Teen gets five days in jail for downtown Spokane beating

THURSDAY, MAY 29, 2014

The teenager who beat a 56-year-old man outside a downtown Spokane restaurant in January received five days of jail time and six months’ probation after pleading guilty to fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor.

The victim, Bruce Palmer, said the sentence is far too lenient given the broken nose and black eyes he received in the fight.

“It’s inexcusable,” Palmer said this week. “It’s not only a miscarriage of justice for myself and my wife, it’s a miscarriage of justice for the citizens of Spokane.”

The 18-year-old defendant, who was tried as a juvenile because he was a minor at the time the crime was committed, was one of several teens who surrounded Palmer and his wife, Billie, in their van on Jan. 27.

Detectives had asked for a felony charge of second-degree assault in the case after reviewing the statements of witnesses and medical records.

Palmer said the group blocked his van and sparked a confrontation by hitting the vehicle and swearing at him and his wife. One of the teens in the group claimed the van struck him outside the Steam Plant restaurant, according to court documents. Fingerprints were found in dust on the outside of the vehicle, but arresting officers noted the young man who said he was struck told a story that was inconsistent with other accounts of the confrontation.

One police sergeant who responded to the scene wrote he “saw two men on the ground with 60 to 70 percent of their bodies covered in blood,” according to court documents. Billie Palmer told reporters in January her husband placed the teenager in a headlock to immobilize him until police arrived.

The arresting officer cited the teen for fourth-degree assault and referred the case to juvenile prosecutors.

Palmer met with the juvenile prosecutor in charge of the case, Frank Christoff, and another Spokane County deputy prosecutor. He said he was told that a felony charge of second-degree assault requires evidence of intent and broken bones, and that he has a CT scan that proves his nose was broken in the fight. Palmer also spoke with Major Crimes detectives, he said, who supported charging the teen with a felony.

Palmer said Christoff tried to increase the charges after speaking with him, but it was too late. Instead, Christoff urged him to seek restitution for his hospital bills from the teen at a hearing scheduled for later this summer, Palmer said.

A message left with Christoff was not returned Wednesday.

The defendant, identified in court records as standing over 6 feet tall and weighing more than 240 pounds, told a judge he was drunk when the beating occurred and he did not remember it.

“I am extremely sorry for my actions, and apologize to Mr. Palmer and my family,” his written statement to the court reads. The teen’s record shows a conviction for third-degree assault with sexual motivation several years ago.

Palmer said he was informed of the sentencing hearing the day before it was held earlier this month and he was unable to attend due to travel. But he said he’s worried the charging mistake indicates a pattern.

“This is not the first time this has broken down,” he said. “This is systemic.”

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