Whitman County’s chief deputy prosecutor. Druffel briefed the victim, David Warner, and his parents earlier this month about the decision not to file charges in the case.
Warner, an instructor in WSU’s Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies, was with a friend outside the Adams Mall early on March 30 when he was knocked to the ground. Police said last year that Warner was trying to stop a confrontation between his friend, Lawrence J. McDonald, and others when he was critically injured near Stubblefields bar.
In May, Pullman police recommended felony charges against a group of people confronted by McDonald. They were Joshua Nantz, Robert Bean, Matthew Soriano and Madeline Fouts. Police also recommended misdemeanor charges against McDonald, Warner’s friend. Druffel said Friday that he also decided not to charge McDonald.
Bill Gilbert, an attorney who represents Warner, said Warner and his family are disappointed in the decision, but that they understand that the burden of proof is high in a criminal case. Gilbert said he respects Druffel for not allowing public pressure to interfere with charging decisions.
“The prosecutor involved in this case is a very conscientious, very professional prosecutor,” Gilbert said. “He works very hard to make sure that when he makes the decision, he makes the right decision. He doesn’t want to charge someone with something that he can’t prove at trial.”
In a detailed news release, prosecutors say that video evidence and witness statements indicated that McDonald began a drunken rant as he was walking in the area with Warner and that he drew the attention of Nantz, Bean, Soriano and Fouts. Warner apparently tried to keep the peace.
The news release said evidence indicates that McDonald “went after Nantz” and that McDonald was “pushed or punched back by Nantz or McDonald was pulled back by Warner or both.”
“This caused Dr. Warner to fall backwards onto the pavement, with the intoxicated McDonald on top of him. Dr. Warner’s head hit the pavement.” After they fell, they were behind a car and out of range from the surveillance camera.
The news release said that Bean “might or might not have kicked Dr. Warner.”
Prosecutors say a doctor has indicated that Warner’s head injury could have been caused by the fall or a kick.
Steve Martonick, the attorney who represents Bean, said “the right result occurred.” But he criticized the Whitman County news release.
“It’s unfortunate that there’s an insinuation that Mr. Bean did anything wrong,” Martonick said. “He did not kick anybody while they were down on the ground.”
Mark Prothero, who represents Nantz, said the incident was a tragedy, but that prosecutors made the right choice.
“Unfortunately, I think it was Dr. Warner’s friend who was the fuse who lit that problem,” Prothero said.
Prothero criticized the decision to arrest the four who were accused.
Nantz and Fouts were students at the time of the incident. Their attorneys said Friday that they are on track to graduate this year.
Kevin Curtis, who represents Fouts, said Fouts, who goes by Maddy, is grateful that she has been exonerated of criminal wrongdoing.
“Unfortunately, initial reports regarding the event failed to accurately reflect the true circumstances surrounding the incident and improperly portrayed Maddy as being involved in criminal conduct,” Curtis said in a statement. “Her thoughts and prayers remain with Dr. Warner and his family as his recovery continues.”
Gilbert said he is investigating details of the case to determine if the Warner family will file a lawsuit. He said defendants could include those who were arrested in the case and bars that may have over-served anyone who attacked Warner.
Warner is living with his parents in Pullman.
“It’s his hope and his family’s hope that he will be able to go back to work,” Gilbert said. “As with all brain injuries, it’s a long, slow process.”